Like the other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia Commons is entirely created by volunteers. It succeeds because people all around the world recognise the benefits of using open content licenses to make their work freely available to others.
Our volunteers have varying skills and abilities. This page showcases a selection of the highly skilled restorers who choose to donate their work to the Wikimedia Commons. Restoration is a special skill that helps bring history to life and showcase media in the public domain. Each restorer on this page has contributed at least 5 of our Featured Pictures.
I became interested in engravings while doing research on Gilbert and Sullivan in the original newspapers. Seeing the high quality of engravings in the Illustrated London News, I felt the urge to share it with others, and most of my early work was from there.
I was using some rather crude tricks initially - some of my very early greyscale restorations were actually done in MSPaint, believe it or not - for a certain way of preparing engravings - one that's also very convenient for printing, as it happens - that's quite sufficient as a tool.
I think the first really extensive restoration I did was File:The Princess - W. S. Gilbert.png - a lovely, encyclopedic image, but one where the gaps between the woodblocks used to assemble the engraving were very noticeable and went through important parts of the image. You can pretty much trace that restoration through the dozen or so successive uploads, as I repeatedly went back in to fix some more, learning lots of useful skills on the way.
Things became a bit more difficult when I started moving into colour, and I have to admit I'm rather embarrassed about some of my earliest attempts now. But I think I'm now starting to move beyond that, with much more subtle colour adjustments that really bring out the image.
My goal in restoration is simple: Given the problems of the source, to make the most useful image out of it which I can. This can mean different things in different situations, and what I have to work from can often force me to very different paths for an image. I like to leave some signs of age in an image, but carefully select them so as not to distract from the image itself. For instance, in the sample Carmen poster to the right, I left in (some of) the vignetting to show the age, while carefully adjusting the colours (and cleaning up a lot of other things that don't show up so well in thumbnail) to bring out the central image.
I've spent huge amounts of money on source materials in recent times - particularly Victorian Gustave Doré books (books from after 1920 or so can have really appalling problems when you get in and try to work with them). I don't really regret it at all.
All my recent work is done using the GIMP. Oh, and by the way, the gallery is likely to be a few weeks or months behind at any point. Ah, well!