I have a piece of paper that has a ton of text printed from a computer.

One of the words on the paper has been scribbled through horizontally with an ink pen. I've tried holding it over the iPhone flash light and a lamp but can't quite make out the text.

Is there a better way to do this or would it even be possible to remove the scribble ink while not affecting the printed text underneath it?

  • 3
    If only one of the words is scribbled out, can't you tell what it is based on context clues?
    – michaelpri
    Dec 2, 2015 at 11:32
  • @michaelpri It might be someone's name or an adjective or something like that.
    – Carl
    Dec 3, 2015 at 3:16
  • Sometimes, changing the angle of the light will allow you to see a slight difference in the inks to make out the redacted text.
    – Stan
    Aug 6, 2017 at 23:39

4 Answers 4


Ball point ink is oil based, so oil based solvents will often soften or lift it. They will make a translucent spot in the paper, but that won't affect legibility of the print if it's only on one side. Soak the ink in vegetable oil, wait a half hour or so, and then blot carefully with a tissue or paper towel. If there's any improvement, but you still can't read the printed word, you can repeat the soak and blot cycles as needed.

Laser print is plastic, fused onto the paper, while ink jet ink is water soluble. Neither one should be affected by vegetable oil, as long as you don't damage the oil-soaked base paper by rubbing.

  • But I don't think its Ball point ink. He has clearly mentioned that its an ink pen scribble.
    – Varun Nair
    Dec 3, 2015 at 4:58
  • 2
    "Ink pen" is a redundancy, but literally covers everything from a quill to a roller ball or fiber tip. The commonest, though, is still conventional ball point with oil based ink. If it's water based (fiber tip or fountain pen) ink on ink jet print, nothing will help, just as if it's permanent marker on laser print -- in those cases, anything that will lift the scribble will destroy the print beneath. If it's "bullet proof" cellulose reactive fountain pen ink, it's a permanent part of the paper fibers once it dries and nothing can remove it without destroying the paper.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Dec 3, 2015 at 12:09

Bic's website, bicworld.com..., recommends an alcohol based hair spray for their ballpoint pens and an "all-purpose cleaner" for their roller/gel/highlighters.


Rubbing Alcohol, acetone or freshly squeezed lime juice could help. Avoid using ink rubbers. You may end up losing the data beneath the ink. The ink may not disappear completely, but it should lighten, well enough to read the text underneath the stain. Be extra careful if the data is of high priority. Also make sure the ink has no reactive hazards with the materials suggested above.


Heat alone can vanish some kinds of normal, non-disappearing ink. Carefully warm up the paper over a stable candle and see if it works for the particular ink used.

Another option is to scan the document at high resolution (before or after other treatments such as heat or chemicals), and examine it in image editing software. With some basic knowledge of image filtering and level adjustments, you can often extract information that was hidden before—the idea is to find the subtle difference between the covered text and the plain paper, that you can adjust to increase the contrast between them.

Let's say the hidden text is just slightly darker. If you pick a brightness level that is between the two, and adjust the image to make all brightness values above that level white and all brightness levels below that value black, the original text can be discerned. Differences in color or any aspect could be the trick for restoring enough of the original text to read it.

I have done something quite similar with old receipts that had lost their ink by sitting in the car on hot days for too long. After scanning at high resolution, simple adjustment of the levels, contrast, brightness, and so on, restored the image enough for me to see the original text, despite it being so faint that I could not read it from the original paper even with a magnifying glass.

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