I wanted to share some tips with you all about how I create scans/pictures of my art and edit them in Photoshop. Below I walk you through the entire process I use to prepare my images to make high quality prints. Don’t forget to Share, Tweet or Pin this article if you find it helpful!
Photographing Your Art
Most of my art is too big or awkward for my A4 scanner, so I photograph it with my Nikon Coolpix P7800. Pretty much any digital camera will do as long as you make sure to set it to the highest quality & resolution. This amazing video by Tyler Stalman & Jason Eng created for Saatchi Online explains perfectly how to take good pictures of your art.
Using a tripod (or some other way to stabilise your camera) is essential. I attach my artwork to the wall with Blu Tack or picture hanging strips. I use a spirit level to ensure it is completely straight. I also make sure my tripod is leveled and the camera is straight. The more accurate you can be about this, the less you will have to ‘fix’ in Photoshop in terms of distorting the picture to make it fit.
I have a window on the left side of the wall which throws light, so I use a simple soft box light pointing at the painting from the right. You are trying to achieve equal soft lighting on the whole painting, no direct harsh light or shadows.
Using manual focus if your camera allows it is helpful. Nothing is more annoying than loading the pictures onto your computer only to find that they are not in focus or not everything is in equal focus.
Scanning Your Art
If your art is relatively flat and fits on your scanner it is preferable to use this method. You won’t be at the mercy of varying lighting conditions and a scanner will get great detail and every bit will be in focus.
Before scanning ensure the resolution is set to 300ppi. Depending on your scanner you may need to adjust the brightness and contrast. From the point of view of being able to adjust later in Photoshop, I prefer a scan that is slightly on the dark side over one that is too light. Adjust the brightness & contrast sliders and keep previewing until the preview matches the colours, detail & contrast of the original artwork. If you can, save these settings as a new profile so you can quickly access them next time.
On the left the default scanner settings, on the right with brightness & contrast adjusted. The adjusted scan is much more true to the original artwork. The default loses a lot of detail by being too bright and the colours are washed out.
Adjusting Your Art In Photoshop
I use Photoshop CS2, but any programme that allows you to adjust these settings will do. Editing in Photoshop is especially good for when you’ve photographed your art.
First I want to straighten up my art piece and make sure it fills up the whole canvas. I use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select as close around the artwork as I can, without cutting any of it off. Then I crop the image (Image > Crop). This may mean that on some sides the background still shows. To fix that, I use the Transform tool (Ctrl+T), and right click on the image and select Skew. I then drag the corners out where necessary. If you need to rotate your canvas with the transform tool (you shouldn’t have to if you followed the steps for straightening the artwork on the wall and leveling your tripod – it’s really worth doing!) do that before skewing.
Now we make the magic happen. First go to Image > Adjustments > Auto Levels. If it looks good, keep it. If it looks “WHOA TOO MUCH!” you can fade the effect by going to Edit > Fade Auto Levels and select a percentage. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Auto Contrast. Fade again if needed. Finally we use Image > Adjustments > Auto Color (and Fade).
How much you use these three tools depends on how true to life the pictures/scans you took are. Sometimes I hardly need to change anything, other times it makes a huge difference.
Save your picture at a high setting. I tend to go for File > Save As and then select jpg at Quality 12. There are other file types with less compression, but I’ve found there is no visually noticeable data loss with this setting and it keeps file sizes manageable.
Now you’ve got your hi-res digital master to make prints of forevermore, even if you sell the original!
If you follow this tutorial please let me know in the comments, I’d love to know how you got on. If you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them!