Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Scan In a Painting

When I'm at art shows, I have a lot of other artists ask me who makes my prints, how do I make the prints, etc. etc. Answer is that I do about 95% of it myself.
Here's step 1 of the "how do you make prints??" process.

Why scan? Most professionals would mount the painting on a wall or large easel and take a VERY high resolution digital photo. I haven't found much consistency doing that myself, but my scanner seems to always give me results that I can work with and create a great looking finished product.

Ideally, I'd take every painting I've ever done to American Art in Annapolis and have them do the image capture. They're AMAZING at what they do!! But sometimes I just don't have the time or the money for that luxury. Plus... Either I'm cheap or smart, because I generally hate paying someone to do something I can do myself. Thus, unless a painting I've done is over 16" x 20", I'm going to scan it in.

I use a Canon scanner and Photoshop to create my final digital image.

I lay the painting down on the scanner (I keep it about 1/4" away from the edge) and scan in sections. For a 16" x 20", I usually have to do 4 scans because my scanner does a piece about 9"x11". Lay one corner down on the scanner, scan, slide the painting down, do the other corner. Pick it up and rotate it 180 degrees (resulting in these last two scans being upside down) and scan in the last 2 sections.

Now I open Photoshop and create a new document the size of the paintin at 300 dpi (so you can print it perfectly and *maybe* even go a little bigger without losing much detail... printing on canvas seems to be pretty forgiving that way). So for this one it was 16"x20" and 300 dpi, which will create a HUGE file and make your computer really, REALLY SUPER PISSED.

Then I copy and paste the contents of each of my scans (in this case 4) into the new document. Once they're all in there, I save it so I don't lose them. After it's saved, I can close all the individual scan files since I no longer need them (and keeping them open will use more memory and make the computer run slower and be more pissed).

(Note: It's probably best *not* to listen to music on the computer as you work on this project, or have anything else open that will take away from your computer's memory. Then you will get freezing or the program spontaneously quits which makes YOU want to spontaneously combust SO SAVE OFTEN! That is in huge font for a reason :)  It might actually take a few minutes to save a file this size. Go grab a snack.)

Once in a while if there's part of the painting that's just not coming together well, I'll do an additional scan of just that part (example: a person's head. You don't want someone's head to have any inconsistencies. When you're putting the scans together it's just easier to have that additional separate scan of the face, too).

So here's the recent scan process of my painting "Sunflowers." Aren't the colors gross?? We'll fix that later. I like to do that part last- it seems the most rewarding :)

This is a Photoshop file size 16"x20" and all 4 scans are just thrown in here (the two upside down ones have been rotated) and stuck in their respective locations.
The black around the edges is from the edge of the canvas not being right up against the edge of the scanner- I want my scan to go alll the way to the edge of the canvas, and include it, rather than chop it off.

The first thing I'll do is start sliding around the 4 chunks of the scan. The arrow keys will be your BFFs (that's "best friends forever", nerds) for this process. Hopefully you've got your scans in relatively straight, because it sucks to have to rotate them and get them JUST right. As you can see, above, the lower right corner isn't quite straight so I had to rotate that one just a leeeeeettle.

Sometimes for this part of the process it's easiest to just pick ONE of the 4 scans and choose that one to line everything else up with. You can move around all 4, but sometimes when you do that, once you move one, another section is all thrown off, and you have to scoot everything around to get it to fit together again. Also sometimes for this part of the process, you can adjust your layer transparency to slightly below 100% opacity and then see exactly what's underneath- this will make lining things up pretty easy, too.

Scoot, scoot, scoot. Nudge, nudge, nudge. Is it lined up yet? As soon as it is, SAVE IT! And then use your crop tool to cut off anything around the edges that you don't like. Your file might end up slightly smaller than exactly 16"x20". That's ok.

I zoom in to the middle of the painting, where all 4 corners line up, to make sure it's as close as I can get it. It sort of doesn't have to be PERFECT, more on that later.

But check out the inconsistencies in lighting. Some parts of the scans come out a little dark if your scanner isn't perfectly flat. Usually this is pretty easy to fix. Here's a good example...

Ewwwww, look at this nasty line. Luckily my scans overlap some, about 2 inches on all sides. This is great because that means I can just erase some of that layer in the front to reveal the still-brightly-colored scan underneath, and the flower petals will look nice.

When erasing on something like this, I prefer to use a relatively large eraser brush (not TOO huge, maybe 1/2"-1" diameter on my screen, depending on what I'm erasing) and really soften up the edges. You won't get a hard line where you've erased that way.
Be careful, if you erase too much, you'll go overboard and erase some of your scan where they don't overlap. Not good!

Ahhhhhh. That's better. It takes some practice, but you want the eraser to just gently blend the layers together. While you're doing this, not only are you fixing the colors, but if there are places where things didn't line up *just right* you'll be fixing that at the same time.

Now here's something I get really, really anal about. I learned this the hard way (and of course went back and fixed it). Zoom WAY in, extremely close up, and check out everything. Chances are you'll see some dust or scratches or flecks of random crap or cat hair. In this case I probably didn't clean off my scanner before I used it.... oops. So when you're zoomed way in, you'll probably see stuff that looks like this (I circled in yellow):

THAT doesn't need to be there!! It might seem silly to go into this much detail- after all, you're not going to be printing your document THIS big. Yeah, you'd think. But that's NOT the way it works, at all. The rule of thumb here is,


I promise.
So just go fix it. It doesn't hurt, really, and it will be well worth it. It only takes 10-15 minutes at the most depending on how dirty your scanner is- I don't know what you did with that thing.

Just use the rubber stamp tool and set it to pretty small, and maybe a hardness setting somewhere in the middle. You don't want really defined circles where you had to fix things but you don't need to blur the edges a whole lot, either. Sometimes I even 'fix' little tiny inconsistencies in the painting or drawing during this process. Once in a while the scanner will pick up something that is just part of the artwork and doesn't seem to show up in the original piece, but it's there, and certainly doesn't add anything to your prints- example: a thick dab of paint that creates a weird shadow, or a slight inconsistency in the canvas fabric itself that might create a shadow. Get rid of it!

Start zoomed in on one corner and just go horizontally across the whole painting. Then when you get to the edge, scroll up, and go back to the other side. Think search and rescue pattern here.

There. Isn't that better?? :)

So now your scans should be all lined up perfectly (double check!!), your colors should be consistent all around  (double check!!!), and you shouldn't have specks of stuff showing (not too important to double check, you can fix this any time). If everything is perfectly wonderful, FLATTEN ALL THE LAYERS TOGETHER now so we can do color correction! Yaaayyy!

I have to confess, I don't have any elaborate calibrating software. Hell, I don't have ANY calibrating software at all. I did recently get a new monitor which threw a few things slightly off, but I guess by now I've had a lot of my stuff for so long that I generally know how things tend to scan and print for me. Like I know one of my printers tends to darken the reds a little, I know the other one makes some cyans a tiny bit green. I know my scanner HATES orange and blue-green. Anyway... for color correction, I'm not going to go into calibrating- I can't tell you anything about that.

Luckily this painting has no blue-green, so my greens are pretty decent. The oranges are vomitous, non existent actually, and that makes me sad.

I use the Selective Color tool to adjust most of my colors. You can go in and *just* adjust your greens, your yellows, then your reds, even neutrals, black, blues, white, whatever. My yellows were too dark so I lightened them. My oranges were too red, so I took out a bunch of magenta from the reds (orange isn't in the color menu). After the colors were the hues that I wanted them to be, I used the Brightness/Contrast tool to brighten it up just a little and then upped the contrast- seems like with my scans I always have to do that. Sometimes if necessary, the last thing I do is use the Hue/Saturation tool to increase the saturation a bit- my work tends to be pretty bright, and this helps make the prints as accurate as possible.

Voila, the finished product.


Foges said...

I'll take two! Simply delightful!

Samantha G said...

Thanks :)

Doris Sturm said...

Wow! I'm impressed - I often wondered how you do after you fixed the image and it looks the way you want it, then you print it on your printer with that special paper? What if the printer's not big enough, then you send it out?

I really do love that sunflower painting. I see you decided to not add any little bugs to it. I also love your passion flower painting, the one that is on the cover of that magazine...very nice, Samantha! You are so industrious - and you run and swim and bike...what a gal!

Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend...hope you'll have fun and try to get some rest!

Love you,
Doris, Gizzy and Middi :-)

Samantha G said...

Thank you Doris :) I am not as good at time management as one might think, but I'm trying to make the most of a long weekend, for sure!

I was thinking I might add a ladybug or bees to some of the prints when they're printed out. My printer does up to 13"x19" and any bigger than that I send it out.

Going to check your blog now and see what your plans are for the 4th!