Friday, May 6, 2011

Digitizing Paintings

Like most artists, I'd like to get my watercolor paintings into digital format to display on my Facebook page and blog. One approach is to photograph them. The key to getting a good photo of your work is to have neutral lighting. As the interior of my house is all painted in warm colors, I must take my paintings outside to photograph on an overcast day. I lay them out on the gray concrete (e.g., neutral color) sidewalk, set up my tripod so the camera is pointing down, and then photograph them. This works fine as long as it doesn't rain, which is a bit of a problem for a good part of the year in Seattle. BTW, you'll find links to good instructions for photographing paintings at the end of this post.

To get around the rain-on-my-paintings issue, I wanted to see if I could scan them and get acceptable or better images. We have a Canon printer/copier/scanner/fax, so I suspected that this might be possible. Otherwise, my route to getting good quality digital images would be to have the paintings professionally scanned, which is pricey, and I'm not quite ready to take that step.

I quickly discovered that my 11 X 17 - inch paintings are too large to fit on the platen of the scanner. Canon's included software has a feature called "stitch assist," so I was able to scan two halves of the picture and join them into one image. This is a nice feature, but unfortunately you can see where the image is joined. After trying a number of different things to make this less obvious, I ended up using good old Microsoft Paint. It has an "eye dropper" tool that allows you to sample the color of one part of the picture and apply it to another. I picked up the color adjacent to the area I wanted to disguise and use the spray can tool to spray it on, trying to feather it to make it less obvious where the image was doctored. The result is OK, although I'll play with it some more tomorrow to see if I can figure out a better way to scan the paintings so this step isn't necessary.

Here are the three paintings I worked on. See if you can tell where the two halves are joined.

Coupeville Barn

Daisy Fall

Japanese Tea House, Japanese Garden, Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA
This is a lot of work to go through for each painting, so next time I'm going to scan the two sides of each painting, save them into their own files, and then join the two sides together in Microsoft Paint. I'm convinced that this will eliminate the problem of the seam showing.

Update: I just found this article about how to photograph paintings for publication By Northlight Books. If you want to do a really professional job, here's how.

Here's an article about how to scan your artwork:

For a simpler approach to photographing your paintings, read this post by Gwenn Seemel. If you try her approach, please let me know how it works out: If you Don't Document Your Work, You Never Made It.

And here's another very detailed article from Plein Air Salon on how to make photos of your paintings. Scroll about halfway down the page to view the instructions.

And see my new post, Totally Geeking Out on Photographing Paintings, for detailed information on how to set up your equipment.

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