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Monday, August 23, 2010

Art Licensing Tip: Converting Paintings into Digital Images

In art licensing, normally a computer with Adobe Photoshop software is used to manipulate art into various formats, crop the art, isolate icons from central images to use in patterns, and add other design elements to convert it for products shapes. Manufacturers wishing to license the art expect to receive digital images not original paintings. They usually request high resolution (300dpi) jpg format or layered Photoshop or Illustrator files. Art that is created with paint instead of digitally need to be converted into digital images by either photographing or by scanning them with a flat bed scanner. Unfortunately there are drawbacks with both methods.

Photographing Paintings
For fine art artists, photographing art seems to be the method of choice in order to convert the art into digital images for Giclee printing. They claim that colors and textures are more accurate by photographing than by scanning the art. They also recommend that a scanner should not be used for oil paintings because of the long drying time of the oils. Oils not completely dry leave a residue on the scanner platen. To successfully photograph art, the artist must make sure that:
1. the camera has a high enough resolution to capture fine detail. That means that if a digital camera is used it should have at least five megapixels and preferably over 10 megapixels resolution.
2. digital camera photographs should be saved as RAW image files to preserve accurate color and obtain the maximum pixel data. Later the files can be converted while in Photoshop to device-dependent colorspaces for viewing and printing. Note: RAW image files, sometimes called digital negatives contains all the information needed to produce images but has not been sufficiently processed to do so.
3. natural subdued and even lightening is used to give accurate colors and to avoid any glare off the surface of the painting.
4. the camera lens in relationship to the surface of the painting must be absolutely parallel. Otherwise, a parallax distortion will occur and the shape of the painting will be skewed.

Getting good lightening and evading parallax while photographing paintings takes experimentation and practice. That is why some fine art artists have their paintings professionally photographed instead of doing it themselves.

Scanning Paintings
Modern scanners can scan at a resolution comparable to high resolution digital cameras. And the problem of having parallax distortion is avoided because the art is placed on the scanner platen which is parallel to the lens of the scanner. But there are still problems to solve when scanning large paintings that do not fit the platen and/or have a high sheen or complex designs that cause moiré patterns.

Most artists that license their work use scanners to convert their paintings into digital images because they are easy to use and normally do a good job. Some artists find that scanning at 300dpi resolution is sufficient while others scan at 600dpi to make sure that their art does not lose resolution when they are enlarged for large products like decorative flags. Photoshop is used to correct any deficiencies that occur from the scanning process such as correcting colors and moiré patterns, and blending several images together when the painting is too large to scan in one pass. Read "Photoshop Tip: Quick Method to Color Correct Scanned Art and Photographs" and "Photoshop Tip: Tweaking Scanned Art" for suggestions on how to color correct, extract design elements, merge scanned images and remove moiré patterns.

To avoid having to piece images together in Photoshop, some artists paint art that is small enough to fit their scanner platen so that it can be scanned in one pass. Some create backgounds, icons, and design elements separately that is then scanned and arranged in Photoshop. Other artists scan the paintings that fit on their scanners and take photographs of their larger paintings. But whatever way you decide to convert your paintings into digital pictures, make sure that they end up with good color and high resolution.

I welcome any comments or suggestions. Please write them in the below comment section.

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