Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Digitally Image Your Artwork for Printing – Part 3

In our last two blog posts, we talked about getting started on digitally imaging your paintings and explained step by step how to photograph the images that you will be later using to print your work with your D-SLR Camera. In this week’s post, we will get into how to process those images in Photoshop so they are ready to send off to the licensing company or the printer.

When you import the RAW files from your D-SLR camera into your computer, you will need to open them with either the software that came with your camera, or Photoshop. From there you can make color adjustments using brightness/contrast, levels, hue/saturation, and a number of other settings. You can experiment as well as look up tutorials online. (The #1 thing that I use is layer masks – this allows me to adjust the colors of certain aspects of a painting without changing the whole thing.)

The larger the pixel dimensions, the better. Typically you want your image to be at least 3000 pixels on the shorter side. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and the higher quality print. When you save the images for printing, you want them to be the dimensions of your painting (in inches) or larger – and always at 300 dpi or ppi (dots per inch or pixels per inch). For example, if you have an 18 x 24 painting, you would want your final image to be 18 in x 24 in at 300 dpi (5400 x 7200 pixels). If you had the same size image at 18 in x 24 in at 150 dpi, the image would only be 2700 x 3600 pixels. The more pixels the image has, the higher quality and the larger it can be printed.

If you had an 18 in x 24 in image at 300 dpi, you can usually print it safely up to 36 in x 48 in. If you want to go larger, you will definitely need a higher resolution image. So as you can see, the larger the original image is, the larger you will be able to print it. That is why you need a high Megapixel D-SLR camera and will probably need to stitch your images together anyway. To check the resolution of your image, open it in Photoshop and choose Image > Image Size from the drop-down menu.

If you have a large image that you have taken multiple images of to stitch together, Photoshop has some handy built-in software that will help do some of the work for you. You can’t rely on it completely, but will make the task easier.

To use Photoshop’s built-in software to stitch several images together, you will first need to open all of the RAW or TIFF files that you wish to merge together. Then choose File > Automate > Photomerge… from the drop-down menu.

Under Layout, choose Reposition Only. Click the Add Open Files button (and remove any extra files that are open if you need to.) Then click OK and let the computer work out a lot of the stitching for you. You will need to have an understanding of layer masks and the clone tool in order to then perfect the stitching. From there you can make color corrections and other adjustments.

When you are ready to save your file, make sure to save it as a TIFF and not a JPG. JPG images are lossy, which means that they lose quality and degrade the image. TIFF will save it at the exact quality that your camera took the image. Don’t forget to save the image with the title and your name in the filename.

That’s it! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I will be happy to get back to you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to Digitally Image Your Artwork for Printing – Part 2

In last week’s post, we talked about getting started on digitally imaging your paintings. In this week’s post I will be explaining step by step how to actually take the images that you will be later using to print your work with your D-SLR Camera. And in next week’s post, we will get into how to process those images in Photoshop so they are ready to send off to the licensing company or the printer. Whew! Let’s get started.

If you have a 8+ Megapixel D-SLR camera (though more, 15+ is preferable) and follow these guidelines, you should be able to take good photos that you can use to print your images:

1. Take your paintings outside around noonish and set them up somewhere in the shade. These are the ideal conditions for photographing paintings because the outside light is bright and keeps the paint as close to their true colors as you are going to get.

2. Set up your camera on a tripod (or at the very least a flat surface where there will be no camera shake.) This is very important.

3. To get the best results, you are going to want to put your camera on Manual (M) setting.

        a. Set your image quality setting to RAW. This is the highest resolution that your camera can take photos at. Do not take them in JPG.

        b. Set your white balance. This will produce the closest colors to the actual painting. You can turn on auto white balance, too, just be prepared to potentially spend more time tweaking later on the computer. But regardless, if the colors don’t come out exact, this is okay, because you will be able to adjust them later in Photoshop, regardless.

        c. Make sure the ISO is set to its lowest setting (usually 100.) This is very important because anything higher will add grain & decrease quality.

        d. Set your image to the smallest aperture setting it has. These are the higher numbers, like f/32. This is important because you want the entire canvas to be in focus, and higher apertures increase chance of aspects being out of focus. This is why you need a tripod, because at lower ISO and smaller aperture, you are going to probably need a slower shutter speed.

        e. Using the light meter inside of your camera -- (it looks like this:) 
adjust the shutter speed until the little arrow is right in the middle. This will ensure that your image is properly exposed. You can take a test photo or two and see how it looks on your LCD screen and continue to adjust the shutter speed higher or lower from there until you get the exposure right where you want it. Slower shutter speeds will brighten your image because the camera lets more light in, but you will have to be very careful about camera shake, which can happen even when you press the shutter. This is why it's good to buy a wireless shutter release button, so you can take the photo without moving the camera at all. However, it's not necessary. If you don't have a wireless shutter release, just make sure you take multiple shots once you have all the settings right, in case you accidentally move the camera. This way you won't have to do the setup all over again later.

        f. Try taking several photos with autofocus and then several more shots focusing it yourself. Take more photos than you think you are going to need – especially if you don’t have a wireless shutter release. It is very likely that several will come out blurry or out of focus, so don’t be afraid to fill up your card. Also, I recommend leaving a very small border around the edges of your painting, and cropping them later, rather than zooming in and trying to fill the whole frame with your image. For one thing, most paintings aren’t the right dimensions anyway, so you’re going to have to; and for another, it simply allows more flexibility in Photoshop.

        g.  If you have a painting that is larger that 24 inches in either direction, you are definitely going to need to stitch multiple images together in order to have an image that is a high enough resolution for a printer. (Or if you have a small painting that you plan on reproducing really large, or only an 8MP camera, you are going to need to do this as well, anyway.) So very carefully, take several images of roughly each 24-square-inch section of the canvas, leaving at least 5 inches on the edge you will be stitching visible in each shot so that you will have something to stitch together later.
    For example, take a look at the image "Apache Gold" © Wendy Froshay, that she kindly let me used to illustrate an example for you. The black rectangles represent the images that you would need to take in order to stitch a large painting like this one together. You would need three images with at least 5 inches of space overlapping between each of them that you can use for stitching. The two lightest areas are where they overlap:

That’s it for now! Check in next week for the final blog post in this series, where we will get into importing the images to your computer and learning how to process those images in Photoshop so they are ready to send off to the licensing company or the printer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to Digitally Image Your Artwork for Printing – Part 1

It seems like this question has been coming up an awful lot lately --  “I have all of these gorgeous paintings that I’ve worked so hard on. Now I want to get them digitally imaged so that I can reproduce them and print them. What do I do?”

Have no fear! Your professional digital imager is here. (That would be me.) I am a professional photographer and I do digital imaging for artists so that they can reproduce their images really large and at a very high quality. This of course, would be the easier (albeit more costly) course of action. Find a professional digital imager in your area who can do it for you. This will either be a photographer or scanning company who has large enough scanners to image your work. They can be somewhat expensive, but this is because it requires a lot of specialized equipment, knowledge, and time in order to create the file that you need for printing – as you will see from reading this guide. Often times a digital imager will offer discounts to image a large number of paintings, however, and you can save money that way.

However, the more art you have and the larger the pieces are, you may decide that it would be worth it to you to learn how to do your digital imaging yourself. Especially if you plan on getting into licensing. You’re technically-savvy enough that you feel confident that you can learn to do it yourself. If this is the case, I can help guide you on how to do this.

Keep in mind that I use a lot of technical jargon. I try to explain it in a very basic way so that you can understand, but please feel free to do a google search if you come across something that you need further understanding on. I could have gone into more detail in places, but I also wanted to keep it short, and there are a lot of excellent resources out there that can explain things in great detail for you as well. And of course – if you have any questions – please leave me a comment and I will be more than happy to answer them for you.

The first thing you are going to need is a professional D-SLR camera with at least 8MP (Megapixels) – but if you really want to print your images large, you are going to probably want more than that – 15 MP minimum. You can get away with less MP if you have Photoshop and can take multiple images and digitally stitch them together into one higher-resolution seamless image file. I use a Canon EOS 7D, which has 18 MP and takes excellent high quality images. No, you cannot use a point and shoot camera. I don’t care how many MP it has, you are not going to get high enough quality images, sorry.

Regardless, the second thing you are going to need is Photoshop, or another image editing program which allows you to adjust and color correct RAW files (more on that later,) stitch images together, and save the final images as TIFF files. You are also going to need a nice sturdy tripod. A wireless shutter release is VERY nice, too (though not necessary; it will just take longer and you will have to be more careful if you don’t have it.)

You will need to read your camera manual and understand what all of the different settings mean – white balance, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, etc. You will want to practice taking some photos with your camera until you feel comfortable enough using it. Make sure you take your pictures in RAW format, since that is what you will be using to image your work. Take the photos into Photoshop and experiment with different settings and adjust the colors. Get used to using your camera. You can even check out a couple of beginning photography books at the library to help learn how to use it more effectively.

Next week’s blog post is going to explain to you step by step how to image your paintings in order to get the very highest quality images that you can. Then the third and final post will explain how to take them into Photoshop and get all of the correct settings that a printer will ask for, as well as how to stitch the images together if you need to. With a lot of patience, practice, and willingness to learn, you can soon be digitally imaging your own work for licensing and printing!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America In Art

"Battle Hymn of the Republic" © Tom Griffithe
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!! It’s here – the day that we celebrate the wonderful country that we live in and our freedom! Everywhere we go today, we see red white and blue waving from flags as mothers and fathers kiss their happy children on the forehead. Perhaps you’re going to a parade today, or going to see a show, or spending time with loved ones and watching fireworks in the evening. No matter how you’re taking part in the festivities, we’re all bound to get caught up in the excitement of the day!

The Fourth is the day we celebrate our Independence, but it’s also a time we simply appreciate the freedoms we have, the people who have sacrificed so that we may have those freedoms, and the people we love and take time to be thankful for what we have. Here at OC Designer Source, we are feeling especially festive and patriotic this year, and I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite All-American Art created by our amazing artists.

Enjoy the beautiful compilation of patriotic imagery, as well as art and photographs of some of the most beautiful locations in the United States! Let’s all take a moment to celebrate this amazing country that we live in. I hope that no matter what you are doing today, you get to spend it with the ones you love the most.

"4th of July House" © Peter Treiber
"1950 Dodge" © Peter Treiber
"Freedom" © Tien Frogget
"Twin Towers 1972" © Peter Treiber
"Yorktown Parade" © Tom Griffithe
"Charleston 26" © Peter Treiber
"Canyon Silhouettes" © Steve Henderson
"Twilight Glow" © Tom Griffithe
"Delicate Arch" © Richard Harpum
"Horseshoe Bend" © Tien Frogget