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!

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