Sunday, March 20, 2011

Scanning tips & tricks

When scanning in a painting several undesirable things happen. Because of the strong white scanning light every little bit of texture is exaggerated, also the colors and values tend to get skewed from the original art. Here are a few things I do to help mitigate the problems.
I have a Mustek A3 scanner. Maybe not a top of the line scanner, but I like the large size (almost 11" x 17") and the price was right. I've used it for years - and with a few tricks in Photoshop I can get a decent scan of original artwork with it.
Here is a raw scan of a quick painting I recently did. The painting is done in acrylics on Aquarelle Arches hot pressed watercolor block. I tend to prep the surface with a fine layer of matte medium with brush strokes first horizontally then vertically to create a fine pseudo canvas-like texture.
Notice how dark the scan is, and the texture of the paint is overly strong, while I love impasto brushstrokes (the emotional impact of an original Rembrandt at the National Gallery in London literally forced me to sit down in front of it and stare at it in awe for 2 hours!), illustration work tends to require a little more...evenness:
What I do is take 2 scans. I align each scan to the edge of the scanner, and I flip the painting for the second scan.
Now all of the highlights and shadows of the brushstrokes on the 2nd scan will be exactly reversed. In Photoshop I place the 2nd scan on a layer on top of the 1st scan and set the opacity of this 2nd scan layer for 50%. The effect is that the highlights and shadows of each layer exactly cancel each other out.
This helps greatly to eliminate the overly-strong brushstrokes, but the nice thing is you still maintain some of the painting texture - that more closely matches the texture of the original. Unfortunately the scan is still dark, the contrast and colors are still not accurate. Next I set the original painting next to my monitor and adjust the Levels and Color Balance to match the original as close as possible.
This part of the process can take a while as you adjust color, saturation, contrast, and so on to get as close to the original as possible. You might even want to enhance it a little - improving your value pattern and color harmony. I like to save one version off that is as closely calibrated as possible before doing an "enhanced" version. The final result should be a decent scan of your painting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Legend of Badass

The book is out now, so I guess it is time to post the art I did for LEGEND OF BADASS!!!!

I just love Ben Thompson's writing. It's visceral and delivers a punch. You should check out his blog, it is quite literally "badass". Here are the illustrations I did:

 The  Norse giant Sutr
  The archangel Michael
 Rama an incarnation of Vishnu
Mt. Doom!

 Professor Moriarty
 The Monkey King
 Fin McCool
 Baba Yaga
 Baba Yaga's Hut!
My friend Winona and I were working on a project for Microsoft and we tried hard to convince them how cool Baba Yaga would be in a video game. Unfortunately we couldn't convince them. So I was glad to get this assignment from Harper Collins!

For anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area I'll be doing a book signing with Ben at Booksmith in the Haight on April 5th at 7:30pm. It would really make my day if you showed up! I'll have a special art print available just for you. ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dejah Thoris

This was a little inking experiment. Trying to get a cleaner, more graphic effect.