Should You Digitally Edit Your Art?

2015 Artwork Should you digitally edit article sketch

If you’re posting traditionally-made artwork on the internet, then you’re going to have to scan or photograph it. Although I’ll start by talking about my own experiences with digital editing, there will be some advice later in this article that might be useful to you.

Anyway, one of the problems I found with scanning my art is that it would often look kind of “flat” or “faded” directly after I scanned it. Kind of like this:

One of my paintings shortly after it has been scanned. This image has been digitally cropped to remove the rest of my sketchbook page

One of my paintings shortly after it has been scanned. This image has been digitally cropped to remove the rest of my sketchbook page

Sometime in either 2010 or 2012, I finally realised that a good solution to this probably was to digitally lower the brightness levels in the image and heavily increase the contrast levels.

This can be done in pretty much any image editing program (even in freeware programs like GIMP or in old software, like the late 1990s version of Paint Shop Pro that I usually use) and it is what gives my paintings their characteristic “vivid” look. Like this:

"Casino Macabre" By C. A. Brown

“Casino Macabre” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, I’ll often use MS Paint to edit out small mistakes that I’ve made in the original painting – or to fill in areas that haven’t been painted properly.

So, in a basic sense, I digitally edit virtually every piece of art that I make. But, I’ve often had fairly mixed views when it comes to doing more than this. Sometimes I’ll enthusiastically use all sorts of digital effects in my paintings to enhance them, or to rescue what would have otherwise been a terrible painting. Recently, I’ve done this in a few of my pictures – like this one:

"1992" By C. A. Brown

“1992” By C. A. Brown

But, other times, I will consider doing anything other than the basic digital editing I mentioned earlier to be “cheating”. It really seems to be something that goes in and out of fashion for me. But, should you do it in your own paintings?

The first thing to remember with digital editing is that you should only do it if you feel that it will make your painting look better. Wanting to try out a new feature you’ve discovered in the image editing program you use isn’t really a good enough reason for digitally editing your picture. So, you should only use digital effects when they will actually improve your picture as a whole.

The second thing to remember is that you shouldn’t rely too heavily on digital editing and effects. Yes, you can correct mistakes in your pictures digitally and you can do all sorts of other cool stuff in image editing programs. But, if you do this too much- then you won’t really improve as an artist.

You won’t strive to make your paintings look as good as possible when you actually paint them, you won’t really learn how to cover up mistakes traditionally and you might not even practice things like colour mixing as much as you should. Why? Because you can do all of this stuff afterwards on the computer. So, you should always try to make a good traditional painting before you decide whether to edit it digitally or not.

Finally, if you are planning on actually selling originals of any of your artwork, then you shouldn’t do any digital editing at all.

Why? Because, if you’re selling your work online, then the only thing that your customers will be able to see when they are judging whether to buy your painting is the digital image of it you’ve posted online. This means that any digital adjustments you make to it are inherently misleading and/or fraudulent.

At the very least, if you do any digital editing on an image of a picture you’re planning on selling the original of, then you should clearly and openly declare this fact to your buyers. You should tell them exactly what you’ve done and, if possible, provide an unedited picture too. This is so that they know exactly what they are buying and won’t feel like they’ve been ripped off or fobbed off with lower-quality goods.

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Anyway, I hope this was interesting 🙂

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