Three Very Basic Image Editing Tricks To Improve Scans Or Photos Of Your (Non-Commercial) Art

2017 Artwork Three Very Basic Image Editing Tricks

So, you’ve made a painting that you plan to post online, but it doesn’t look quite right (even after you’ve scanned it and digitally altered the brightness/contrast levels in the image to make it look less faded). Well, don’t worry, there are a few sneaky image editing tricks that you can do which will make a digital copy of your painting look better.

Before I go any further, I should probably include a few caveats. The first is that, if you’re planning to sell the originals of your paintings, then any images of them you post online should be an accurate reflection of the original painting (so, don’t use any of the tricks in this article if you’re selling/advertising original artwork, since their use could be considered fraud in a commercial context).

The second caveat is that there are lots of image editing programs out there. Since I don’t want this article to be program-specific, I’ll be only talking about general types of features that can be found in most image editing programs. If you don’t have an image editing program, then there’s an open source program called “GIMP” [GNU Image Manipulation Program] which can be legally downloaded for free.

That said, how can you improve the digital copies of your paintings?

1) Tweak the hue levels: Most image editing programs contain a “hue/saturation” feature. The “saturation” levels control the intensity of the colours in your picture, but changing the “hue” level will alter every colour in the picture (moving each colour in the picture an equal distance along the colour spectrum).

Sometimes, if the colours in your painting don’t seem quite right, then you can alter the hue (and possible saturation) levels very slightly in order to make the colours look slightly better. This takes a bit of trial and error, but it can improve your painting significantly when it works.

For example, the original version of this edited painting had a very bright and garish red, yellow and green colour scheme – this was particularly noticeable on the striped covers of the market stalls. It looked terrible!

So, during the editing process (which also involved other types of editing too), I altered the hue/saturation levels:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here in mid-April.

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here in mid-April.

By setting the hue to “-7%” and the saturation to “61%” (along with an additional 4% reduction in the brightness of the image), I was able to change the colours of these parts of the painting to a more visually-appealing orange and dark pink colour scheme. So, you can improve the look of your paintings by experimenting with slightly different hue/saturation levels.

2) Use selection tools: All image editing programs have a “free select” tool of some kind or another. This tool allows you to use the mouse to draw a line around an area of your painting which the program will treat separately from the rest of the painting.

Most programs also contain a “reverse selection” or “invert selection” option which allows you to change the selected area from everything within the line to everything outside of the line. This can be useful if you want to select a large area of a picture, since you only have to draw a line around the small area you don’t want to select, and then reverse the selection.

What this means is that you can alter the brightness, saturation, hue, colour etc.. levels of one part of your painting without it affecting the rest of the painting. There are literally loads of ways that you can use this simple tool to make your picture look better. You can make the foreground stand out by only darkening the background, you can change the colours of individual parts of your picture etc…

3) Cropping: Virtually all image editing programs have a cropping tool, which can be very useful if you aren’t quite satisfied with the composition of your painting. The icon for the cropping tool will probably look like two diagonal halves of a square that overlap each other.

This tool allows you to freely select a square or rectangular area of your picture. Once you’ve selected the area, you can click on it and everything outside of that area will disappear. In other words, it allows you to trim the edges of your picture.

What this means is that if the composition of your picture isn’t quite right (eg: the main focal point of the picture is slightly off-centre or something like that), you can trim away the edges until it looks slightly better.

For example, here’s a digitally-cropped version of the square picture I showed you earlier – which has been turned into a landscape picture by cropping away the borders at the top and bottom of the picture (as well as the stall cover at the top of the picture), as well as part of the right-hand edge of the picture:

Here's a slightly cropped version of the picture earlier in the article.

Here’s a slightly cropped version of the picture earlier in the article.

But, if you don’t quite know what you’re doing, then keep a backup copy of your image before trimming and/or be sure to use the “undo” button if you make a mistake.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂


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