How Much Difference Does Digital Image Editing Make? – A Ramble

2017-artwork-remastered-versions-of-comics-article

[NOTE: I prepare these articles quite far in advance of publication. And, in the gap between writing this article and it appearing on this blog, I’ve learnt a few new image editing techniques (although they probably won’t appear here regularly until some of next year’s daily art posts). As such, I don’t really consider this article to be accurate any more. Still, I’ll include it for the sake of posterity.]

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Well, after reading about “remastered” albums online, I was curious if it was possible to do the same thing with art.

If, like me, you use a mixture of traditional and digital materials when making art – then it could theoretically be possible to go back, re-scan an old picture and then use all of the extra image editing knowledge that you’ve learnt since you first edited the original to make an improved “remastered” version of the original.

Since I’d just finished making a new webcomic mini series (that will appear here in October), I decided to try this with one of my old webcomic updates that was originally posted here in 2016 (but made in late 2015). Here’s a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, re-scan of the original comic.

This scan has been cropped, but there's no further editing. This is exactly as the comic update would have appeared before I edited it in late 2015.

This scan has been cropped, but there’s no further editing. This is exactly as the comic update would have appeared before I edited it in late 2015.

And here is what the comic update looked like after my original digital editing in late 2015:

"Damania Resurgence - Smart Phones" By C. A. Brown [Originally posted 12th April 2016, made in late 2015]

“Damania Resurgence – Smart Phones” By C. A. Brown [Originally posted 12th April 2016, made in late 2015]

The programs I used were MS Paint 5.1 and a late 1990s image editing program called “JASC Paint Shop Pro 6”. If I remember rightly, my original editing mostly consisted of replacing a line of dialogue in the final panel, altering the brightness/contrast levels (eg: lowering the brightness slightly and heavily increasing the contrast), maybe making a small “hue map” adjustment (I’d just discovered this technique back then) and making lots of small corrections using MS Paint.

So, with somewhere between one and two years more experience, I was curious to see whether I could create a better re-edited version of this comic update. After about 30-45 minutes of digital editing (using the same two programs I used in 2015), here’s the result:

Here's the new re-edited version of my old comic update.

Here’s the new re-edited version of my old comic update.

At first glance, the main changes are changes to the content. I’ve changed the colour of the old mobile phone (so it fits in with the colour scheme of the rest of the comic), I haven’t altered the dialogue from the original and I’ve altered the characters’ noses (and the width of their necks) to make them look more like my current style. I’ve also been a little bit more thorough with correcting small mistakes too.

However, most of the extra digital editing is the kind of subtle stuff that is only noticeable upon close inspection. For example, I’ve digitally added more realistic skin tones to both characters (by altering the RGB levels to +11% red/ -4% green/ -18% blue).

Likewise, I’ve darkened some of the backgrounds slightly to make them look more consistent. I’ve also made small changes to the colour saturation in the image too. I’ve also made the green areas of the image look slightly bolder and more consistent too.

Still, the two comics still look reasonably similar. Yes, the new one looks slightly better – but they both look somewhat “old”. After all, they’re both based on the same old comic from late 2015.

I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that you can only do so much with digital image editing. Yes, you can make your old art look slightly better by re-editing it. But, the best way to create an “improved” version of an old painting, comic update etc… is probably to re-draw or re-paint the whole thing.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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