Well, for today, I thought that I’d show you what the digital editing process (at it’s most extensive) can involve for my paintings. In fact, I’ll be showing you how I managed to salvage a fairly mediocre painting using digital tools.
I’ll try to keep my descriptions of the editing processes I used fairly general – so that they can be applied to any editing software, rather than just the really old editing programs I use. At the least, virtually everything in this article should also be possible with free open-source software, like “GIMP“. Likewise, many of the examples used here will be re-creations of my original editing process, so they may not look exactly like the finished painting at the end of the article.
Anyway, when I was making a “1990s stuff/ awesome stuff”-themed art series that I’ll be posting later this month, I found myself in a bit of a rush one day. I had to think of an idea for a painting and make that painting in less than an hour and a half. Since the paintings in this series have involved more planning than usual, I went with an idea that wouldn’t require too much planning – a “film noir” sci-fi painting. This is, after all, one of my favourite genres of art.
The painting certainly wasn’t a “bad” painting, but it looked fairly mediocre when compared to the other more detailed and distinctive paintings in the series that I’ve made so far. Here’s a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of the original painting:
When I re-scanned this painting for this article, it accidentally ended up being tilted slightly. So, yes, there are spaces at the edges of this re-scan. They’ll be edited out later..
Still, since I had more time than I expected to edit it, I thought that I’d do a fairly extensive edit. This is a re-creation of what I did.
First of all, I opened the image up in an editing program from the late 1990s called “Paint Shop Pro 6” and cropped out the blank space on the rest of the page (you can do this in any graphics program, since virtually all editing programs have cropping tools).
After this, I did what I normally do to give my paintings their characteristic “vivid” look – I lowered the brightness levels and increased the contrast levels (again, you can do this on virtually any program). In some paintings, I also increase the colour saturation level, but I didn’t do this here.
Choosing the right levels can take a bit of trial-and-error for each painting, and the best I was able to get for this particular painting was to lower the brightness to “-7″ and increase the contrast to ” 79″. This is what the painting looked like after I’d done this:
Here’s the re-scanned painting, with altered brightness and contrast levels. Sometimes, this is all the editing that I do to a painting.
As you can probably see, one initial problem with this technique is that some of the characters’ skin tones can look fairly washed out. I don’t always have time etc.. to correct this in all of my artwork (which is why they can sometimes vary significantly) but, since I had more time and motivation to edit this picture extensively, I decided to correct this problem digitally.
For the woman in the foreground, I selected the relevant areas in Paint Shop Pro 6 and manually changed the RGB levels to “+18%” red, “-4%” green and “-36%” blue. Again, you can do something similar to this in almost any image editing program.
For the man and the woman in the background, I opened up MS Paint 5.1 and used both a basic “brush” tool and the “pick color” tool. This tool, and other tools like it in graphics editing programs (eg: the icon usually looks like a dropper or a pipette) allows you to change the brush colour to the exact colour of the pixel that you click on when using the tool. This allows for a level of visual consistency that you won’t get if you use your paint program’s stock colours.
This is the result. As you can see, the three characters’ skin tones look slightly more realistic when compared to the previous example.
But, after this, the painting still didn’t look quite “right”. For a ‘film noir’ painting, it just looked too… bright. So, what I decided to do was to use the “colorize” option in Paint Shop Pro 6 (most image editing programs have something like this) to alter the hue and saturation levels of different selected parts of the foreground and background. This option allows you to change the colour and the intensity of selected parts of the picture.
In general, I made most of the foreground area stand out more by not changing the colours. Instead, I changed the colours of most of the buildings in the background to various muted colours (by lowering the saturation levels of these areas of the image and altering the hue).
In addition to this, I thought that the woman in the foreground’s red outfit blended into the pillar behind her slightly, so I changed this to a dark purple using the same tools. Here’s a rough re-creation of what these changes looked like:
As you can see, most of the background is now more muted shades of blue and green. Likewise, the woman in the foreground is now wearing a purple jacket. I’ve also quickly airbrushed out the white spaces at the edges of the picture too.
Even after this, the painting still felt a bit too “empty”. The sky in the background just looked far too empty for a bustling, futuristic city.
So, I started by adding the red headlights of flying cars to the background using the airbrush tool from Paint Shop Pro 6 for the larger ones and the brushes and pencils from MS Paint for the smaller ones. I also added some yellow lights to the laser gun in the foreground (using MS Paint) to make it stand out more against the dark background.
This is a rough recreation of the headlight pairs (of varying sizes) that I added to the background and the high-contrast markings I added to the laser gun.
Finally, to add more drama and depth to the background, I opened the image in MS Paint and selected the “line” tool. After changing the line colour to light grey, I painstakingly added lots of thin diagonal lines of varying lengths (to signify rain) to the background. To add more depth to the background, I added larger vertical grey droplets of water falling from the edges of the roof in the foreground.
Here’s a close-up of what it looks like in the original version of the painting:
The rain from the original version of the picture. As you can see, the diagonal raindrops are of varying lengths (to give the rain more depth), I’ve also added water droplets falling from the windows and rooftop at the top of the painting. Plus, I totally forgot, I also made some small changes to both of the foreground characters’ eyes, using MS Paint.
And, there it is! That’s how I salvaged a mediocre painting using digital editing techniques. Although the final painting will “formally” appear here closer to the end of the month – since you’ve bothered to read this far, I thought it only fair to give you a full-size preview of the final painting…..
“1990s Sci-fi Noir Awesomeness” By C. A. Brown
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂