You’re an artist of the pen and paper persuasion. You’ve got stacks of hand crafted drawings, paintings and illustrations. Maybe you have a gallery-worthy collection or maybe you crafted a visual story destined for a children’s book. Whatever it is, you face the challenge of sharing that work when there’s only one copy and it’s stuck on paper.
So, how do you get all of that goodness into a digital file and onto its rightful place of a book?
Two options: scanning or photographing.
Using a drum scanner can be expensive and may require patching together multiple images if the original piece doesn’t fit on the scanning surface, so we’ll be covering the ins and outs of photographing artwork to create a digital file in this post.
Getting the lighting right is critical. The artwork should be lit evenly and well. You’ll want to make sure that you don’t have areas of shadow. Natural light can work, but of course, you can’t adjust it and it can change quickly. If you can position your artwork in indirect sunlight, that’s a great, easy option.
Another option is to position two different light sources at the art, one from either side. But it can be tricky to place the lights evenly, so take your time and be picky!
Don’t use the built-in flash in your camera.
Step back and make sure that you’re not getting reflection, sheen or shadows before you start to photograph.
Place the work on a wall, so that it is completely vertical and flat. Get as close to the art as you can, without cutting it off in your viewfinder. Look through the camera so that your eyes are level with the center of the artwork. Take a test shot. Try moving backwards and forwards a few paces, taking more test shots. Determine which spot will give you the least distortion. Make sure that your camera is perfectly perpendicular to the wall.
Now set up a tripod to keep your camera steady in that spot.
If the edges of the art appear diagonal (not straight up and down or totally flat) in your photos, review the instructions in this section and get more precise about your positioning! Try using a ruler to find the exact center of the artwork and the distance from that spot to the floor. Then set your tripod to that same hight. A level can help to make sure that both your camera and the art are exactly level.
TAKING THE SHOT
Use the highest resolution that your camera can do and the lowest ISO. Take the photos in RAW, if you’re comfortable working with those. Take photos with a range of exposures, both on the lighter and the darker side. You can decide which are the best later. If you don’t know how to set your white balance, start with Auto White Balance, and then experiment with other settings and then review your test shots to make sure you’re getting the best color match.
Once you’re happy with the digital versions of your artwork, then you’re ready to start reaping all the benefits.
You can post images on a website in many different file formats, but JPEGS are a good choice for internet-only use.
Sometimes, there’s nothing like seeing an original piece of art up close and in person. But you know what? There’s also nothing like seeing your own art in the pages of a book.