Good Question of the Week : Why is there no Paper Texture in your Scans?
Oddly, two people just asked back to back, “why it is there is no paper texture in your scans? You can see what they mean in this one (windmill). When you click to enlarge you can see texture in the wash, but not in the white paper.
When you scan watercolor paper, the bumpy surface of the paper will show up as an undesirable grainy texture in the white areas. Or, simply have a grey or yellowish cast.
When you take a snapshot (especially a cellphone photo) the white of the paper can be quite dark – giving the whole thing a lifeless feeling. So yes, I do some color correction in photoshop to get it the way I like it. It’s not a big task – a few minutes on each image.
And you can in fact make some improvements to your painting. When I started painting, my work lacked for color – and I used these kinds of photoshop color corrections to teach myself what I wanted in a real painting.
Keep in mind – scans will never look exactly like an original. A lot of complexity is lost – especially in the lightest tones. And further, you never really know what people are seeing. Everyone’s monitor is different. I know my iPad looks desaturated compared to my desktop, and many of my things look neon to when seen on expensive iMac monitors. (I’m PC by nature – being a video gamer).
SO! Here’s how I get rid of any left over paper texture in a scan.
The untouched scan, as it comes in with paper texture. Scanner is an Epson Perfection V500 Photo.
If the paper is rippled from water, this causes shadows, and you may have to be more heavy handed with the following adjustments. Or resort to some manual erasing.
I use a stack of books to press the paper during the scan. Sometimes I leave the book-weighted painting under a sheet of plexy for a few days prior to scanning. See – expensive art books are good for something!
Also, if the painting is larger than the scanner bed – scan it in overlapping pieces and used File>Automate>Photomerge to join up the pieces.
A CURVES adjustment layer (the blue row in the layers palette – shown in the adjustments panel below) – to keep the mid tones stable, but bring back some of the darks and the lights. Each piece is slightly different – but you will see it’s a matter of clicking points on the curve (line graph) and pulling them down towards the histogram (bar graph). You can just twiddle those little points around, and see how you like the changes. Nothing is permanent, so just play with it, watch what it does.
A LEVELS adjustment layer to bring the white point in considerably. Everything in the graph to the right of the white ‘carrot’ on the slider will be pushed to pure white. Values to the left of the ‘black carrot’ will be turned 100% black. This is, I do believe, called ‘clipping’.
The last adjustment SATURATION ( in this case, taking it DOWN -22) – because the previous process exaggerates the colors.
If you open the first and last images in two different tabs, and flip back and forth, the effect is more visible.
This is not a perfect color match to the actual painting, but it’s within the 80% rule.You can go out to a photo printing service and get better resolution and color quality – but even then results vary. For most uses, this process should work fine.
I have been known to use this effect to desaturate intentionally on occasion. Sometimes quite a bit. Sometimes, for reasons of mood, I prefer the look of a less colorful painting.
You can use this general approach to boost up the strength of pale drawings, or shift the color drastically to create artistic effects. As an illustrator, it’s tremendously useful. I do feel however, you shouldn’t make unrealistic changes to the image of a painting you intend to sell – it might be misleading to a potential customer. I try to use the heady power of photoshop only on illustrations – where the finished art is the printed page, or a fine art print.