When I first started uploading my art to online galleries and social media, I have to say I thought they looked great! Despite not having a great camera or amazing lighting, I assumed people would see through that and appreciate my skill.
I was right about that….to an extent. Truth is, they looked something like this:
Now if you look closely, really closely, you can see how the eyes look alive, the hair is well textured, and even the locket has a gleam.
Fact: no one’s going to bother looking closely without a good first impression. It sounds harsh, but I know from experience that it is true. So, here’s a post about how to make that all-important first-impression really count!
Imagine you’ve just finished a piece you’ve been working on for weeks now. You’ve signed it, and can feel the pride swelling up. You can’t wait for everyone to see your newest brain baby, so you grab the nearest mobile phone and start taking pictures.
Stop right there.
The first and most important thing to consider is lighting. I’ve seen several pieces of art where you can just tell that the artist has hastily snapped a quick pic, relying solely on digital post-processing to make it look as close to the original as possible. Always remember:
No amount of Photoshop is a good enough substitute for good lighting.
Here’s another piece I drew at a similar skill level as the last one, and photographed with the same awful camera, but in natural daylight.
Already the details have showed up a lot better! Natural daylight is honestly the best light setting to photograph your work in. Artificial lights or a flash often wash out the more subtle details, or worse, flash back off the smoother areas of your work… *shudder*
The second most important point is to have a good camera. This could be anything, right from your mobile phone to a proper DSLR. The crucial thing is to know how it works, which light conditions it best prefers, and how to get it to focus really, really well.
However, there are some very obvious differences in image quality. For example, have a look at this side-by-side comparison of two of my recent drawings.
These were both drawn less than a week apart from each other, with the same equipment, and photographed in the same light conditions. Notice how the DSLR picked up the highlights in the (gorgeous) face and the shadows in the (perfect) hair so much better than the phone did. (I may or may not have a middle-school-esque crush on Armie Hammer…)
Now I’m not saying you absolutely need a £1,000 camera, but unless you have a magical phone blessed by unicorn fairies, a digital camera will almost always produce higher quality pictures!
Also, say it with me: never use the flash with graphite! It will flash back, and you will hate how it turns out.
The selfie trick:
Here’s a tip every single Instagram user knows, and I’m going to say it for all you altruistic non-‘grammers. Take multiple pictures. Always. It doesn’t matter if you think you have the perfect shot on the first go, take at least four more! At worst, you’ll have to delete a few unnecessary images. At best, you’ll find the perfect shot, or have enough to digitally stitch it together.
Plus, you get to make cool collages like this:
Out of this (from one of my earlier posts):
Currently, I edit my images with Corel Painter 2015 and a Wacom Intuos tablet. I didn’t get either of these to solely edit images with, I am still learning the ways of digital art, but they do come in incredibly handy!
Neither of these are essential to editing a picture. A mouse works just as well, and there are plenty of free picture editing softwares/websites available. PicMonkey is one of my long-time favourites. It does all the essential things, and you can even add a faux-watermark on it!
Here are the things I definitely adjust in most of my images:
- Crop: I always start by getting rid of anything that lies outside of the paper or canvas by cropping it out. This makes sure there is nothing in the image but your art-work: a very important point!
- Brightness: As the name suggests, this rectifies over- or under-exposure to a certain limit. Abuse it, and you lose all your beautiful, rich dark tones.
- Contrast: Increases or decreases the difference between darker and lighter tones, making details appear sharper. Be careful with this one, though – too much contrast can cause a loss of finer details.
- Desaturation: Desaturating is something I make sure to do while editing pictures of greyscale drawings. Colours almost always appear different on different screens, and what seems grey-toned on yours might look more brownish on someone else’s. The best way to get rid of the uncertainty of this is to get rid of any saturated colour in the image at all.
Just to illustrate the amount of difference this can make, here’s a comparison of the first drawing in this post, before and after changing only these four aspects (courtesy of PicMonkey!):
When working with coloured images, it is always useful to go a step further and play around with saturation and contrast a bit more. This can truly bring life to your art, and make it look a lot closer to the way it is in real life, or the way you’d pictured it turning out!
But Srish, isn’t it cheating to edit your pictures before putting them up online?
No, not at all. When you create a piece of art, you do it with an end goal in sight. You want it to look a certain way and to create a certain mood. You want it to generate a specific emotion in your audience. Digitally editing your images help you achieve just that. Ask a professional photographer, and they’ll tell you they do it all the time!
Here’s the thing about the digital age: what people see, they remember, and what they remember, they appreciate. The easiest way to build an audience over the internet is by putting forward the best form of your work you can. You’re the artist; you get to speak for your art.
And if you’re still not convinced, call it “mixed-media” and leave it at that!
So there it is. This is how I edit my own drawings and painting in order to convey my messages clearly through them. I hope this post has been helpful in some way or another, and if you have any post requests, I’m always more than happy to look at them! Drop me a line in the comments below, or on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Thank you ever so much for reading, and I hope you have a lovely week!