I recently received this question from an Art-is-fun.com visitor, and thought it would be good to answer it here so that we could all share our ideas on this:

I've been wanting to post some of my artwork online but I'm not sure what the best way to go about it would be.  Is it as simple as taking a digital photo of the artwork?  If so, how do I make sure it ends up looking true to life once it's uploaded?  I'm worried about lighting and having the color come out right.  How do you do it?

There are 2 ways I create digital images of my art: by using a scanner or taking digital photos, so I'll talk about both methods here....

1) Scanning your artwork

If your artwork is small enough to fit into your scanner, then I'd recommend scanning your work because I find it to be more accurate than photography (which I explain more below).  If you think you'd like to make prints of your work, be sure to scan it at 300dpi. For the web, 72dpi is fine.

After scanning your work, you can adjust the colors, contrast etc in Photoshop or any other image editing program (GIMP is a free one).

2) Photographing your artwork

If you don't have a scanner or if your artwork is too big for a scanner, then digital photos are often just as good.  The more megapixels you have, the higher the resolution of your images, which means you might be able to make prints from your photos, if you want.  You'll definitely get good enough quality for posting online, in any case.

Photograph your artwork outside on a sunny day, but don't put your art in direct sunlight, because that might cause a glare. You'll have to experiment to find the best angle. I have a lightweight display easel that I take outside and rest my artwork on it, changing the angle of the easel in relation to the sun as needed.

Experiment to see what works best for you - I've even photographed small pieces by laying them flat on the ground and standing above it (making sure not to cause any shadows, of course).

Some people recommend photographing your art in the shade on a sunny day, but I've found that the shade will dull and alter my colors.  I've had better luck photographing out in the sun.

Another tip is to take your photographs before you varnish your piece, because if you varnish beforehand, you'll get even more glare when photographing your artwork.

One problem you will likely encounter when photographing your art is parallax error.  This is a problem caused by the lens that makes a flat painting (or drawing) with right angles appear to bulge or not look straight.  This is why I prefer scanning over photographing, when possible, because parallax error can make your artwork appear distorted.  Here's an example:

If you look closely, you'll see that the corners of the painting are not right angles - the painting seems to bulge out from the middle.  The image below might show this better.  In real life, the corners of the painting would fit seamlessly into the edges of the black border, but due to parallax error, the edges of the painting appear to curve:

So that's why I prefer scanning when possible - to avoid this distortion.

Two more tips for you when photographing your art:

Take a bunch of pictures. It's hard to tell from the little viewfinder if the photo is just right, so save yourself time by taking a lot of pictures of your art and then looking at them all on the computer.  With any luck at least one of them will be usable.

Use macro to capture detail.  If your artwork has texture, you can use your camera's macro setting to get some lovely close-up shots that accentuate the detail, like I did here:

I hope that helps!  If anyone has any tips or suggestions on how to digitize your artwork to post online, please share!  :)

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Also, don't be afraid to use an image editor (Photoshop, GIMP, etc) to adjust your photo or scan.  In Photoshop, the first thing I usually do is crop the image to get rid of whatever's in the background - trees, fences, etc - so that the sole focus of the photograph is the artwork itself.

Then I usually adjust the curves and use the sharpen filter.  It is rare that a photo or scan is a spot-on representation of the actual artwork, but tweaking the photo or scan digitally can work wonders.

Great discussion.  I'd like to read more about making prints too for those who have done it.  Best to buy a really great inkjet printer made for this purpose, or send them to an online service to order them (then you have the option of maybe different papers also).  Any info would be great.  I see this discussion in many forums and there's always new tips I read in different places.

Hi Angie,

I've replied to your question about prints over in the group "The Business Side of Selling Art", since it is a business-related topic. Here's the link to my response: http://community.art-is-fun.com/group/thebusinesssideofsellingart/f...  If you have any questions, please ask there and we'll be happy to help! :)

Thank you Thaneeya!
Really helpful advice. Many thanks.

Thanks Thaneeya! This has been very, very helpful.

Thanks so much, Thaneeya, as I have been having a great deal of trouble getting the colors to show true in my photos. Even the white canvas looks like its a tan or light beige. I like using bright, vibrant colors but you can't tell from looking at my drab photos.
Thanks Thaneeya, very helpful.
Thanks Thaneeya, a helpful discussion. i scan my small works.
what dpi means?

So glad that this discussion is helpful to you all! :)

Anupam, dpi means "dots per inch" and has to do with image resolution and how many dots are printed per inch.  The more dots, the better the print quality - the less dots, the more pixelated or fuzzy the print might be.

When you scan your art, there should be a setting for selecting the dpi.  300 dpi is ideal for printing. 

There's a wikipedia page about dpi which might explain it better than I can, but it gets quite technical: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dots_per_inch

Hope that helps!

thank u Thaneeya

very informative, and helpful discussion.. Thanks everyone ans special thanks To Thaneeya!!

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