Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Correcting Colour

The Internet is a great tool for showing your paintings to a wider audience but it's tricky to accurately represent it.

I photograph every painting that I complete under even light - an overcast day is great as the colours are not warmed up and made overly vivid as they are on sunny days - and then I colour correct it. This step is crucial because what the camera sees is never what my eyes see when I look at the painting. I have to make the photo match the work.

I use some freeware called GIMP. It's very similar to Photoshop but I prefer the price!
Usually I have to balance the colours and sharpen the image a bit but sometimes it takes much more work. Unless you've got a good set up for photographing artwork (which I don't), you run into a real problem with light reflecting off of the painting's surface. This is especially true of the dark areas which can look greyed and dead though they are colourful and transparent in life. In these cases I have to use the burn function of the program to try to darken the shadows up again. Nothing seems to reveal the range of colours that they contain so I always advise interested collectors to see the piece in person. A photo really doesn't show anything about a painting except its subject matter.

I recently bought a Spyder colour calibration system to help ensure that the work that I post looks like it should. It's not cheap but it was a necessity. I looked at my site on a few other computers and discovered that the paintings that I'd slaved over in GIMP, looked nothing like what I saw on my monitor at home. There was a certain cool gray that turned garishly green on other monitors. I had no idea that was going on! It was embarrassing to realize how long those images had been posted. Once my monitor was calibrated, I had to rework all of the paintings that had that particular gray mix. Oddly, most of the paintings that didn't have it were fine.

So now I know that the pieces that I see on my monitor are correct. Hopefully people who look at my site have decent colour correction on their monitors too. Really, it's better to see paintings in person.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, I found this very interesting!

Ingrid Christensen said...

I'm glad it helped. I still swear by my Spyder; I use it before I post any image to the web.
Happy painting!