Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gamma Settings: Using Image Ready to Adjust for Best Cross Platform Effect

See the post on Gamma on my painting blog for more information and a disclaimer.

Have you ever looked at your blog or website on a computer other than your own? You might be in for quite a surprise. It's probably NOT going to look the same on another computer as it does on the one you have at home (or office). Especially try and get a look on the platform you don't have-- such as view your blog on a Mac if you own a PC, or on a laptop or flat screen if you're using a CRT old style monitor. Because we edit mostly on one given computer, that is the one that is 'True' to our eyes. But it's a partial truth, at best.

"The gamma value of a computer monitor affects how light or dark an image looks in a web browser. Because Windows systems use a gamma of 2.2, images look darker on Windows than on Mac OS systems, which are normally set to a gamma of 1.8."

  • So if you're viewing other peoples blogs and websites from a Mac, it might seem that a lot of other people's images are washed out looking.
  • Conversely, if viewing from a PC, there might be some other's images that are so dark you can barely make them out.

Well, we can't do anything for most of these images, but we can be aware of the impact of our own images. Luckily there's a pretty simple way to make this adjustment. First, a visual example of what we're talking about:

Gamma 1.8 example (as might be created on a Mac, but as seen on a PC)

The same image, but as a Gamma 2.2 example (as might be created on a PC, but as viewed on a Mac)

You might be thinking, why should I care? And maybe you don't need to. I do think most of want our images show up as true to life as possible; however given the millions of monitor variations (and the fact that almost no one calibrates their monitors the suggested once a month), I'd only be concerned if I was consistently getting messages from others that my images were showing up too dark or too light. Mac users won't like this one bit, but because of the predominance of PC's, Mac users might be the ones to find this information most helpful.

To adjust your gamma settings, you'll need to open your image in Image Ready (this comes bundled with Photoshop); one way, if you were making edits in Photoshop, is to click on your 'File/Save for web' option; the dialog box that opens witll have an option at the lower right corner: "Edit in Image Ready".

From there, choose Image/Adjustments/Gamma as shown below.

The gamma dialog box will pop up and offer 2 basic buttons: click the one appropriate to your situation (example: choose Windows to Mac if you to email a photo to a client who has a Mac, but you have a PC). The image will automatically adjuct; then you just need to save it.

A possible workaround to this issue is the PNG file, but..."The PNG graphic file format has a feature that effectively adjusts the gamma of picture depending the platform it is running on. It sounds like an ideal answer but the format has been very slow to take off and is not widely supported by browsers." (Click for source)

As an experiment, I'm posting PNG file here. Let me know if it appears on your screen, and whether it looks 'more acurate' than either of the two above.

Was any of this helpful? Let me know.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CMYK vs. RGB: knowing which color space to use

The two basic color spaces, or Modes, that you'll most often encounter with your digital images are RGB and CMYK. Each has a specific use, outlined below.

RGB (Red-Green-Blue) is the color of the light emitted from your computer monitor, and from TV's. Use RGB if you are taking photos specifically to be viewed onscreen, such as the internet, or for a CD or emails. RGB usually also works well for printing from your home or office printer.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is the color of inks used in the offset printing process. Use CMYK if you are sending your photo to be printed, such as preparing a postcard to be professionally printed for a gallery invite.
NOTE: CMYK is an option offered only in full versions of Photoshop; it is not available in Photoshop elements or most other photo editing programs (if you know of one, please comment, thanks!). However, if you, if you don't have it, and need to have your files converted to CMYK, do all your edits and then take to a Kinkos or similar shop and they can convert for you).

What color mode is your photo? In most cases, right off of your digital camera, the mode (or color space) will be RGB. You can tell in Photoshop by looking at the blue bar at the top of your open image (see the red arrow).

If you need to change the mode of your image, from the top toolbar click Image/Mode/CMYK.
Changing mode can affect the appearance of your image.
If you switch to CMYK from RGB, you may need to adjust your color. You may notice, as in this exaggerated sample, that the colors in the CMYK sample on the right have become somewhat subdued, especially in the blue range.

For a more thorough explanation of CMYK vs. RGB try this link:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

File Types: Lossy vs. Lossless files for your artwork

This tutorial is to you show why you should always edit your photos in a "lossless" format, such as a .PSD file or a .TIF file. When you've completed editing, that is the time to resize and save as a .jpg for your blog or website.

As a kid, did you ever xerox a xerox, and then xerox THAT xerox...? And after about 20 prints you get this mooshy, funky, broken up picture?
Or here's another example: Your FAX machine. Ever notice how crappy faxes tend to be, barely readable half the time? That's because a FAX and a XEROX are both good examples of LOSSY formats.

  • LOSSY formats (.JPG, .GIF) LOOSE information-- poorer quality, but faster download
  • LOSSLESS formats (.PSD, .TIFF) SAVE information -- good quality, not appropriate for web, but good for print.

Here's a visual:

Sample A went through 6 types of edits as a 300 dpi .PSD file BEFORE reducing it to 72 dpi and saving it as a .JPG for the blog.

Sample B is an example of what might happen if the same image went through six types of editing and saving, all as a 72 dpi .JPG. See a bit of a difference?

JPG's are a LOSSY format. This means that every time you make a change to the file and resave it, the pixel data is compressed (meaning, the system 'throws out' anything it deems redundant). Pretty quickly, you will lose image quality if editing and saving only in JPG's. For this reason, I recommend to ALWAYS take your original digital file and immediately save it a PSD file. PSD's are a LOSSLESS format, so your pixel data is less prone to degradation.

Quick review:

  • Set your camera to record high resolution JPG's as in the last post, as per your camera's manual
  • Save the original digital image as a .PSD file before any editing.*
  • Once you've finished editing the photo, then you can save a copy of it as a JPG.

WHAT'S NEXT: I'll demonstrate how to save for both print and web in a later post.

*Alternately, can you set your camera to record TIFF's (another lossless format) and edit these safely? Yes, you can if you want. However, I have two things against TIFF's; one, the files can be so large on a standard setting (23 MB per picture) that they can be slow to work on, even with a well powered computer, and also take up a lot of storage space on your computer. But if you prefer TIFFs, then by all means use them.

Friday, April 24, 2009

File Types: What's the difference between JPG, PSD, TIFF, and which do I use when?

I've had some good questions about file types and sizes...
I'll be breaking this topic into short bits over the next few posts, as it covers a lot of territory.

The basic issue is:
Where will the photo ultimately be used?
Print or Web?

Print Requirements:
(professional printing, office/home printing)

  • Larger files in high resolution (300 dpi)
  • Print files for professional printers must be CMYK* mode (I will do another post about color space.)
  • Appropriate file types can be PSD, TIFF, a high resolution JPG, and sometimes PDF.
    (Which I'll discuss in more detail in another post.)
Web Requirements
(Computer viewed images websites, blogs, email, etc.)

  • Smaller files in low resolution (72 dpi): this is so they load fast and it doesn't take ten minutes for your blog to show up with pictures.
  • Color space for Internet images is RGB mode.
  • The appropriate file type for photos of artwork is most commonly a low resolution JPG.

Tomorrow: 'Lossy' versus 'Lossless' file types


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Photoshop tips: Straightening with the Measure Tool

Final corrected image: "Birds in Flight" .. oil .. 18" x 36" .. SOLD

This tutorial is a variation on the last one. Often in Photoshop you'll find that problems can be solved in any number of ways. If your original photo seems tilted, more than skewed, try using the Measure Tool before cropping or fixing skew. It may get you most of the way there.

Straightening your image with the Measure Tool is very easy:

1. Click on the Measure tool in the tool box to activate it. It looks like a mini ruler, and may be hiding under your eyedropper tool.

2. Click your mouse button down and hold it to draw a horizontal guide line from left to right (or a vertical line from bottom to top), across any line that should be straight, but is not (The measure line here appears at the top of the canvas, as a somewhat dotted line).

3. From the top toolbar, click on Image/Rotate/Arbitrary.

4. The correct amount of rotation will automatically be assigned to make the line level, as shown below.

5. At this point, your image is ready to crop. You may wish to go back to the earlier tutorial on cropping and fixing any remaining skew.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Photoshop Tips: Cropping, and Fixing Skewed Artwork Photos

Have a question on how to fix a specific photo problem? Please ask! I'll see if I can be of assistance.

At right: The final edited image: Hibiscus with Two Skies, 30" x 30"

The most common complaint
I hear/see about artwork photos that artists take themselves is, 'The color's not right'. So in later tips, I will give several instructions on how to correct this issue with Photoshop.

For today, however, I'm going to start where I usually start myself, which is to crop and straighten (or un-skew) the raw photographic image. I've seen enough uncropped, skewed images to know that not everyone knows how to do this simple fix.

Crop and Straighten (using guidelines) *

NOTE TO MAC USERS: Anywhere the instructions say 'Ctrl+ ', substitute using the Command key + the letter specified. 'Apple+'.
  1. Open your original photo document. Always start with a good size photo; a .JPG that is 300 dpi and about 10" x 7" (to check the size of your photo from the toolbar, click Image/Image size).
    I like to make a layer copy of the original: Ctrl+A (select all), then Ctrl+C (copy), Ctrl + V (paste); and then save it as a .PSD. More information is saved in a PSD file. When the photo is completely edited you can save it as .JPG.

  2. Setting up guidelines: Click Ctrl+R. This will bring up the rulers on the top and left of your document (to hide the rulers, use the same command). To make a straight guide line, place your mouse on on of the rules, then hold down the key on your mouse and pull down or to the right. Put the guidelines close to the outer edge of your painting as it appears in the photo.

  3. To crop your photo, choose the crop tool from the side tool kit. Drag the crop into position, and then click enter.

  4. To straighten and align your artwork: click Ctrl + A (select all), then Ctrl + T (transform). Right click on the image and choose 'skew'.This will allow you to pull each corner outwards to correct the alignment of the image. If your image has internal 90 degree lines, as this sample does, you can add additional guidelines to help you. When it's adjusted to your satisfaction, click Enter.

    Alternately, if you image does not appears skewed but is merely rotated a bit off, you could use the Rotate function (also under Transform).

  5. To remove the guidelines, go to your top toolbar and click View/Clear Guides. Your image is now ready for color correction.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Basic Tips for Photographing Art for the Technically Challenged

Digital cameras have been a revolution, and revelation for artists in particular. I'm sure you remember the film days; pay for film, and for processing, waiting sometimes days to get your slides back...and then crossing your finges, hoping, hoping, that the exposures were good, that the camera was in focus... that the lab didn't lose your film right before the big art show entry was due... (happens)!

There are times you will want and need to take your work to a professional photo studio. I trust you'll figure out those times. For the Daily Painter, though, who wishes to post a photo a day, there's nothing faster and more cost effective than taking your own. I've been shooting photos since my teens but I still consider my style 'point and shoot'. A true professional photographer would be appalled by my lack of camera knowledge. Still, after decades of hining my 'non-method', I may have some useful tips for the non technical among you-- and you know who you are!

Getting the most of out of your 'raw' photos
  • Photoshop can work wonders on many photos, but the better your original image is, the less editing, headaches and better final results you'll have.

  • Unless you have the luxury of professional photo lights set up somewhere in your studio, you'll probably get the best photos outdoors. You'll have to do some experimenting to find what works best for you, and it may vary somewhat by each painting.

  • If you're shooting watercolors, drawings, pastels, etc.: Photograph before framing with glass! You will save yourself so many headaches.

  • Try photographing in a variety of light settings; I'm fond of middle of day (that is, around 10 a.m. and again around 2 p.m.) 'bright shade'-- to minimize glare and 'hot spots' from brush strokes.

  • Try angling the painting into, and conversely, away from the sun; see which works the best to reduce glare. You might also experiment with the positioning of the canvas; lay it face up on a table or on the ground, hang it on a wall, or at an angle leaning on something-- all will provide somewhat different results-- and the background gets cropped in the end anyway.

  • Do try and square the edges of the painting in your viewfinder to minimize straightening issues in the editing phase. Take at least a half dozen images of any artwork and choose the best one to begin editing. Remember, there's no film to waste here-- go crazy.

  • Check the manual on your digital camera for ideas; while I'm not one to read cover to cover, there is always useful information that can be located through the index. If you are fortunate enough to have a camera with some built in settings*, try several of them on any single artwork and see which has the best look. *(mine has built color settings for Portrait, Landscape, a combo of the first two, Macro (close-up), Museum (very handy if you must shoot indoors), and a number of others.) Over time you'll discover which setting works best for your kind of artwork.

  • If you have a new camera or haven't experimented much with it, try shooting at every 'preset' it has. You might be surprised at what variety you'll get, and the perfect camera setting for you may be lurking somewhere in the presets.

  • Once you've gotten a good starting photo, check back to these tips for easy ways to make your photo the best it can be with Photoshop. A good photo WILL help you sell your art.

(note: if you have anything to add, or a link to your favorite method of photographing, I'd be happy to post it.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 1. How to Afford Photoshop (plus options for other photo editing software)

I wondered if this question might come up eventually.... and it has! Yes, Photoshop is notoriously expensive (about $550 - 700 for the latest new edition, CS4). However, there are several ways to obtain a working copy without breaking the bank, and all legally:

(illustration, "The Thrifty Mouse", R. Garriott)

  1. Photoshop Elements: $70 and up
    This is Photoshop stripped down. It has all the basics you need to make your photos look great (and this product is touted as more friendly for the casual user.) Available at for about $70-80 for the newest version 7 (sometimes you can find a rebate, too) with Free shipping!

  2. Photoshop Student Edition: under $200
    If you are a student you can buy this; it has all the features of the full flagship Photoshop (check the Adobe website for requirements). The major sticking point on it is that it is not upgradeable; if you want the new versions as they come out, you have to buy them. But the price is about the same as the full fledged version upgrades, so it comes out even. Starting at $197 at

  3. Older version of Photoshop: $299.99
    Confession here; I'm still using Photoshop CS2 and didn't even realize until today that we're up to CS4. Although I'm sure the latest version has new groovy bells and whistles, I'm quite content with CS2. The good news is there's still a few copies available out there, and today's going price is about $300 at

Please note that the links I've provided are for PC; if you have a Mac you'll need to specify that when searching on Amazon. The software prices are about the same for either platform.

Other Options for photo editing:
Thanks to other bloggers who've written in!

Although Photoshop is the Holy Grail of photo editing, it's not the only photo product out there.

  • From other astute readers I've learned that some of these tips will also work with Microsoft Photo Gallery and Paint Shop Pro.
  • Actually many photo editing programs have these features; although the names might be a bit different. If you have a printer, you most likely have some kind of photo editing software that came with it.
  • Artist Kate wrote: "Another option: download a free software called GIMP. It does a great deal of what Photoshop does.I personally love it. "
  • Silk artist Deborah Younglao wrote in that she still is using Photoshop 5-- and I think that's just fine! There's been a few useful bells and whistles added over the versions, but for most of us, we just need the basic tools.
  • I have also heard that photosharing sites like Google's free Picasa has retouching capabilities.

If anyone knows of additional options, especially on the cheap, please write and let me know. Mostly what I hope to do is give people an idea of the terminology, so they can go in and figure it out themselves on what ever they use. If you don't know how to ask the question, it's hard to get the answer!

A new blog, with new and old tips

The Photoshop tips that previously appeared at will now appear here, so (hopefully) they are easier to follow. I'm going to repeat the original series, and add some new tips as I think of them or as they are suggested by you. If you're curious about my artwork, that can still be viewed at my R. Garriott blog.

Let me know if I can help make your artwork photos better!