How to best make a digital image of a physical picture?

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,003
Location
Highlands
It occurs to me - originally, science fiction and fantasy book covers began on canvas or paper.

So how did they manage to get transferred to an image usable for book publishing? Presumably it involved lithographic printing.

But - would that really be the best way to do it these days?

If I wanted to take a piece of art on canvas and have a good digital copy, I presume I'd have to either scan it (presuming the canvas size wasn't too large) - or else simply try and take a photograph of it in carefully controlled conditions.

I keep thinking there's must be another way, though?
 

J Riff

The Ants are my friends..
Joined
Apr 11, 2010
Messages
4,697
Location
Sleeping in Lab
Can't think of one... just a quality digicam on a tripod, or a scanner. I notice that some covers/art are huge when scanned properly. If the original image is a large painting, it blows up real good! If it's comic art the pixels show up. Probably the lighting is the most important part?
 

althea

If I won't be myself,who will be?
Joined
Oct 28, 2014
Messages
320
Location
North Wales
The number of pixels per inch(ppi) is important if you want to print something off.
Most of us just use 72ppi for use on forums etc,but for printing ,300 ppi is minimum.
It's also better to save the image as a TIFF file or a PNG file,as JPGs lose quality each time you use it.
 

Ray McCarthy

Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
8,090
Location
The Mid West (of Ireland)
Presumably it involved lithographic printing.
For volume it's STILL lithographic CYMK printing.

Before digital, or even colour film, you made a negative using a camera. That would be enlarged and printed on film instead of paper, or the photo-sensitised plate used directly in enlarger. Then plate developed and etched.
For colour, you make as many plates as you want (four is minimum for full colour) and use colour filters on camera.

For a while (and still some places), the digital image is printed on film in black and white (separating C Y M K or more), then plates made as in Victorian era. Better colour printing uses more than Cyan Yellow, Magenta and Black. (the film is B&W, only the ink is coloured).
Today the plate (usually a drum) can be etched direct by laser from the electronic files. Minimum for full colour is four plates / drums (CYMK), but more can be used for better quality.

Lithography has NEVER been about capture of the image, only duplication. Capture was initially by hand engraving, then photography.

The breakthrough was photoresist exposed through 1:1 film (printed instead of photo paper) or the glass plate of large format negative. Developed and washed, the exposed metal was etched with acid. It's still done today but with film printed from a digital image, using a photoplotter or special laser printer. More expensive systems use laser scanning to directly etch the drum/plate.

In the past i suppose lithography-offset technique
That's purely the reproduction of the already captured image.

In historical order
  1. photo camera then film to plate
  2. Photo camera then photo-CD (not picture CD), or scanner if A3 or smaller and flat.
  3. Photo camera then scan slide or negative in film scanner, or scanner if A3 or smaller and flat.
  4. Digital camera, or scanner* if A3 or smaller and flat.
  5. Rostrum digital scanner/camera (Books, stop motion animation)
  6. laser scanner (3D model)
A decent large format digit camera and some digital "SLR"s can manage 300dpi to 1200 dpi for larger objects. Most cheaper camera / phones only manage 300 dpi for up to about 15cm x 20cm objects.

Best quality is capture at least twice the DPI you need to distribute, so you can do anti-aliasing and noise reduction without moire patterning on print or display.

[* You can scan objects up to A2 and stitch tiles later with an A4 scanner. Larger gets tedious! Also professional scanners cope with maybe 1cm of depth, cheap USB models only handle flat documents]

EDIT

Actually from about 1851, the "fax method" was also used to put an image on a drum for printing, the original would be fixed on a same diameter drum as the print drum / plate. The two would spin on a shaft. A photo cell and high voltage arc would be on screw feed, with photo cell controlling the arc. As the drums rotated, the photo cell moved across the original and the arc etched the printing drum in sympathy. About 100 to 300 lines per inch possible.
 
Last edited:

tinkerdan

∞<Q-Satis
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
4,166
Location
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
From my experience with self publishing, if you can get a good picture out of a digital camera you simply use a graphic software package that does the separation to CYMK.

That's how I did my first two cover's that were used to create the jackets for the hard editions. The publisher I used had a set pattern for the area I would use with provisions for bleed and trim. I supplied the graphic digitally using CYMK and they used that to create the master for the cover. They also made some neat posters from those.

I Used a 3D Rendering program to create the graphics that I used and I did some overlays that I tweaked with the available tools to complete the entire graphic.

For another project that was using some older artwork on canvas::
I set up a crude rig with my Camera at one end and my canvas at the other and used several lights to light the entire area and took several photos and then used those inside the graphic program where I made further adjustments and then added some overlays create an effect that I was trying to get and then saved it all into a 32 bit CYMK file.

My camera was not the best so it required as much light as I could get to support it in creating a clear graphic.

The key for my publisher was to supply a graphic that was 32 bit with 300 dpi and done in CYMK. The resulting file is a very high resolution file around 2700 pixels by 5700 pixels. But that's for a complete wrap around front and back covers. Some of that graphic ends up in the bleed area that gets trimmed off so you have to design with that in mind when your graphic contains elements that you want centered or offset on the cover. Plus there needs to be consideration for where you want title and author name and how large they will be and the area for the blurb in back.

In the case of my publishers design staff it took a bit to get them to understand I wanted the blurb done with slight transparency to let a faint bit of the image in back to bleed through. They were resistant because they felt it would be too difficult to read; but with the right color for the opaque font it was very readable without looking too busy and distracting.
 

ErikB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
371
I'm breaking with tradition for my new book cover art. Rather than photographing an art image and then transposing it into a book cover art image I thought I would go with a 3-D sculpt of a creature pivotal to the story, then photograph the creature (sculpture) in a wild/outdoor setting.

I'll be using a photovoltaic blue screen in the background position with a 1080 DPI camera. This will allow me to have foreground foliage (ferns, bromiliads, etc), while adding in art elements to create an alien jungle in the background in editing.

I'm using a good film and photo editing program (Power Director 15) to aid in the composition of the art. The final image should appear as if it were a photo taken on an alien world.

That's my hope anyway. The animal will be fur covered, airbrushed, and painted.

I have never tried this method before but I am confident that good results can be achieved. If everything goes according to plan I believe the book cover will really have a strong visual impact on readers.

I have come across a new state of the art sculpting media for my second cover in the series. (Cx5, and Cx5s) Which will be used to create my protagonist and again the same blue screen method applied.

My sculpting media for my creature is clay. The cameras at 1080 DPI should allow for good quality images that will do well as cover art.

KIMG1059.JPG


KIMG1058.JPG


These are simple sculpture progress shots taken with a phone camera. Not the high resolution camera I will use for the final shots.

Fingers crossed. ;)
 

althea

If I won't be myself,who will be?
Joined
Oct 28, 2014
Messages
320
Location
North Wales
Good luck with that,ErikB. I really admire your creativity and original approach.
 

ErikB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
371
Thank you very much. I'm hoping it will make a unique looking cover. Cheers! :)
 

AminAun

New Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2017
Messages
2
I would think there has to be some compositing, but I believe people should use Poser.
 

-K2-

mƎ kn0w dUm!
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
858
Location
Nirvāṇa
Though knowing little regarding publishing, I will mention something that I encountered the other day. The old standard used to be RGB (red, green, blue). Most things now-a-days due to digital printing are requested in CMYK... However, when looking at what various e-book publishers and I believe (can't recall) I even encountered a print publisher that was very specific in asking for RGB.

I'm not a graphic artist, know nothing of the industries and so on, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Or better, disregard entirely what I just stated and "check with whomever you intend on ultimately utilizing the work as to what they request... BEFORE hand." Why they cannot be converted (perhaps they can) makes no sense to me, however, I have run into this before where I spent days generating some design only to have some printer tell me they needed it in CMYK instead of RGB.

(though oddly, my cheapo CMYK printer prints it just fine... odd theirs will not)

K2
 

althea

If I won't be myself,who will be?
Joined
Oct 28, 2014
Messages
320
Location
North Wales
I use Paint Shop Pro for creating and editing digital images.
I'm sorry I am not familiar with producing images in bulk,but PNG or TIFF files will reproduce many times without loss of quality.
With PSP it is possible to convert from RGB to CMYK and vice versa.
It is also possible to convert the number of colours etc.
 
Top