Scanning Watercolors

A lot of the color gets lost when you scan a traditional piece of work. It was really frustrating when I scanned in my ACEO watercolor painting and the colors looked nothing the the vibrant colors on the paper. This happens because the flatbed scanner picks up the texture on the paper combined with the transparency of watercolors. The areas where the paint is thin and the white of the paper shows through will scan in very bright, whereas in areas where the paint is thick will in comparison look very dark.

On the left is a photograph of the painting taken in daylight with minor color adjustments (to most closely represent the original), and the right side is the raw scan. Notice how it looks over-exposed and how blotchy the paint looks in some areas. The yellow eyes in the scan also are much too bright and throw the whole picture off balance.

I couldn’t find tutorials on how to correct the scan, as I’m sure the method varies with each painting and what colors are on it. The first thing I tried to do was to get rid of some of the paper texture – Smart Blur filter with the Quality setting on ‘high’ and Mode on ‘normal’ – play around with Threshold and Radius until it looked how I wanted it to. Then I made a Brightness/Contrast layer to tone down the overall brightness of the scan, at the same time restoring some of the color. Next, I adjusted a Levels layer to make the blotchiness less offending. The last adjustment layers I added were Hue/Saturation and Channel Mixer- mostly for color correction. Finally I made a copy of the original scan and set it on Multiply, and lowering the Opacity and Hue. This is the final result:

It’s definitely not as good as the original but I think it’s a good improvement.

This blue creature was from an episode of Samurai Jack that aired on Cartoon Network a few years ago. I think it’s one of the most beautiful animated series ever. This blue creature reminded me of Totoro but just much more silly. I just wanted to paint this for fun.