4 Ways to Re-Colour Scanned or Photographed Artwork

Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images

So you may have heard (read?) me talking before about how I wanted to share a lot about my creative process and how to do stuff that a lot of people like to keep secret. One thing I really want to do is encourage a community that talks about process a little more openly. I think it makes us better creatives.

I wanted to share a few tips that I have learned throughout the past year-or-so of really getting stuck into illustration and discovering my style and process. What I have found really helps when illustrating is the development of photo editing tools and software. It allows me to make mistakes, which is vital, I believe, in the creative process. However, instead of noticing my mistake, hating it, learning from it and having to start-over, the small mistakes allow me to learn from my mistake, yet oftentimes fix it.

I have learned a lot about colour this way, painting things that don't quite work and I am not happy with, then scanning it in until I find the exact tone that works, and absorbing that knowledge, whilst not losing my piece of work altogether. So, anyway, here's what I've learned:

Image Trace Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images A function I learned about last year in a workshop at uni, Image Trace was the first way I learned to alter colours of things I had drawn. Image Trace is a function available in Adobe Illustrator that allows you to place an image (in this case, a scanned or photographed illustration' and turn all the individual colours into vectors. For instance, if I had drawn a logo in black, it would create a black vectorversion of the logo, and the white 'page' visible in my photo/scan would be a separate, white vector.

(A vector is essentially a digital 'shape' that retains its quality regardless of how big or small it is. It's the same concept as the square and circle 'shape' tool and could be made any colour)

The beauty of this is that I could select the logo and use the colour palette to make it any colour I wanted. It seems ingenious, and I guess it is pretty fantastic.

It's setback, obviously, is that it requires it to be digitized. This is fine perhaps when making a logo or a vector illustration, but I increasingly found I liked the texture and hand-rendered feel of brush strokes or colouring-in. This texture was lost and flattened using this method.

Colour Overlay Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images Also one of the first methods I learned, Colour Overlay is a function in photoshop. To get to it, you simply go to Layer > Layer Style > Colour Overlay. It opens a dialogue box which allows you to select a colour from the colour pallete, which it then 'overlays' over your selected layer. This is again, great for something like a logo, and it means you don't have to vectorise your images. However, it has some setbacks, which are: - It overlays the entire layer. This means if your layer is simply the shape of your logo or whatever, only the logo will be overlayed. Great! It also means, if I used colour overlay on my a4 illustration, I would just get a big a4 blob of the same colour. - It is 'flat' in much the same way as the Image trace is. By default, it overlays your layer in block colour, which again loses any texture. You can adjust the transparency of the colour to be more of a 'wash', but it means the original colour begins to show through. For example if you had a logo you had drawn in black, and you were trying to make it yellow, lowering the transparency might make your yellow a lot murkier and darker.

Hue/Saturation Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images colours8 As well as being great for generally adjusting and brightening colour, the Hue/Saturation tool (found in Photoshop by going to Image> Adjustments> Hue/Saturation) can be excellent for selectively altering colours. What I mean by this is that you can make your yellow a more orangey yellow, or your blue sky a magenta sky, etc. The way that I do this is by opening the Hue/Saturation box, and selecting a colour from the drop-down list (where it says 'Master' as default) This concentrates your editing to just yellows or just blues etc. Then, I use the 'Hue' slider at the top to change the colour. Et Voila, blues are now yellow or whatever! I mostly use this method as it retains all of the texture of your illustrations, all it changes is the colour. Because of this, it is also great for making photographs less yellow, or more blue, etc.

Like all the other methods, it too has it's setbacks. Because it treats your photo/scan like a photo, it won't always achieve the perfect colour. You can get it pretty close if you fiddle with all the sliders, but I had a lot of difficulty completely altering colours to vastly different ends of the colour spectrum. This is because, as you probably know, colours are made up of lots of other colours and swipes of paint are not always entirely the same colour throughout, so sometimes this method can look a little rubbish and obvious. I tend to use it for changing the type of pink or blue, rather than trying to change the colour entirely.

Selective Colour

Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images Annie Pancake // 4 Ways to Re Colour Scanned or Photographed Images Selective colour, also a Photoshop feature (Image>Adjustments>Selective Colour) works in a similar way to Hue/Saturation. Simply select the colour you want to change in the dropdown list and use the sliders (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) to create the appropriate changes. Selective colour gives you a little more control over the type of colour changes you want to make, for instance creating a coral-pink instead of being stuck with a garish fuchsia colour. It is also great if you are wanting to edit white - raising the black slider and then fiddling with the other sliders will allow you to change the colour of white areas.

In much the same way as Hue/Saturation, Selective Colour can have the effect of looking a bit unnatural and 'edited' so I generally stick to 'improving' colours rather thab changing them completely.

And that, brings to a close all of the knowledge I can possibly know about changing the colours of your scanned/photographed artwork. Let me know if you found this helpful in the comments & share any of your editing tips!

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