Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Post Work

I've been thinking about fractals and postwork. No, not whether it is sacrilegious to do or not, but what sort most of us do. We all seem to at least add our signature, but is there more we all do?

I often find that my images are just a little dull when I finish them, even though there may be lots of layers, shaders, textures and glows to make them come alive. I usually find that I have to tweak the contrast a little, resize with antialiasing, unsharp mask and add a signature, and sometimes a frame of sorts.

Merlin's Quest ( as generated, UF multiple layers)

Here is the difference. See how the first one is nice? ...but just nice.

The second one seems more exciting, more harmonious, more 'finished'.

Merlin's Quest (contrast balanced, USM and resize)

But is there more I could be doing to bring out the beauty? What are your favorite techniques in postwork? Help me out here, folks!


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Blogger Tim said...

A comparison of your two images here illustrates a challenge I've always had, that being, am I making the image better or just different? I really like the first one, although I think you've intended to improve it with the second version.

I struggle with sharpening. Whenever I anti-alias something, some part of it always looks smudgy, even if it's just a tiny, tiny, part. But when I sharpen, something else gets a white, shiny edge to it...

I think the key to post processing is to see it as a completely new process and to forget about what the original image looked like.

But then, there's "polishing" processing, and there "transforming" post processing. Polishing an image is hard, it takes some of those old-fashioned artist skills.

Actually, maybe I like the second one better. The parchment paper look is stronger and richer.

3/15/2007 11:02 PM

Blogger Philip Northover said...

One technique, very popular a few years ago, is to bolt on a lens flare. Haven't seen too many of them lately.

3/16/2007 11:51 AM

Blogger Tresamie said...

I guess I do most of my 'post work' in UF, layering, shading, adding glow, etc. I tend to use my graphics program for resizing mostly. I know the difference here is subtle, I mean it to be. In fact, much of my technique is based on subtlety, small changes, small amounts (4-10% opacity) of texture... things like that. I guess that polishing is the word I should have used. Thanks, Tim, for your analysis, it's very like the one I made, lol. And Philip... the lens flare is supposed to lend authenticity, I suppose; to fake photorealism. It seems a little contrived with fractals, but I do remember people using it.


3/16/2007 5:11 PM

Blogger M.Spiegel said...

Tim, I have the same problem with sharpening. There's always something I like and something else I don't like, and often I can't decide which one is the better look.

It never occurred to me to postwork my UF images, only the Apos. UF has so many options already that adding postwork makes my head spin.

3/18/2007 8:35 AM

Blogger Panny said...

Tim, if oversharpening is troubling you (and it can be very distracting), you might try this: duplicate your original layer. Sharpen or use unsharp mask (I don't know which graphic program you use). If you have Photoshop, you may also use the high pass filter at a very low radius on the duplicate layer and set to overlay.

Now, for those problem "oversharp" spots.... simply "erase" them on the duplicated layer before you merge down.

I don't know about other programs, but Photoshop also has a "sharpening tool" which can be very useful to "paint" the blurry details only.

3/18/2007 11:24 AM

Blogger Rykk said...

Here's how I sharpen images:
1) Duplicate the image atop itself in Photoshop.
2) Select Filter/Other - High Pass.
3) Set the Radius to around "0.5" pixels.
4) Change the merge mode of the filtered layer to either Soft Light, Hard Light, or Vivid Light depending on which looks best to you and the flatten the image.

That's the way my printer told me to do it - I figured he knew what he was talking about since he supports himself mostly form digital art. I never could get the hang of unsharp mask.

Usually, Soft Light will be the merge you want to use. Hard Light and. many times, Vivid Light will make for over-bright areas. Sometimes, though, Vivid Light really sharpens things up without increasing brightness too much.


3/18/2007 10:24 PM

Blogger Rykk said...

BTW - that's on heckuva nice fractal, Viv!

3/18/2007 10:26 PM

Blogger robinsuz said...

About duplicating layers in PhotoShop... After the sharpening or other enhancement of the top layer, I find I get the best results using the "Merge Visible" feature first. Sometimes the "Flatten Image" feature does just that; flattening some of the life out of your colors.

About Unsharp Mask... it has 3 adjustments:
Amount ___%
Radius ___ pixels
Threshold ___ levels

The first thing to do is EXPERIMENT... Go too far with each and watch the effect, then back down to a pleasing look.

THRESHOLD ___Levels: the more levels the subtler the change. I usually set it between 9 and 15 levels. That's only a personal preference.

RADIUS___ Pixels: Drag the slider all the way out to the right. Gasp with dismay and start backing it down. Usually you only need it somewhere between 0 and 2, depending on the image and dpi. at 72 dpi you usually need lower numbers. If you are working on a 300 dpi image, probably need larger numbers for the effect to be visible.

AMOUNT___ %: My personal preference here is between 65% and 75%. I like sharpness.

Unsharp mask is the last adjustment you make before saving.

I like your post processed image also.

3/26/2007 9:50 AM

Blogger Tresamie said...

Thanks for all this good advice. I have been using Fireworks MX for my post work, and mostly I love the ability to make really subtle changes that (to me) make a huge difference. I have been working with some of your suggestions and learning a lot!

3/31/2007 8:53 PM


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