Having spent my teenage years in the 80's, it's impossible to say the phrase "true colors" without immediately breaking into "You with the sad eyes, don't be discouraged..." Karaoke aside, true colors now is all about trying to accurately represent my artwork. I recall when I first joined the CPSA, the Annual International Exhibition required entries on slide film. Even in 2004 it was getting increasingly harder to purchase slide film (I remember a teenage clerk at a department store's camera section, which was nearly all digital, saying "Dude, slide film?") At that time I was already scanning my artwork with a personal scanner, and I found a mail order service that would take a jpeg and turn it into a slide. The digital to analog copy of a copy resulted in something that was somewhat similar to your artwork, but with way too much saturation and contrast. You can see for yourself: my 2006 CPSA slide entry, "Bend", appears on the CPSA website. I'll set it side by side with the actual artwork.
In the following years, CPSA transitioned to digital entries. I had begun working with Lizza Studios to professionally scan and create prints of my artwork, and Lizza's always burned a DVD copy of the scan. This was perfect! My first digital entry prepared this way was "Cascade".
If you get a chance to go to a CPSA show, on Thursday night of convention week they show all the entries as a slideshow. I remember seeing "Cascade" flash up on the screen and thinking: hmm - colors aren't right. Here's the difference between that image and the actual artwork
The difference between the two is due to their color space. The image on the left was scanned by Lizza Studios and saved with a color space (Adobe RGB 1998) ideal for printing via CMYK inks on paper. The image on the right is saved with a color space (sRGB) ideal for displaying on RGB computer monitors. If you think about it, both images still need to go through a translation process: the print version will go to a specific model of printer, with particular inks, onto a specific paper; the screen version will be seen on a computer monitor. Change the paper, printer, or monitor and you change the result. So, ideally you need to know where the image is going, and manipulate it so it looks right when it gets there.
Which leads me to my last blog post about my box of art goodies, and the last item to arrive: Tiffen's version of the Kodak Q13 color guide. I was introduced to this through the Artist's Magazine's guidelines for image submission, which recommended including this color guide in the photograph of your artwork.
Since sometimes I scan my artwork myself (if I'm not using the scan for a show submission or prints), I was curious how well my scanner and printer would reproduce the guide. I have a HP Photosmart C310 (which uses a bulb) and an Epson V37 (which uses LEDs). I scanned the guide on both, then printed it. The results:
The scanners seemed best at matching reds, fair at greens, poor at blues, and tended to desaturate yellows. Grays shifted warmer or cooler with step changes in value. Overall the cheap ($70) Epson LED scanner did a better job color matching than the HP bulb scanner.
So, the search for true colors continues. I'll try including the guide in my artwork scans to use as a reference when adjusting colors in Photoshop, and see if this helps with accuracy. More to come.