Poll: How do you digitize your artwork?

Buried at the end of my last post, I posed the question, “How do you digitize your artwork?” I embedded a crowdsignal poll with some options that came to mind, which actually represent things I’ve considered. Since I started back into the art hobby about five years ago, I’ve been taking photos of portraits using my smartphone. As the years have progressed, I think those art photos have improved thanks to technology. Although there’s still significant room to improve, I think I’ve made strides in terms of choosing better lighting conditions as well.

The challenge I’ve bumped up against with oil paint though is – it seems to be quite a bit more reflective than pencil. My favorite lighting conditions are outdoors on a sunny day, but that is much harder with paint. Many of my recent paintings are thick with oils, and end up with areas of reflective glare even after I’ve let them dry for weeks. At that point, they are dry to the touch, but somehow still don’t photograph well in direct sunlight. And if I try other photography solutions, such as taking shots without sunlight, I end up with different color effects and hues. Even a little glare would seem bad for prints that I’d have to pay to make.

So, I thought the best thing to do would be to put this question out to the world – how do other artists digitize their artwork? An additional consideration is that I’ve been mulling over the notion of selling portraits at an art fair. I recently found that I work with a very skilled painter who does this, and she recommended getting professional prints made and selling them as well. But to do that, I’ll need some very high quality images. The resolution is high on my photos, but I’m not sure if they’re up to that level. I’m definitely curious to hear from anyone who has experience in this realm.

Poll Question: How do you digitize your artwork?

Photograph using smartphone camera.

  • $0 (probably already have one).
  • Quality varies based on model/brand.

Scan using professional or retail services.

  • $5-6 each for large pieces.
  • Unknown scanner specs, would depend on retailer.

Photograph using high end camera (mirrorless or DSLR).

  • $500-2000.
  • High quality but may have learning curve.

Use multiple methods/have no preferred way/other.

  • Prices vary.
  • Could be inconsistent if using multiple methods.

Scan using home device like a flatbed scanner.

  • $200-300
  • Good bit/color depth and resolution more expensive.

As with my previous poll, there are a few hiccups when it comes to sharing this. The first is that apparently these polls or survey widgets don’t always seem to show up. Specifically, they don’t really play well with the WordPress Reader or when using an adblocker. Both of which I use frequently! So, the actual poll questions might be difficult to see for some readers. A quick test to see if this impacts you is to just look at the top of the post – in theory though you should see the poll right at the beginning. If there isn’t a poll right up top, I have included links in this post which should work.

The second challenge is also the same as with the last poll, which is a visual/aesthetic one. I’m so accustomed to having artwork associated with every post at this point, it’s sort of difficult to figure out a good thumbnail without it. I figured I’d take a similar path to last time; basically, do a quick little portrait of a person holding a blank sign, then paste a screen capture of the poll onto it. Last time, I did a colored pencil sketch…but since I’m all about painting now, I decided to roll with a basic oil painted piece. Here’s how it looks:

Person Holding a Sign. Oil Paint on Paper.

Since I started painting, I believe this is now the first time I’ve shared paintings out of the actual chronological order. I’m not sure why I’ve been trying to hold to that so strictly; I guess just being able to write about what I learn in the proper order feels right. But I should worry too much about the presentation, because I’ve always got the Art Timeline page that shows everything in the correct order. Anyhow, my thought with this one was to do a “quick” and “easy” painting, in a similar fashion to the previous survey post.

This endeavor did not turn out as I planned, though. In my hasty planning, I forgot that little detail of my multiple years of colored pencil experience. Of course I could whip up a drawing quickly; I had tons of experience to pull from. On the painting side of things, I’m still learning very basic aspects. And I hadn’t considered how difficult it would be to render facial details in a smaller area than I’d ever attempted. I should have had some idea though, because my previous attempt at something smaller was pretty rough. I simply wasn’t ready for the precision control needed here.

Overall, I think it did turn out fine…but it was a rollercoaster to some extent. It started okay, then became a disaster, but ultimately the forgiving nature of oil paints saved me. It’s not a masterpiece, but it does look enough like a person to be considered a satisfying result.

I also did a quick little progression video. I don’t know why it took me so long to finally bring this out, but I did use a softbox lighting kit to try to help the quality of this recording a bit. I bought one of these softbox things a couple years ago, and with all the chaos of moving back then, I had it stored away and forgotten. I’ve been struggling to some extent with lighting in these YouTube videos, so I thought I’d give this a try. I basically unattached/unscrewed it from the stand and placed the light on a shelf. The result was okay, but even with the cover designed to diffuse the light source, I could still see my shadow. Once I increased the speed on the video, the resulting effect was sort of disorienting. I need to experiment with some other positions.

I think with my next post, I will return to the normal chronology of paintings. More specifically, I’m going to continue exploring the proportional divider I started using for measurements. I do have an idea for another detour post though; it might be fun to share an all-encompassing survey post. Since the beginning of this site, I’ve done all my polls through the same service. So, I’ve got some older surveys that have actually generated quite a few responses (on art videos, Star Trek captains, characters, advertisements, etc). It might be fun to aggregate all of them and talk about those results. I still need to ponder how that might look, but it’s something that may be on the horizon.

Blick Art Materials


  • Jon, Digitalising paintings is fraught with issues. You’ve mentioned some, fluorescing colours dont help ( an issue I have with chalk pastels). I just use a panasonic lumix set at 14mpx. It’s better done in an area lit by northern light and a tripod will help. Sometimes you just have to compromise over colour balance, though you can play around with it on the computer. I just keep an image for my reference
    As for selling prints. I am not sure whether it is cost effective. There is expense getting it done well enough to sell and time taken packaging – backing card and cellophane. Depends what you are doing it for. I just want to paint. Everything else just makes it into a job and I dont think the rewards are worth it. Unless that is, you are selling most of your painted output and the demand is such that you cant keep up with it. Yes, then consider the print option. Unfortunately I havent reached that stage.

    • Greetings Graham – that does sound like quite a process in terms of creating and selling prints. It’s something I want to try, mostly just to explore something I’ve never done, but the entire thing is fairly intimidating due to all the extras you mentioned. I completely understand your thoughts there though – the “I just want to paint” sentiment. That’s exactly why I’ve fallen so far behind on writing blog posts. I like to write too, but I like to paint even more…so painting just keeps winning the free time battle.

      Thanks for the tips on northern light and camera set up. Now that I read your comment and I’m thinking about it…I’ve been photographing in light coming form the south. That’s at least one thing I can try that doesn’t cost money!

      • Best of luck Jon. On your painting writing dilemna; you might need to chose or do both unsatisfactorily. I have given up quite a few hobbies after deciding how much time is available and putting aside time for what I must do. Then making a choice over what it is I would most prefer to do and going with that. Life’s a bitch.

      • Isn’t it amazing how there never seems to be enough time to fit everything in? That is indeed life, but it seems like the best course of action is to just pick what makes you happiest. If I’m loving painting, I should paint.

        Well, I could do that…or just not sleep anymore. Haha that could probably work right?

  • Hi Jon
    I Hope you don’t mind the following suggestion:
    Consider using less black in painting as shadows have color! Also you can mix a basic dark shade almost black with ultramarine blue and burnt umber… but I’d suggest trying to paint without using black at all or very sparingly. You will be amazed at the difference it makes.

    • I don’t mind at all! In fact, getting tips from experienced artists is one of my most favorite things about blogging. Comments and other peoples’ posts are huge sources of information for me. Haha I like to say I got art degrees from WordPress University and YouTube College

      I think color mixing is a major deficit area for me right now – I’ve watched a few videos on it centered around skin tones, which really brought home how much I don’t know. That is a great tip though, thanks Phoebe! So, on that topic, do you think black is more reflective and that touches on the challenges I’ve had photographing paintings? Or do I just need to be more patient about letting these things dry?

      Also, I’m curious how you typically digitize your works? Do you sell prints or do you stick to originals?

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