I have a terrible scanner. It only scans paper sheets that are perfectly smooth, with no wrinkles at all. If it has just one minuscule deviation from being absolutely and completely glued to the glass surface, it’ll be out of focus. It also leaves horrible artifacts in the resulting scan.
My problem is I transitioned from digital to traditional art, in a way. I fell in love with it since the minute I tried it, ten years ago. I want and need to scan my traditional art pieces in order to show them and/or monetize them. But I’m cursed with this scanner and I can’t buy a new, high quality one.
That’s why I tried many times to come up with some kind of solution that would enable me to turn the pieces I scanned into something decent. Even maybe take and upsize a photo of an artwork, although we all know how hard that can be.
For some time, I came up with the idea of subtly texturize the image to hide all those imperfections, and it worked, but I couldn’t upscale much. You know how that goes. Until very recently, upscaling was a no-no. But all in all, I’ve been able to save and use some of my bigger art pieces and upload them to some stock sites I sell at, and they got approved. But I had to work pretty intensively on them to prepare them.
Original - crop at 100%
Upscaled and texturized
I’ve taken some time off from those sites, and now that I came back, I find myself in the same place. Still no good scanner, and I’m still not able to use some smaller images of pieces that I don’t have anymore. But from then to now, something promising came into existence: Photoshop’s Neural Filters.
So now I’ll try and see if one of those can help me.
This neural filter reads “Zoom in and crop an image, then let Photoshop add detail to compensate the loss of resolution”.
Original 558 x 905 px
I chose a simple painting first to test it. As you can see, my original image is incredibly small. The texture you see is from the original painting. No digital texturing yet. Then I go to Filter--> Neural Filters… and select the Super Zoom filter.
I clicked on the magnifying (+) icon below the preview image until it reached (6x). I also checked the “Remove JPEG artifacts” option. I chose to output it to a new document and I ended up with an image upsized 6 times, with 3348 x 5430 pixel dimensions.
I have to say, I’m not blown away by the results. But I think it did a decent job, taking into account the amount of upscaling it did and the very bad image I had to start with. It retained some of the texture, although not all, and it exaggerated some of the border fringing a lot.
Now I apply my old texturizing technique, and it looks ok enough that I know I can use this to upscale images that I couldn’t before, since they were so small. Now I have to clean those fringes a bit.
Am I happy? Hmm… not completely. Dealing with that fringing isn’t as easy.
Let’s see if it does a better job with another image.
I chose this one. It’s 549 x 980 pixels.
Now I applied the same 6x enlargement, this time with “remove jpeg artifacts” not checked.
Here’s a crop at 100% of the result:
That fringing is really bad. So what if I defringe it before I upscale it? I used the Camera Raw filter to do that. Afterwards, I re-applied the SuperZoom 6x and now…
It looks so much better! At least, I lost the fringing!
But it’s not all roses. There were some parts that retained very good detail, but some spots got super blurry. But I have to say, where the original had some problems, that where this filter couldn’t come up visual information it didn’t have to start with.
It’s not ideal, but if I now apply my texturizing method, it gets better. And now I can use some of the images of originals I no longer have.
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina.