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Using Photoshop to Quickly Change Background Colors in a Scan

September 22, 2017
The original sketch which is a light quick pencil sketch, ink sketching added, watercolor, and acrylic marker. It’s about 8 x 8 inches square on new Folio paper. (Remember I differentiate between the old style Folio and newer incarnation of that paper.)

Sometimes you finish a sketch and you wonder, what would happen if I did “this” or “that.” But maybe you don’t want to try “this” or “that” because you don’t want to lose what you already have.

I tend not to use Photoshop to change my sketches just because I prefer to work with natural media and not digitally. However sometimes I’m curious as to what might happen and I wanted to share this example with you.

I scanned the image you see at the top of this post when I finished it. Then I took the scan into Photoshop, selected the background and filled it with a bunch of colors. The only color I liked was the teal you see in the second version of this image at the end of the post. I didn’t like it enough to change the original by painting over the orange with gouache or acrylic paint, but I did enjoy answering my curiosity.

Teal added to the background in Photoshop to see if I liked the way it shifted things. I didn’t. (I selected the background orange color and grew it until I had what I wanted. You could also draw in a selection or use other Photoshop tools to change the background, but I did this in about 30 seconds because I just wanted to see what would happen.)

Sometimes I have students who get stuck at a certain point in their sketch or painting because they think they’ll ruin their work. If you find that’s the case, scan your piece and alter it with Photoshop or other similar software to see what happens. In this way you can begin to see that yes, maybe you do need a little more contrast, or the whole image would look better if you used a different background color, or if you worked monochromatically. It’s a fun thing to try that takes very little time and uses no additional supplies or paper! It’s a great way to start training your editing eye to look at things like color use and contrast.

You never know, it might also get you thinking about working in a new series, trying a new color combination, a new family of pigments, new complementary colors, etc. It might be just the jostle your mind needs to start thinking in a new direction.

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