How Re-sizing Your Image File Affects Color

How Re-sizing Your Image File Affects Color

Above is an example of a very textured surface painting. The background was supposed to appear primarily white with daubs of other colors to it. Notice how the light enhances the texture. Those highlighted texture bumps are all over the image. But as you re-size the image some of these highlights are removed because they are simply too small to print. This original file was very high resolution and the photographer had done a good job of getting the painting in focus but it looked like the lighting used had been slightly off and not compensated for therefore leading to yellows when the shadows should have been more gray. I then noticed the file was roughly around 300 ppi as if intended to be printed at 24×36 inches but the print was produced as an 12×18.
 

There were three casues to this print's yellow cast: the surface of the artwork, the lighting and the print size.

The surface and lighting is related since it shows how the light is reflecting off the texture. Paintings which have a varnish or even just a slight gloss to them are more suspceptable because they light highlights the texture more. Then comes the lighting temperature. Light temperature refers to the how bluish or yellowish your camera captures the light. Next time you photograph something or someone indoors in which you have a decent amount of light, take a look how your camera has altered the color of the lighting. Even if you have the optimal settings set you may still see a slight difference and a small difference. This onboard camera correction is not always exact and precise so it is possible when your artwork is photographed a small amount of that colorcast is present unless it has been fully edited out.

 
But even if you edit your image for texture and lighting, your print size can still perceivably affect the way your colors appear – especially when a print is made substantially smaller than the original.  As an analogy, let's say you have a bunch of very small colored tiles on the floor and they create a mosaic of some sort of picture. You are then given the assignment of moving and retiling that mosaic in a smaller room and smaller floor. Obviously you will need to discard some of the tiles used in the original mosaic. You find you can easily do that and still preserve the what the mosaic portrays but in the process of discarding some of the tiles you also discarded some very distinct colors.  This is similar to what happens when you resize and image and make it smaller. Rather than tiles, with digital images you are working with pixels. As these pixels are being removed to shrink the image, you could be loosing some colors. 
 

Check your image colors after re-sizing

While the photographer who photographed your art may have done color adjustment and white balance on the image itself, he or she may not  be accounting for the size at which it will be printed. For that reason it might be necessary to do another round of color adjustments after re-sizing your image file. This will also help pevent your print coming back printed too dark.  Just as color cast can occur, so too can the brightness level of the print be impacted. What happens is the software, whether it be re-sizing it in Photoshop or the printing software itself has to run some sizing algorithms. When this happens the software needs to examine the image, pixel by pixel, and decide which ones to take away. If it takes too many of the wrong pixels away there is more likely the occurrence of the image to take on neighboring colors.
 
QuickTip: White balance, sometimes also referred to as color balance, is the process of making sure your image has absolute whites where it needs it, correct mid-tones and absolute blacks. Proper white balance adjustment may get a little more complicated in situations where an image had no absolute blacks or whites or even when the those areas are hard to discern but a good photographer who photographs artwork can easily work around that as I will explain later.  And it is not just photographed artwork. Scanned artwork can also run into this problem but less likely to be impacted by thisIf you are going to hire a photographer to photograph your artwork ask them if they can show you examples of their work. Photographing artwork is not that difficult but some photographers are going to be better at it than others and if possible find one with experience. The next tip is to ask them if they do any color correction or white balance adjustment. Some might only do some quick auto-color correction which generally may be okay but does not always work or can even hurt the colors more. Others may only rely on in-camera color or white balance to handle this which is not 100 percent. Just don't forget the image the camera catches and the colors that make up the file are going to be influenced by the light reflecting back off the artwork . Getting perfect lighting is both a science and an art form that is not as easy as it may sound. If they are going to do the color balance after the shot is taken let them know what size you intend to print it and ask them to create a color balanced resized version at the intended print size around 300 ppi. Some may look at you strangely especially if they already did some color balance but just refer them to this post to see why.  Better yet, tell them you want this done before hand and you need it done to account for  "size differential in print" . They may not know what that means but at least they will thik you know more about this than they might have initally thought.

Still not convinced?

That's okay! In the end you will find that the size of a print can affect white balance. In all fairness many times re-sizing to a smaller size won't have any noticeable impact for most people but just be aware color balance adjustments may be necessary again when you print something smaller.  Below is an excellent video on explaining what white balance is and how it pertains to photography. If you don't have the tools or the know-how to check to make sure your whites are balanced, we'd be happy to help. Just reach out to us by phone or Contact Us Now. Our customer service team is the best. Not only are they artists with BA degrees in visual arts but they have extensive experience in the production department. They will be happy to provide you help in making sure your prints turn out great.
 
 
 
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