Friday, April 17, 2009

Cover Restoration

A different sort of post today. My mom asked me if I do anything to these pictures I stick up here, so I thought I’d post some cover repairs. A fair amount of work goes into each scan, the goal being to make these publications look like they did fresh off the stands. Too much tampering can surely wreck a scan, and preservation vs. enhancement should always be a factor, but most scanners will run at least some sort of edit on their pages, tinkering with levels, brightness and contrast, color values, etc. The longer I’ve been doing this, the more I’ve come to appreciate just a nice, sharp natural or raw looking scan, though I can admit I go to great lengths on some scans to get a nice looking page.

The covers and joined pages, though, are where I spend the most time. On a golden age comic book, I’d guess I typically spend 95% of the edit time on this single page. As I said yesterday, the original art is simply gone for a vast majority of the pulp covers, so these images are all we have. I like to imagine myself like the people in the back of the museum, painstakingly breathing new life into decaying objects. On a cover that needs real repair, I usually like to work from a 600 dpi tif (a lossless format). The jpegs that I share are far smaller than the big images I like to edit with, but I really only size down a sharing copy at the very end. Lower width or quality images are often faster to work with, but you have a lot more options for sharp cloning at original size.

I’d like to emphasize this is something that anyone can do. Patience is the main requirement here, not great photoshop knowledge. There are some tricks such as learning how to pick the exact sample area, brush width and opacity, learning how to select certain parts of the page, etc., but these things come with practice. Learning not to leave “fingerprints” behind (obvious tampering artifacts) should be a guiding principle along with experimentation. Also, I’d note working with an issue in good condition is always preferably in time and end product but that working with low grade stuff is often unavoidable due to scarcity and the high cost of high grade collectibles.
On to some restores. A Virgil Finlay cover to Weird Tales, before and after.

Scrollable Image

A few more before and afters

Comic and pulp collectors put an inordinate amount of value on a cover, coverless copies of most mags are close to worthless, but a brittle copy with a complete cover can still fetch. Similarly, a great first page of a scan catches the reader’s interest…


Jack R said...

For goodness sakes you are good at this, Beau! As you know I fiddle with photoshopping covers but I have no idea how you fixed the Finley autograph and did some of your other magic. I'm tempted to ask if you'd be willing to fix up a super illustration Bolles did for a shirt box. I've tried but can only take it so far.

darwination said...

Thanks, Jack. If you are working from a cover that has missing parts, you can often use a different image of the same cover (most often a lower quality image) to help guide the reconstruction. If you blow up another image with all the missing parts you need to match the width of the image you are working with, you can drop it into photoshop as a sort of guide layer. By increasing and decreasing the opacity of this layer, you can use it as a guide to clone by. I'll admit that some details might get fudged in missing areas, but I try to keep that to a minimum. I'll shoot you an e-mail about the Bolles illustration, I'd be happy to give it a look ;)

John said...

Spectacular craftsmanship on your part! Just a loving recreation of the originals!