Photoshop Photomerge: The most useful tool I own.

I’ve been meaning to write about Photoshop’s Photomerge function for a while. Basically, it’s amazing, and it saves me a ton of time, money, and headaches. I feel like I tell people about it all the time, and it’s not as widely used as it should be. For traditional 2D artists, it is essential knowledge in my opinion.

What you need:
Photoshop, I think they first added it in CS, but I’m not sure.
A decent professional grade scanner.

The first thing I do is scan my painting in pieces. This painting is 18x24x1 on a wood panel. I scan a painting this large in 6-8 passes, and I try to keep it straight. You only need about an inch of overlap to make it work with the Photomerge function, but I’ve found that the more information Photoshop has to work with, the better. I scan at 300 dpi. Important things to note: I’m using an Epson Perfection 1250 from 2001, and it still wrecks shop! There’s also a lip around all the edges which does make a shadow, but Photoshop is smart enough to see that and correct it. My scanner is standard sized, I think the bed is 9×12. You don’t need to buy outrageously expensive over-sized scanners.

Here’s a shot of all the individual scans. They’re tif’s, but I usually save my scans as psd’s. All your files need to be saved to use this function.

Now Go to File>Automate>Photomerge

This screen will come up. I always open all the tiles first, then choose “Add Open Files.” I leave it on Auto, but maybe “reposition only” is better for this? I don’t know for sure, but I’ve always been happy with the auto mode. Hit “OK.”

About 30 seconds later I’ve got this! I check it to make sure everything looks ok, then flatten it. If you rotate the image without flattening it, the seems Photomerge made appear. If your paintings have a lot of similar areas Photomerge can get confused, so just do a couple other scans to help it figure out what goes where and you should be set. I don’t recommend using Photomerge to scan large textures. I once tried to scan a large watercolor wash for use in my digital artwork, and it doesn’t work for that. Also, sometimes if you change programs while Photoshop is doing the Photomerge magic it will mess it up. Overall though, I rarely have a problem.

Cropped and finished! I didn’t even have to mess with any levels or anything on this painting. It scans VERY accurately. Good luck!