Digital Restoration Process
The Foundation has had the opportunity to handle hundreds of original pieces of artwork. To highlight the digital restoration work that has been done, we have chosen two very different examples.
The first piece is a large 19″ by 24″ concept design for Black Widow (Webstor) by Roger Sweet. The illustration is done in marker and paint on artist board. There is an acrylic overlay taped on all sides of the artist board.
The first step in the archival process is to preliminarily photograph the back and front to use for reference while we are cataloging and archiving.
Then each piece is carefully scanned at high resolution. Often, the art is too large to be scanned all at once so it must be scanned in multiple pieces and reassembled. This completed high resolution scan is then stored as the original in our digital archive.
A copy file is created as a working file that we use to begin the restoration process. Initial color adjustments are done to remove most of the paper aging. Then we proceed to remove as many of the imperfections, scratches, dust, glare from the acrylic overlay, and paper wrinkles as we can. At this point, we often go back and make a final color adjustment to get the digital image’s colors as close to the original artwork as possible. The working file is saved at the different steps of the restoration process. The images and corrections are also saved in different layers and color adjustment layers so that we can go back and do additional restoration if needed.
In addition to original artwork, we also work with original production reference prints and photos, which may very likely be all that is left for certain pieces.
This Colin Baily illustration was found attached to a group of unused Filmation model sheets as a very aged Polaroid. This situation needs a lot more work to restore the image to it’s original state. In addition to the restoration detailed above, it also required a few additional steps.
The photograph was scanned at a much higher resolution to preserve as much data as possible. Since it was a photograph of an original piece of artwork, we needed to correct the geometric distortion. We did not have access to the original artwork (which very likely does not exist anymore) so we had to do a much more intensive and detailed color adjustment. This piece came from a Polaroid and required enhancing the sharpness and contrast of the image. We then removed all shadows and other photo artifacts to make the image appear as flawless as possible. For the final file, we cropped out the white edges of the Polaroid and converted it to gamut colors.
Restoration of these digital images helps to rescue and document the information and history contained in the original artwork, photographs, and prints. However, we have not yet begun the physical restoration on the original pieces in our collection. Our current focus is on preservation to prevent them for further damage and degradation.
(Notes: Black Widow was the working name for Webstor, Lizard Man was the working name for the character that eventually became Whiplash)