Project Log

THE MISSING PIECES

3. Image reproduction

Recreating the image for each of the new pieces was done in a few steps. I started out by taking a picture of the pieces surrounding each of the missing ones. I tried to find something to use as a neutral background to get a reasonably even exposure when taking the pictures and the only thing I found at hand was the cover for my Ipad which worked well enough. I also snapped the pictures very close to one of the windows in my apartment to get as much neutrally colored light as possible, also making sure the camera white balance was reasonably set up. With the hi-res images I could easily make an accurate reference in Photoshop to fit the image for each piece.

The missing pieces

I started manually painting in the missing images on a layer below the reference/mask created in the previous step but quickly realized there was an even easier solution. As I had already snapped a hi-res picture of the puzzle image on the box why not just copy and paste parts of that!? It worked like a charm and all I had to do was a minor color and contrast adjustments before the missing images blended into the surrounding pieces perfectly. As I used parts of the picture on the box I also got the right amount of focus blur and all the neccessary details without having to use a brush at all.

The missing pieces

The last thing I had to sort out was the moaré pattern that can be seen on each piece. These patterns occur on most images coming out of a printing press and the effect is typically also increased whenever you try to take a photograph of a printed image. I wasn't sure wheter I would really need to do this as the printer I would use to print the images would naturally create a new moaré pattern automatically, but I did it anyway just in case. Replicating the pattern itself was easy, I just copied a part of another piece, ran a Hi-pass filter on it in Photoshop and then set it to overlay and bingo (you can see the reproduced pattern in the top right corner). I intentionally left the pattern somewhat less visible on my new pieces as I know it was exaggerated by my camera and can barly be seen by eye on the rest of the puzzle. Now that I think of it, where did that old De-gauss filter in Photoshop go?

The missing pieces

That's about it for recreating the images. Now the problem with working digitally is that what you see on the screen may not correspond to reality at all once you print it. I will need to print these pieces out and compare by eye with the rest of the puzzle, then make neccessary adjustments and print another version. I may need to make parts of the new images darker or lighter, as well as tint the colors to match the surrounding pieces.

The missing pieces

As I suspected. The images was quite far off when compared to the real pieces, both in terms of color and value. I also quickly realized that the moaré pattern I added manually had to go as the printer (a Xerox color laser) created a moaré pattern by itself. I even did a bit of manual cleaning up on each of the images to further reduce the visible noise on the final result.

The missing pieces

I went through a number of iterations where I tweaked one thing at a time until I reached a point where I could barely notice the differences anymore when comparing with the adjoining pieces. The hardest part was getting the color tints right. It's quite incredible how easy your eyes decieve you depending on the light in the room and wheter you're in light or shadow, close to a window or near lamps. Your brain is telling you that what you see is definitly a particular color, but when compared side by side to whatever it is supposed to match you realise it's still quite off. The trickiest color to nail down was the part of the sky on the piece with the wing. I thought I just needed to add some yellow to it but it was actually both cyan and green that was needed for it to start blending properly.

The missing pieces

I reached a point where I thought everything matched up reasonably well. I could have gone even further with the color matching but decided it's good enough. After all, the puzzle is also an old one and already a bit faded in some areas. And again, I'm not trying to reach ultimate perfection here, just barely save my dignity as puzzle builder.

Continue to chapter 4. Final assembly