Turning Rocks Into Fine Art
Abstract Rock Art
FROM ROCK TO PRINT
Macro Photography is taking a small section of rock and increasing the image into a Fine Art Print. As seen in my "Abstract Rock" series, inspired by a rock found on the Yuba River, in California. Over the course of 15 years, a little river rock became Fine Art.
WHAT I HAD TO LEARN & LINK
- Rock hounding, how, where, and what rocks to collect for art
- Lapidary equipment, saws, safety gear, tools, materials
- Oils, lubrication, adhesives,
- Photography, camera, scanning, lighting, camera equipment
- Professional printers, papers, inks, margins, bleeds, colors
- Glass scanning beds, moisture control, and air bubble nightmares
- Cleaning rocks, sonic cleaners, and preventing stupid dust.
- Inventory, organizing, storing, and effective product management
- Achieving a "wet look" without glare to capture a clear detailed image. (This took a long time to figure out, with lots of failures)
- Photoshop, editing software programs, editing techniques
- Formatting, RAW, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PDF files for online production, and proper uses. DPI, Resolution, and things I still don't understand.
- Print on demand, shipping, packaging, product production
- Web design, graphic design, SEO, Social Media Marketing
- How to write blogs to help others, provide easy resource links, contacts and information to get started in Rock Art
(Links will take you to additional resources)
WHERE DO YOU START?
Pick up a variety of rock slabs, with different color patterns, and contrasting elements to see what translates best on print. Shop online (eBay), or at your local Rock Shops, Art & Craft Fairs, Gem, and Mineral show.
You can use your phone, digital camera, or even a scanner or microscope to snap images. Practice lighting, angles, and close-ups. Look at all the little lines, and changes in color and texture. Do you see any scenes appear? Distant hills? A river? Maybe the cracks look like trees drifting into a cloudy sky. Let your imagination run wild with infinite possibilities. Find the frame that speaks to you the most, and through editing software like Adobe Photoshop, narrow down and emphasize what you want to showcase.
There you go! You've just created Abstract Rock Art. To get bright, clear, crisp images, that you can make prints with. You will need to keep practicing with different equipment, and rocks, editing, and taking notes of the next steps outlined.
Visit the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies online website at https://www.amfed.org/. Learn about your local resources and identify the types of rocks you want to turn into abstract prints. You can take advantage of your geographical location, plan a trip to areas that produces what you seek, visit rock, gem, and mineral shows, or acquire a versatile collection by purchasing online. There are rock clubs, public mineral and gem mines, stores, rock-hounding groups, and a lot of organizations supporting art, and love of rocks!
What saw should you get?
If you are interested in purchasing a saw for jewelry, and smaller rocks. the Hi-Tech Diamond 10" Lapidary Slab Saw available on amazon uses water, is hands-on, and will make slabbing rocks straightforward. At this size, you're still able to get some small, and mid-size cuts to experiment imaging with too, I do suggest getting the vice attachment for safety, and comfort. As you start expanding into larger pieces, you'll need the next step up. To get crisp, clear images the larger Oil Lapidary Slab Saws will be your best investment. Though they don't work well with smaller rocks, in my opinion, it's so much fun watching them cut an 8" and larger rock of paper. They are very expensive, but they produce the highest quality cuts. As time progresses, you'll obtain the experience to move up accordingly, and find your niche. There might be local Rock clubs that offer "saw" time, and you can pay per slab, to see firsthand.
DON'T GIVE UP!
NOW THAT YOU HAVE YOUR ROCK SLABS
If you made slabs yourself, it's time to clean the oil, and debris off before taking an image. The best thing I found was sonic cleaners, an example of one is the CREWORKS Ultrasonic Cleaner. If you purchased slabs or used a water-based saw, it's still a good idea to clean them thoroughly to significantly reduce editing and imperfections in your final piece.
Once the slabs are cleaned, you have to choose what technique you are going to use to get the "wet look" to capture the details of the rock. I found that sealers, gloss finishes, or varnishes leave a film that shows up in the photo and muddies the color and clarity. I got stuck at this phase for a while, as my images weren't coming out as clearly as I wanted.
Deciding if you're going to use photography equipment, or scanners to capture the rock image is another personal choice. This ties in with how you're going to get the gloss finish. If you're going to look into photography gear, you will need a good quality DSLR with Macro Lens, studio and lighting setup, tripods, and more. I use a Nikon D7500 for all my business needs, product photos, artwork, prints, and everyday life. When it came to capturing the Rock's beauty, I chose to utilize a flatbed scanner to take the highest quality images of my rocks for print. Choosing which method of imaging, will contribute to your outcome. If you're already savvy with Photoshop and Photography, you will have a lot more success than I did!
I had a hard time getting the gloss look on the rocks, with minimal glare, with the clearest, brightest image. I wanted to do minimal editing and showcase the natural beauty of the stone. I sat and thought about the basics of rocks, the best time to search for river rocks is during a light sprinkle. As the rain dampens the rocks, out pops the colors, details, and wonders within the minerals. When rocks are wet, they glisten and shine.
I decided to get a custom glass box made with sides high enough to hold water and cover the surface of the rock laying in it (not threatening the electronics). The glass box sat on the scanner, and a piece of blackout fabric was draped over it to cut out all light during scans.
Once the image was scanned into a computer, I would save it as a high-resolution TIFF file. I used Photoshop to clean any dust, water bubbles, debris, or imperfections. I do minimal color and level correction, only to emphasize and communicate the rock's true natural beauty.
I save the high-resolution original for Printing. I make a copy of the image, add a watermark, and resize it as a JPEG for online catalogs, social media posts, website photos, blog posts, and general advertising.
Once your image is edited, sized, and ready for print. It's time to run a test print to see how it looks in real life. I use a few different print-on-demand services like Printful and Prodigi. You might have a local print shop you can go to as well. If you're looking to make a print for your home and business, any printing service will work. If you want to have prints available to purchase online, I recommend requesting a sample box from Prodigi, that will help you identify the right fit for your art.
After uploading your file to your preferred printer, select the product you want. Size, edit, and make sure everything is within the margin and covering the design area. Now, it's time to send it to the printers! Once you receive your test print in the mail, analyze it from different distances, and lighting, and make any editing adjustments needed for your satisfaction. When you've narrowed down the perfect final print. You're ready to frame it and enjoy the beautiful creation you've made. Bravo! You've successfully taken a rock and turned it into Fine Art.
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