Space Invaders Overlay

Artwork Restoration

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Iím sure there are many techniques for restoring artwork. Mine was taken from my wild imagination and may or may not be of any use to you. The purpose for this restoration is to help myself. Posting how I did the restoration is for you. If you have additional techniques that youíd like to contribute to the public then please allow me to include it here or post it yourself.

The restoration project involves creating a clean image of a Midway Space Invaders control panel. My Space Invaders has a brushed aluminum panel thatís bolted and otherwise held in place by the push buttons. The aluminum panel is smaller than the control panel surface, so itís framed by the black vinyl laminate on which the panel rests. Graphics are painted directly on the aluminum, either by stencil or screen-printing.

My control panel is very dirty and has had some of the graphics chipped and rubbed off. Thereís also some type of adhesive residue blotched about the panel. I havenít been able to remove the adhesive yet. My guess is that the residue may have been a protective clear coating at one time.

Now on to the restoration. I thought about touch up painting the control panel but matching the paint would be hard. I would also end up with a texture from little blots of paint. Making stencils would be exhausting, as would cleaning the entire panel off and painting it from scratch. I decided to scan the control panel and clean up the image. Then I could have it printed on a clear plastic sticker or perhaps get someone to screen-print it.

The first step was to scan the control panel. I have a nice expensive scanner from HP so I knew I could get a good image. The control panel was a bit longer than the scanner so I had to take it in 2 pieces.

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After scanning the panel, I had to decide on what software Iíd use. I have a copy of PhotoShop 5.1 and I know how to use it on a limited basis. I also have a copy of Corel Draw 6.0 that Iíve never used. I decided to try Corel Draw because I read that it could be used to convert a bitmap image to a vector image. A vector image (I thought) would be easier to manipulate and clean up. To make a long story short, Corel Draw was too difficult for me to figure out right away. I gave up and went with PhotoShop.

Using PhotoShop, I created a new image that was 24 Ĺ" x 8" in size. Next I opened the 2 scanned images and pasted them into my new image. The 2 pieces had different levels of brightness and needed to be resized in order to fit together seamlessly. I also had to adjust the brightness. Using the Image->Adjust->Hue/Saturation tool, I adjusted the saturation to match the brightness of both images.

After resizing the images and butting them against each other, I merged both images onto the same layer using Layer->Merge Down. Now that I had an entire image on 1 layer, I used the "smudge tool" in PhotoShop to clean up the seam between the 2 images. Basically I just rubbed the tool over the seam between the 2 images. The seam quickly disappeared.

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At this point I had a very dirty looking image that needed some cleaning up. I experimented for a while with different filters to see if any would clean the image. I didnít find any filters that worked. I considered taking the image down to 256 colors to blend the varying degrees of blacks, blues and other solid colors. The only reason why I didnít do this is because I was too lazy to go through the conversions. I do believe that saving the image as a 256-color .bmp or similar file format would greatly simplify the cleanup process.

Not having a filter or other automated method for cleaning up the image, I decided to go pixel by pixel and clean things up. First I selected the most common solid color and began using big brushes to cover pixels that didnít match. Varying shades of gray were painted over with the most common gray and varying shades of blue where painted over with the most common blue.

Soon after doing this, I realized that I was painting true black (RGB = 0,0,0) over with a lighter shade of black. Although it was hard to distinguish, I didnít want 10 different shades of black. I wanted the image to be pure in color. The 10 shades of black just might be distinguishable on a printout.

I decided to edit the RGB values directly and make black equal true black. I also picked some of the odd colors like Orange and made it a specific RGB value. Although my colors would be wrong, I could always go back later with the fill tool and color in the true color value. Because the entire colored regions would have the same RGB values, the fill should work properly. Filling an area with 10 shades of black requires you to fill all 10 different variations. That is if you can distinguish the difference on screen.

Distinguishing color became a problem early on. After looking very carefully and straining my eyes, I kept noticing different shades of gray. I finally decided that the only way to know that I repainted the gray areas was to paint them blue instead of gray. Such a dramatic contrast would ensure that I didnít miss a spot. Later on I could use the fill tool to make these areas gray again. I used this same technique on several other colors as well.

To assist me in repainting the entire image pixel by pixel, I created 2 new brushes. The diameter of both brushes was 30-50 and the roundness was 0. The makes a brush which is a wide but straight line. One brush was a horizontal line and one was a vertical. Both of these brushes proved to be a lifesaver.

Looking back at the repainting process, Iím very thankful that the graphics were somewhat geometric. I was able to work on one small geometric section at a time. Eventually I learned that the image was slightly tilted, so the horizontal lines would drop 1-2 pixels along their length of 24 Ĺ". The fix for this was to re-draw the horizontal lines and make them all exactly horizontal. Wherever the line dropped, I made a decision on whether to cut the pixels off or carry them the full length of the line. This was also done to the vertical lines.

After the lines were straight and true and the large areas were filled, it was time to get down to details. Every letter and number needed to be repainted pixel by pixel. This is where zooming in all the way on the image really paid off. To speed the process up even further, I outlined each letter with the new color and used the fill tool to fill the inside. This didnít always work as planned because PhotoShop wouldnít always fill over varying shades of the same color. In those cases I used a brush and painted pixel by pixel.

Some areas of the image, which had angled lines and circles, proved difficult to fix pixel by pixel. For those areas, I blended the adjacent colors over the lines or circles to cover them up. I then used the line tool or a large circular brush to redraw the area with a nice crisp line or circle.

To make similar images appear symmetrical, I simply restored one image and pasted a copy of it overtop. This technique was used for making the arrows identical.

After cleaning up every pixel in the image, I went back over each letter to ensure that I restored them identically. I found that each letter "s" wasnít exactly painted the same. Because I donít want anyone to notice the difference between letters, I selected 1 letter and pasted it over every other occurrence of that letter. Some letters also had to be moved up or down 1 pixel to put them on the same horizontal plane as their neighboring letters. This was accomplished by cutting and pasting each letter, one by one.

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The final steps in restoring the artwork image were to color each area with the correct scanned color and test fit the image to a control panel. Colors were matched by taking them from an older copy of the image and using the fill tool in PhotoShop. Test fitting was accomplished by printing the image, lining it up on the control panel and then shifting letters, holes, arrows and other graphics to make them line up perfectly with the old control panel. This required many prints and re-prints.

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As of yet I havenít located a vendor to either make stickers or screen-print some control panels. In the near future Iíll be pricing out some cut aluminum panels, screen-print work and full size clear plastic stickers. If I get a reasonable deal, I may have additional panels made and sell them here or on e-bay.

Once more Iíd like to ask that if you have any advice on better techniques for restoring arcade artwork, that you share them with the public. Iím more than willing to post the information here if youíd like.