Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research


2.5D and 3D image capture and print in the cultural heritage field: evaluation of current and developing technologies, applications and workflows

awarding body: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Carinna Parraman, Joe Padfield and Stephen Hoskins
researcher participants: Xavier Aure

industrial partner: National Gallery
project duration:01/10/2014 – 30/09/2017

Whilst there is much interest and debate surrounding 3D reproduction there has been no comprehensive research that surveys the field. This project aims to address the gap between traditional analogue skills and knowledge in the newly emerging digital 2.5D and 3D technology field. It will explore the potential for innovative and creative applications in the cultural heritage field, and investigate issues that need to be addressed for them to be fully exploited. The National Gallery has extensive knowledge in developing high resolution colour and infrared digital cameras, incorporating systems that share large generated images over the web and document the surface texture of paintings. Initially this research was undertaken with polynomial texture mapping and more recently with forms of laser scanning. We will undertake a survey to assess materials, workflow methods, hardware, software, colour quality, cost and time implications of this technology, or the efficient uses and applications for particular digital scanning and reproduction techniques. The growing accessibility of object scanning systems capable of producing 3D and 2.5D images, along with 2.5D low relief surface and textural printing, as well as complete 3D printing methods, are providing users with a vast array of new tools with great potential in the cultural heritage field, but these have also resulted in a similarly vast number of propriety file formats and data presentation tools.
This project will examine this complex field by: identifying, simplifying and demonstrating how these new tools can be efficiently and appropriately used in the day to day study, documentation and presentation of cultural heritage objects, concentrating particularly on issues and applications relevant to the National Gallery and its collection. This could include, for example, investigating what structural changes occur in paintings over time, how they can be documented, and how conservation treatments can affect these structural changes. The student will determine the relevance of particular hardware and software - as well as establishing cost implications.
This project addresses the National Gallery’s research objective on 'conservation, environment, display and access' and supports their 'The Meaning of Making' research theme. The research will improve the technical examination, documentation and measurement procedures used to study paintings in the collection. For example, 2D and 3D scans of damaged or degraded sections of paintings could assist scholars in understanding the different painting techniques and materials used by different artists.
The surface structure of a painting is an important indicator of its overall condition. This project will provide conservators with the tools to record and model changes in this surface structure, particularly those that are observed as a result of conservation work, but also those that may arise from changes in environmental conditions. For example, a conservator may undertake non-invasive scanning before and after the transportation of a painting, to document any possible changes to its surface structure. The ability to physically reproduce the surface texture of paintings and artefacts could also be exploited within interactive displays, educational programmes and improved access for visually impaired visitors, for example, similar materials could be matched to the original to gain a feel for form, weight and texture.

Funding Organisations

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Hewlett Packard (HP)

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP)

EU Marie Curie Actions

Research Councils UK (RCUK)

Newby Trust