How I Created My Digital Art Piece, “Inflexible”

"Inflexible" by Darin Volpe [Digital Art From an MRI Scan of a Human Brain]

“Inflexible” – Digital Artwork from an MRI scan.

I started with a CD of dozens of 460x460px images of various angles and slices of head. 420×460 isn’t enough resolution for a greeting card, let alone a four-foot canvas print. These images would have to be enlarged, and enlarged a lot.

Preparing the Brain

I enlarged a bit, checked the resolution, enlarged some more. I managed to get them up to 6000×6000 pixels before I decided that was enough. They were horribly pixelated, but I knew I’d be running them through a lot of filters before I would be done.

I started by taking a a 24 image complete section scan of the head and discarding half the images since I’d only be doing half of the brain. I then took the remaining eleven into Photoshop and stacked the them into independent layers. I was left with a very pixelated half of a head. Next, I went through layer-by-layer and erased everything that wasn’t brain. This left a stack of images that formed the left side of the brain.

Adding the 3D Effect

From there I brightened the top layer as much as I could without losing detail. Then I made each subsequent layer a bit darker than the layer above to enhance the 3D effect. I saved this series of layers so I could make use of the brain image for future projects and moved on to the next step.

Adding color

I needed to be able to easily identify each layer for the next step. Using a color filter, I applied a different color cast to each layer so I could see what layer I was working on and how it related to the layer above and below it.

Blending the Folds

Then I used a semi-transparent eraser to blend key parts of each layer into the layer below. Because each layer was a different color I could see just how much of the next layer I was exposing and how transparent the transitions were on the edges. Eventually I had a seemless transition in brain structures from the foreground to the background.

Chrome Dome

"Inflexible" by Darin Volpe [Digital Art From an MRI Scan of a Human Brain]

Finally, it was time to turn a low-res brain into something that I could use. I used the unsharp mask in Photoshop to create a high-contrast image the same as I would on a photo of the chrome on a hot rod. I applied varying degrees of blurring, added a chrome effect, then more blurring, more contrast, and then the blue color cast. All these effects gave it the frozen-brain look you see here.


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