The fine art of scanning comics

So, I’m back behind the pencil, and is once again presenting my own blend of bad drawings and crap jokes to an unimpressed web audience over at Beyond Pacifism. While I have done  the fine art of webcomics, I have picked up a pointer of two when it comes to different techniques used to produce a somewhat usable final product. And one of those things is how to scan and create a file that is suitable for further use.

When I scan, I want to end up with a file in black and white, to color later in an image editor (or not color at all). I used to draw up the comics with a pencil, for then to ink them out, and so scan them. Now, I’ve dropped the ink, and is scanning my pencil drawings. This since my inking is not very good, and I think the drawings are more lively with “rougher” pencil lines. I just make sure my penciling is a little heavier on the important features of the drawing

I set my phaser to stun, and my scanner to scan in black and white (I can choose between b/w, grayscale or color). I choose 600 DPI as the resolution. You don’t need this high resolution for the web, and I will later change this to 72 when processing the comic further. But as an original for use beyond the web, 600 is a good choice. And it is better to edit details in a high resolution.

When I scan, I have to choose what file format I want the picture in. There I choose TIF. It’s a big file size, but it is not lossy, and it is not compressing the image.

Now I have a file I can work with. I use Adobe Photoshop to the next steps, but this can also be done in Gimp or other image editing software.

Before going further, make sure to change the mode of the picture from bitmap to greyscale.

[caption id="attachment_276" align="alignnone" width="533" caption="The menu for changing the pictures mode in Adobe Photoshop"]Menu to greyscale in Adobe Photoshop[/caption]

Directly from the scan, my lines can be dodgy, and I need to fatten them up. This is something I do with the threshold adjustment.

[caption id="attachment_271" align="alignleft" width="603" caption="The menu for threshold in Adobe Photoshop"]The menu tree for threshold in Adobe Photoshop[/caption]

I experiment with the settings from picture to picture, but normally end up at a value around 200. I make sure i have the Preview box ticked, so that I see the changes I do “live”. The higher threshold level, the darker and wider the lines will become. And vice versa when you lower the number.

[caption id="attachment_273" align="alignnone" width="379" caption="The threshod dialogue window in Adobe Photoshop"]Threshold adjusment in Adobe Photoshop[/caption]

When I’m happy with the threshold level, I adjust the sharpness, to make the lines more rounded and natural.

[caption id="attachment_275" align="alignnone" width="605" caption="The menu for unsharpen mask in Adobe Photoshop"]Menu for unsharpen mask in Adobe Photoshop[/caption]

The unsharpen mask is also something for experimenting. I normally end up with amount of 500%, radius around 2.5, and threshold of 25.

[caption id="attachment_272" align="alignnone" width="322" caption="The unsharpen mask dialog window in Adobe Photoshop"]Unsharp mask in Adobe Photoshop[/caption]

And now, what is left is the cleaning. I now go over the picture with the eraser in Photoshop, and remove dust spots and runaway pencil lines. And that can sometimes be a job that tests your patience.

But in the end, you have a comic in black and white that you can either publish as is (after some size adjusting), or make some color magic with.

This is how I process my drawings. There are other ways, I’m sure, but this gives me the result I want, and the result is a good “original’ to work with.

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