Scanning/Photoshop woes

  • Hey guys!

    I have a quick question about scanning things into Photoshop for digital display and (eventually) production. I've recently launched a huge project (more on that soon!) - I'm aiming to complete a tarot deck in lieu of a dummy book this year. My finished watercolors are barely bigger than my scanner bed, something I didn't think would be a problem until I scanned my first image.

    Major Arcana The Fool

    The line work on the left side is hopelessly blurry - I tried fixing it with photoshop, but I've only managed to make it marginally better without losing quality on the rest of the image. Does this mean I'll have to figure out how to scan in pieces, even for a piece that's barely bigger than my scanner bed? The actual art fits well within the middle of the scanner, it's the paper that's slightly bigger (the originals have lots of negative space around the actual image to keep my paper from warping)

    Also - does anyone know of any photoshop trickery that would allow me to separate my line work from my color? I have thought of releasing this as a coloring book once the deck is done (a fantastic idea from a friend of mine!), but unfortunately it was too late for this particular image (of course I'll be scanning the line work before coloring in the future).

  • Pro SVS OG

    I have heard @Lee-White talk about photographing his images, what about photographing rather than scanning? PS I love your fur

  • SVS OG

    I think you would need to scan the piece in two parts, and stitch them together again in Photoshop, to get rid of the that you can really put the art flat against the scanner - Photoshop has a feature called Photomerge that will help you do that. I haven't done it much myself, I think maybe once, but if you google 'photomerge tutorial in photoshop' lots of pages come up.

    Yes since your lines are deep black, you should be able to separate gets trickier to do it cleanly if you have deep colours alongside, but this is how i do it (I create images for stamps which also involves separating black linework from a coloured image):

    • In the Layers panel, change it from 'Background' to 'Layer 0' (doing this means that when you delete the colour, you have nothing there, instead of a white background if you leave as 'Background' - so you can then do things like layer the linework onto a coloured background, if you wanted).
    • Select the magic wand tool
    • Change the tolerance level in the little menu along the top of your workspace, to about 70 (you may need to fiddle with that number a bit)
    • Select the black line with the wand tool.
    • At the top Photoshop menu, go to 'Select', then 'Select Inverse'. This selects everything which isn't the black line.
    • Press delete (so all of the colour is deleted).

    It's not a perfect solution - if you have deep/dark colours there may be speckles remaining. Sometimes to combat this I put a tick in the 'Contiguous' box which means you only select black lines that are joined onto where you click.

    There are other methods too of separating out linework, using the Channels palette..but I personally use that for separating pencil work from a white background...that way you get all shades of grey, not just lines which are over a certain threshold of darkness. And there are possibly (probably) other methods of doing this which I don't know about yet - in which case I will be very interested to read about them 🙂

  • @handdrawnviolist

    For the most part you are not going to be able to fix "bluriness" in photoshop. You have a couple choices - you mentioned that the illustrations fit the scanner bed but the media is too large. What about trimming the media so it fits in the scanner? Also, put some weight on the scanner lid to make sire the media is tight and flat against the glass.

    As for separating the color from the black lines - it will be messy and will require multiple steps at a minimum. The integrity of your line is going to suffer. Once you eliminate the color as best you can duplicate the layer and assign it "multiply" in order to darken the lines back up.

    What settings are you using to scan these images? Whats the reproduction size? Whats the original size? Scan at a higher resolution as you can always take information away for a lower size but you can;t add information is improve the scan. Are you saving in a lossy compression or lossless?

    Is your scanner calibrated? Is your monitor calibrated?

    Scanning for reproduction has a massive learning curve if you wish to do it right.

  • @lmrush Thank you so much!! The fur is something I really put a lot of thought into to keep it within the style of the rest of the painting. I'm so used to completely rendering fur that it was really different to stylize it!

    I've thought about photographing, but I just don't have the setup for it at the moment. I have a DSLR camera high up on the list of things to get both for photographing pieces and filming speed paints, but it'll be a while before I get there. So for now I'm stuck using the tools I have, but that's okay! I'll just get really good at going the long way around ;P

    @Dulcie Thanks so much for the great advice! I'm experimenting with photomerge as we speak, and it seems to be much better in quality than the original scan. It definitely takes more time, but I'm finding it to be totally worth it.

    I've tried using the magic wand tool and I've become super frustrated. That's just one of those great examples of a "photoshop does almost exactly what I want it to, but not quite" moments that seem to be a hallmark of the program (I've heard so many (granted, usually graphic designers) talk about photoshop that way. I may just give in and pop it into my tablet and do the lines for this one card digitally for the lines file. I plan on bumping my way out of the texture of the paper anyway for these using channels and transfer and such anyway, so the project probably won't suffer greatly for a mistake on 1 out of 79 illustrations. And now I'll definitely never forget to scan my line work again!

    @jimsz Thank you for your super detailed response!! I want to try and maintain the integrity of the media size if only for the fact that I designed things to be super flammable for my originals. I can trim if I absolutely have to (there's a good inch or so around the image, more on the top and bottom) but I really enjoy how the image is sitting in the negative space of the paper (that's my inner graphic designer trying to jump into my illustration I guess).

    Original size is 2x what they'll be reproduced at. At least the dimensions of the image itself - the paper is larger and doesn't scale correctly because Tarot cards have weird dimensions that don't fit anything that's not a Tarot card. I'm not sure what the design for the coloring book will be yet, but it definitely isn't going to be larger than the original. I'd ideally like to sell prints at the original size, maybe a hair smaller.

    I'm scanning at 400dpi and have calibrated my monitor to where the print (not necessarily the scan because the scanner tends to blow things out) matches what's on my screen (from my printer, that is). I scan without adding any filters from the scanner itself so that I can keep more control over the image and I scan to a JPEG file.

  • You can apply a layer mask on just the blurry area and run the unsharpen filter. This will correct the blurryness nearly completely. Hope it helps.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @RobinSlee thanks for the tip!

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