HOW TO SCAN PHYSICAL ART FOR A DIGITAL FORMAT

by Matt Russell - Posted 1 week ago



Welcome my CryptoComics Compatriots. While talking with some fellow comic fans, it came to my attention that we need to discuss the best practices of turning our physical art into a digital format to be truly turned into a digital format.  


After buying my 12.9 iPad pro, I have since stopped really making physical art, although I should get back into it. I think I will, at least for this blog post. There is something beautiful about a physical piece to hang on our wall.


Digital art does not need to both start and stop in the digital realm. FYI, it will need to finish in a digital format. How else would you call this a webcomic? That being said, you can still use all the tips here to send to your favorite printer for a physical print of your finished product. 


These tips and tricks were all given to me by various professors in college. I have personally tried each of them and they all have worked.


There are some things that you will need in order to make your life easier. 

FILE STRUCTURE

For a file structure I like to name the folder after the comic. For these purposes, I will name it “Example1” as in Example Issue 1. 


Inside that folder I have several folders such as 

  • “SCRIPT1” and this simply contains a pdf version of the script. 

  • “THUMBNAILS” which only contains smaller thumbnail images of the pages.

  • “SCANS” is where I will be saving all my scanned documents. 

  • “PENCILS” only has the penciled pages of the comic with no inking, coloring, or lettering. 

  • “INKING” these are the finished inked pages without the penciling. Each page is saved as a PSD with only 2 layers; penciled and inking. The penciled layer is turned off.

  • “COLORING” The colored pages after inks. This is a psd where all the coloring is in various layers.  The top layer is the inking layer and the penciled layer is still included and turned off. 

  • “LETTERING” The lettering boxes and SFX are added into the page. 

  • “FINISHED” containing the finished pages with everything is flattened and done.  This is done by the editor who has gone in and made sure that everything is correct. It is the last checks and balances step. They will also take each flattened page and create a pdf book. This is what will be uploaded to CryptoComics (although it can be uploaded in a page-by-page basis)


These are just my personal preferences and it’s worked pretty well for me. Just a side note, Dropbox has a fee associated with it. You pay for the space that you use. It is for this reason that once the finished comic is ready to go in pdf format, I will save a copy of it on my computer and then I will compress the original folder.


I can then get rid of the original folder, saving space on dropbox. If I ever need to open it again I can decompress the folder and get everything back.

PAPER SIZE 

3 is the page size and is 11-3/4 x 16-1/2 in. This is the standard size for the bristol board comic paper. I used to use Canson’s paper. It was a perfect weight and rough enough for the perfect comic art (in my personal opinion). 


The standard paper (notebook or smaller sketchbook paper) is known as A4 (8-1/4 x 11-3/4 in). Either will work beautifully for your comic. Being larger, you can tend to get a lot more smaller details in the larger format A3 paper. So, for the purposes of this tutorial, we will stick to the larger paper size.


SCANNER

I used to use a large-scale scanner. I used to have an A3 large-scale format scanner from Epson. The problem is that it no longer works with my current computer. I purchased it a long time ago when I first went to Windows 7 and there are no more drivers for my current computer setup.


Since I haven’t worked in physical art in years, I saw no need to spend $350-$400 on a scanner. Instead, I spent about $100 on a decent printer/scanner specifically for document use. This will still work beautifully. There is simply an extra step or two involved.



WHEN TO START SCANNING

I personally liked to scan my pencil art before I began to ink it. I typically ink digitally, this way I can keep my art nice and clean so that if I screw up on the inking stage (spill my ink, smudge the in by running my hand through wet ink, the list goes on) I still have a clean and preserved penciled page. 


Screwing up is nothing more than hitting the undo button. 


That being said, you could scan and digitize your comic page at ANY step of your artwork. I know some artists that won’t scan it until after the lettering stage when they are fully done with the comic. There are some things that you will need to keep in mind on the coloring step but more about that later.


Using the methods listed below also works on the large A3 scanners when you have a double-page spread.


SETTINGS ON YOUR SCANNER

DPI VS PPX

Before we begin to start scanning, take a look at your settings on the scanner itself. You will typically have the option when scanning a photo to change the dpi or ppx of the image. DPI stands for Dots Per Inch and PPX is Pixels Per Inch. 


Dpi tends to be used on print only and ppx is for digital artwork. 


Use ppx at the highest resolution possible on the cheaper scanner. They will start out at 72dpi and go up from there. I suggest the minimum that you scan is 600ppx. The industry standard for the minimum is 600.


CMYK VS RGB

You will also need to switch to the RGB option. CMYK stands for Cyan Magenta Yellow Black and is a subtractive color model. This is primarily used for printing. This means that we start with white (paper) and end with black; as color is added, the result is darker. 


To make a true black, black pigment is added. Black is referred to as "K," or the key color.


RGB is the opposite. It is an additive color model in which the red, green, and blue primary colors of light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. This is used by screens; televisions, monitors, phones, tablets, and so on.


These are typically made by backlighting a monitor so that the desired color shines through to your eyes. Since it is such a different process, you cannot simply switch from one to another. Here is a post that I wrote on this about 2 years ago…nothing has changed. Size, dimensions, colors, and styles. What does it all mean? Part 1


For these purposes, our end results will be for the CryptoComics Marketplace so we will be saving the scan as RGB. If your scanner does not have this option save it as a pdf and we can take care of the rest later. 


I will also be scanning this at the end of the penciled stage. This way I can ink digitally using ProCreate on the iPad. I am in the middle of writing a post about this that will come out in a week or two, so be on the lookout for this post.


FILE TYPE

Typically there are several file types that we can work with when it comes to comics; .tiff (preferred if you have a high-end scanner), .jpg (preferred for images), and .pdf (for all finished pages of a book or documents). For this, we will be saving the images as a .jpg so that we can work with them in various different programs.


SCANNING OUR COMIC PAGE

For the larger A3 scanners, just do this in 1 go. Just lay it flat, go through the settings and have at it. For the smaller A2 type scanners, lay it flat, sideways on your scanner and scan the top half of the image. When you are done, flip it over and scan the bottom half of the image. You will need to take these images into an image manipulation program. I will be using PhotoShop from Adobe. For those that do not have access to this, you can always use GIMP at This is a free program online. I like to save them as Scan1.jpg (top) and Scan2.jpg (bottom) in order to keep them separate and logically uncomplicated.





SCANNING A PAGE WITHOUT A SCANNER

This is where things can get dicey. What you will need are a tripod, great lighting, and a very good camera. Luckily the camera on phones has gotten good enough that this will work. You will be able to scan any size of paper all at once using this method. Have your image directly below the tripod and set the camera up facing straight down towards the image. Make sure that the lighting is good enough that everything is lit up evenly without any shadows from the tripod. Also, make sure that there is no glare on the paper from the lights. To reduce those, I recommend some type of shield or cloth between the light and paper so that the light is nice and even without drowning out the penciled works. Zoom in so that only the paper is in the shot. If you have a little bit of flooring on the sides, it's not a big deal. You can crop that out after you have taken the photo on your phone or during the first pass of editing (as seen below). This is crucial, make sure that your camera is in focus. Tweek the shot as needed WITHOUT ANY FILTERS and focus the camera as best as possible. The more focused you can make this will partially determine the amount of time you will spend on your inking stage, cleaning your lines. 1 extra minute here will save hours later. When you are ready simply take the photo. While I was in college, this was my method of choice. I had a camera set up in my studio that I left there at all times.


PREPARING THE COMIC PAGE AFTER SCANNING

The first thing I will want to do is open the Scan1.jpg in PhotoShop. I will then rotate the image 90 degrees clockwise. 


Once the top half of the image is in position, I will double the height of the image. 



Now you will need to open the Scan2.jpg and rotate it counter clockwise. Follow the steps above but do not change the page dimensions. You will not need to change this as we will just be moving it to the other page. 

ADDING THE COMIC PAGES TOGETHER

Now that we have set up Scan1.jpg to be able to accept the corrected Scan2.jpg we need to combine them. In order to do this, make sure that you are on Scan2.jpg. Click on the move tool and then click & hold in the middle of the image. Drag the image up to the top toolbar where you can see Scan1.jpg. Photoshop will automatically switch to this image. Resist the urge to let go of the mouse button. Take your cursor to the bottom half (blank section) of Scan1.jpg. Once there you can let go of the mouse left button and a copied version of Scan2.jpg should appear. From there, keep the move tool applied and nudge the image into place using a combination of the mouse and arrow keys (when you need to make small adjustments). The arrow keys will move the selected layer by 1 pixel. Holding “Shift” while hitting the arrow buttons will move the layer 5 pixels for a slightly larger move. Once the layers line up perfectly, scroll in on the image navigator so that you can get up close and personal with the image. Keep nudging your image little by little until it lines up perfectly and looks like 1 complete image. Just to be on the safe side, change the mode to Overlay. This way you can make sure that everything is looking great. If it does, change it back to Normal Mode.


FLATTENING & CROPPING YOUR COMIC PAGE

We need to now make this one single flat page. Go up to the top toolbar and click on the "Layer" tab. At the bottom of the dropdown menu, you will see "Flatten Image". Click on this and you are done with this stage.


Now that we have a single flat image, we will need to crop any extra white space off. Click on the Crop tool in the left Toolbox and then adjust the crop lines until our page matches the original dimensions. If you used the Bristol boards for the original paper, you will see some blue line guides. Use these to help you know exactly where to crop. If you still have some blue lines showing, we have 2 options.

1) We follow the Remove The Blue Sketch Lines from Your Comic in Photoshop

Or

2) We can move it into ProCreate where we will be able to completely ignore it for inking.

Once you have decided exactly how you want to proceed, you will need to save the file. I personally like to save it as Page1.jpg in a folder dedicated to the comic. This goes into the “PENCILED” folder. I personally have this entire main folder set to save into DropBox. This way I can share everything with others (pencilers/inkers/editors/letterer) or other computers and tablets.


READY TO INK YOUR COMIC

Now that you are done with your pencils or the comic page, and scanned it, you're ready to ink. A small piece of advice is that you ink the center where the two pages come together first as shown below.


Don’t forget to upload certain pages into the Marketplace as a living art journal. I like to personally use them as an extra in the comic.