Scan and Polish - Document Preparation

Here's a look at how to set up your Photoshop document, including quickly assembling a two-part scan and adjusting the levels or curves for different mediums.

Setup Your Photoshop Document

This section will show you how to create a new document and import your scanned artwork.

Set the document size to the same size as your original art at 300dpi. If you drew on 9x12 Bristol, the document size should be 9" by 12". If you drew in ink or graphite, use 16 bit grayscale for the color mode. I wouldn't mess with the advanced settings.

Open your scans. Who has a large format scanner these days? Not to worry, we'll glue them together.

Copy and paste the scan into your work document. SAVE THE FILE RIGHT NOW and push ctrl-S often. Push ctrl-T to transform the layer. You can enter 90 or -90 in the rotation setting to put it right-side-up.

Combine Two Scans

If you don't have a large format scanner, these next few slides will help you glue two half-scans together.

Layer your half scans over each other and line them up as close as you can. Temporarily setting the top layer's opacity to 50% can help you get it really close. Now we've got that ugly scan-bed shadow to deal with. If I had drawn my panels where the scan overlaps we could just delete part of the layer, but oh no, I had to go and make fancy panels. Well, I guess we're doing it the hard way!

Select the top layer and give it a mask. This is one of Photoshops more powerful tools. A mask creates what's called an "alpha channel" on the layer. That means everything white on the mask is visible, and everything black is see through. Watch this...

We use a soft edge brush to paint black over part of the left panel. I painted all the way over Natalie here, because the two scans will never perfectly line up. Use the subject from the cleaner of the two scans and blend the edges around the background.

We can also do this with the lasso tool. Select a line where you want the blend to occur.

Feather the selection. 10 pixels should do the trick.

Make sure black is your background color, and push delete. Voila! Layers blended.

Adjust the Contrast with Levels and Curves

These slides will help you adjust your blacks, whites and grays to look exactly the way you like.

Time to adjust our blacks, whites and grays. Select your two scan layers and push ctrl-E to merge them together. Push ctrl-L to bring up the levels panel. What we're looking at now is a chart of each gray tone from black to white. Those peaks indicate where the darkest and lightest tones occur in your original image.

The left arrow indicates that everything left of it is black, the right is the same for white. We're going to move each to the two peaks to make deep blacks and clean whites. The middle arrow indicates where we want our mid-tone grays. Slide it around till you have the look you want.

Levels do the trick just fine, but if you're feeling fancy, press ctrl-M instead to bring up the curves window! Just like levels, we see a chart of our tones, but the curve lets us deeply manipulate the flow from dark to light.

For inkwork, a curve like this will give you deep blacks and clean whites, much like we got with levels.

For graphite and charcoal, a curve like this one will accentuate the texture of the paper and bring out the mid-tones.

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