Sketching to Scan

When a comic is going to be inked and coloured on a computer, it is important to bear this in mind while drawing the original artwork. Often all that will be needed is a basic sketch, like any other form of sketching to ink but, unless you’re prepared to spend time adjusting the scanning quality and contrasts, etc., getting only the details out that you actually need can be tricky.

Go over sketches with a darker pencil to increase their legibility after scanning

Going over sketches with a darker pencil increases the legibility, after scanning, of the lines you want to keep

The way around this is to sketch the comic as you would normally, producing all the details that are needed, and getting everything laid out as you want it in the finished comic. If you then proceed to scan the comic, you will likely find either there’s too much noise on the scanned image, or there’s too little detail come through. As mentioned above, most of this problem can be remedied by messing with the scanner’s settings, but not all of it.

By far the simplest way to ensure you get the details you want onto the computer is to go over the details you need with a darker pencil than you used for the initial sketch. Highlighting the line work you want to scan makes those lines show up on the scanner in preference to the other lines and artefacts that would be on the image. The image on the computer will then more closely match the image you actually drew.

Once the scanning is complete, photoshop’s ‘Auto Levels/Contrast’ settings are an excellent way fine-tuning the colouring and contrast on the image, so the background is all white and the sketch stands out more sharply. If you are so inclined, you can then use the colour-pick technique to select all the line work and copy it into a pre-prepared template prior to inking.

This colour-picking technique is excellent for those with three-panel comics with the frames of each panel already laid out; although it can be equally useful for other types of comic, such as those with textured or pre-made backgrounds.

Colour picking leaves only the line art, so it can be copied into pre-made frames quickly and easily

Colour picking leaves only the line art, so it can be copied into pre-made frames quickly and easily

To colour-pick, simply adjust the scanned image so the background is either white or as white as you can get it, and the line work stands out well. This is usually possible through the auto levels and auto contrast functions. If auto colour is available, you’ve scanned the image as colour rather than greyscale and may need select whatever shade of blue the background is, use the ‘colour select’ function and then delete the colour from the image; remembering to have the secondary colour in Photoshop set to white.

Now set the primary colour to white and use the ‘colour select’ function in Photoshop and check the ‘invert’ box, to select everything that is not white. The line work will now be selected and can be cut-and-pasted to your heart’s content.

The end result of this is that you get clean and clear line art to work from, which can be inked over nicely.

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