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Add versatility to your next line art scan by planning ahead

Added on Tuesday 12th of October 2010 05:21 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


In many cases, it can be faster to draw a design out by hand and scan it than to try to draw it in an application like Photoshop or Illustrator. Because of this, scanning your sketches can be a great way to create rapid prototypes from a single image. We’ll show you how to properly prepare your sketches and scans for maximum flexibility.


To optimize your line art, we’ll:

     Provide an overview of scanning line art so you choose the best format for your file.

     Give you a brief look at applying filter effects for adding variety to your line art.

     Step you through the process of converting your art to bitmap to optimize your image.

     Edit the detail to produce clean artwork for your prototypes.


Line art, such as our illustration shown in Figure A, can be the basis for a lot of interesting artwork whether you use it on its own or incorporate it with larger illustrations. Learning to properly work with line art enables you to turn a random doodle into more formal work. Line art can also be useful for mocking up prototypes quickly in the early design phases of a project. We’ll show you how to produce quality line art scans with a little help from Photoshop.




Scan it right

To access your scanning options through Photoshop, choose File > Import, and then select your scanner. Many people get confused about how to set their scanner software when digitizing black and white line art. There are, however, only two very important settings you need to pay attention to in order to produce optimal scans: image mode and resolution.


Choose an image mode

Most scanner software offers two modes for scanning line art: Line Art (or Black&White) and Grayscale. You’re probably familiar with Grayscale, as it’s an image mode Photoshop also offers. Line Art (Black&White) mode may be a bit obscure, but it’s actually the same thing as Bitmap mode in Photoshop.

You can scan your line art in either mode. However, if you need to do more extensive edits or apply filters, then you need to work in Grayscale mode rather than Bitmap mode.


Set the image size

You should always scan line art at the same resolution of the final output device, maxing out at 1200 ppi (pixels per inch). While you’re probably aghast at the resolution, keep in mind that bitmap images only contain 1 bit of color information per pixel, whereas a grayscale image contains 8 bits per pixel and an RGB image has 24 bits per pixel. Because each pixel in a line art image can’t hold that much information, you need more pixels in order to generate an acceptable image, as shown in Figure B. Refer to Table A to help you choose the optimum resolution for your line art.





Table A:

Optimum resolutions for line art scans

Output device

Device resolution

Optimum scan resolution

Desktop inkjet printer

600 dpi

600 ppi

Desktop laser printer

720 dpi

720 ppi

High resolution laser printer

1200 dpi