Photoshop Tricks (Part 3)

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Everyone knew that Li’l Bit could speak Spanish, right? ;)

For my post tonight, I’m going to go over how I scan my black and white artwork and clean it up in Photoshop. It’s really basic stuff, and I hate to say it, but there are no tricks in this one that anyone who’s worked with Photoshop for a little while wouldn’t know. Everyone does things a little different, though, so hopefully this will be interesting to people.

I’m going to access my scanner through Photoshop by going up to the top of the screen and selecting File > Import > HP Scan Pro (TWAIN). Mine reads HP Scan Pro, but it should differ based on your scanner. The controls for my scanner now pop up.

Sample Image

I scan my work in at 300 dpi. At some point in the future, I’ll want to get Zip and Li’l Bit in print and I think for color print work, this should work fine, but don’t trust me on that. If you’re planning on printing out your comics, definitely ask around.

For the output I’ll scan my work in using Millions of Colors (24 bit). This may be overkill on my part, I’m going to drop the color information anyway, but I’ve always scanned it in this way and I guess have just grown comfortable with it.

Once I’ve scanned my work in, I’ll crop it down close to the edges using Photoshop’s Crop Tool. This is where I can straighten it out if I’ve scanned it in crooked or anything, like so:

Sample Image

From here I’m going to drop any color we might have picked up from the paper or from the scanner by going up to the top of my screen and selecting Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Now I will start to make those black lines look nice and crisp by going up to the top of the screen and selecting Image > Adjustments > Levels. A dialogue box will popup that looks something like this:

Sample Image

This graph is a representation of all the pixels in the artwork. The lumps on the left are all the dark gray pixels in the image (there are no black pixels yet), the slope that goes all the way to the top on the right, are all the very, very light gray pixels in the artwork. I’m going to slide that little triangle (I’ve put a red arrow pointing to it), from where it started out on the left side to where it is shown here at the start of that lump. This will cause the dark grays in my artwork to become almost black. Once I’ve slid that over, I’ll click OK and this window will close.

At this point, I like to go over my artwork with the Eraser Tool and clean up any dust or smudges. I only worry about the stuff that’s really noticeable. The light smudges or specks will get cleaned up in one second when I go to the top of my screen and select Image > Adjustments > Curves, which brings up this dialogue box.

Sample Image

This is just like the Levels box that we looked at before, but it gives me a little more control over how I manipulate the pixels. Again, the lumps on the left are the black and dark gray pixels, and the slope up on the right are the very light gray pixels. What I am going to do is drag that little handle at the top right over and turn any pixels that are very light gray to pure white. Then I will grab at about the quarter of the way up that curve and pull it down to make all those dark pixels pretty close to black. I’ve put arrows in here showing where I’ve moved stuff.

Sample Image

This will clean the artwork up nicely. Notice how the splotchy light areas from where I’d inked up the shadow are now nice and solid and black.

Like I said at the beginning, there aren’t any tricks to this one. It’s pretty much straight out of the Photoshop manual on working with photos, but hopefully it’s helpful to people, if only because it’s about comics.

3 Responses to “Photoshop Tricks (Part 3)”

  1. Andertoons Says:

    See, now never assume… I don’t do any of that, but I’m gonna have to try it out. Although I scan in a lot of my stuff already gray-shaded…

    Hmmm… Well, more experimenting to play with! Thanks again for all this PS stuff!

  2. Boyboy Says:

    Awesome! It turned out even better than I’d hoped. Lots of little bits of info that will change the way I get things done (especially the Curves part). Thanks a lot!

    To put it in context – I’m just starting out my own webcomic (in Romanian) and everything you’ve explained these past few days helped me out a lot. I’ve got 2 comics done already (excited about that). I was pretty happy with the results but the little things I’ve little learned here will definitely help me get that extra boost in quality. When I launch the site I’ll let you know.

  3. Trade Says:

    Hey Mark, definitely experiment with the Levels and Curves on your artwork. I think you’ll be surprised at how much control you’ll have over the grays, especially with the Curves. Once you identify where each specific gray tone is on that graph, you’ll be able to grab just those tones and lighten or darken them or whatever you need.

    Boyboy, I’m glad to be of help. Starting your own comic is great. When I started this one, I was way excited — and very nervous, but it’s worked out pretty good so far. Definitely, let me know when your site launches so I can check it out.

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