Tips for scanning drawings into photoshop


HI, I’m having trouble scanning in my sketches/drawing into photoshop and getting it looking nice and clean. If anyone can give me some tips on how to better prepare my sketches for scanning and clean them up in photoshop in order to get nice line art and paint digitally that would be great :slight_smile:


There are a lot of tutorials on this out there. Take a look:


Hello there!

I’m not an expert but I suggest you just play with the levels, curves, brightness, contrast of the image you’ve just scanned in Photoshop for you to have a nice and clean lineart.



That depends on what kind of problem you are having.

Are you drawing with vine charcoal on newsprint? Then stop smudging your drawings with your wrist while you draw. :wink:

I’m going to disagree with Primordialmonkey. Yes, you will end up using levels (etc) in Photoshop after the scan, but that’s best done after getting a good scan and the place to do that is at the scanner. Use the “pro” version/setting of the scanner software. Use the levels/curves/whatever tools in the scanner software. Set white and black points. If your paper isn’t perfectly flat, it will scan at different shades; put something heavy on the scanner lid or directly on the art to hold it flat.

I have a lot of trouble with the light in the scanner making the paper self shadow so the darkest paper can be darker than the lightest pencil. Don’t know a good fix for that. Just came up with an idea but don’t have a scanner handy.

If you are scanning ink, check your scanner software for a “document” setting rather than “photo”. That can be helpful for pushing the drawing forward and letting the paper turn plain white. But it won’’t pick up subtle shading.

Then, when you get to Photoshop…

One simple technique that I like is to duplicate the layer (that the scan is on) and set its blend mode to overlay. This is good for darkening the drawing and lightening the paper.

Getting fancier: A general idea is to keep an original layer with the scan on it, then abuse a copy of the scan not to look good, but to make a good mask. The mask can then be used for visibility on the original layer (over a plain white background) or as a mask for adjustments (probably the curves adjustment layer, but every drawing can present a new opportunity). What kind of abuse? Whatever makes the desirable parts of the scan differentiate from the undesirable parts. Things I have used: levels for extreme contrast, the HSB (I forget its real name) filter because sometimes you draw in blue on yellow paper so the hue channel makes the perfect mask. Sometimes I use unsharp very strong to make a halo around the good art and then use paint bucket to fill the background. Sometimes a little bit of blur before the unsharp to destroy grain. Sometimes I crank the saturation to max; this seems like it should be the same as HSB’s saturation channel, but I feel like it isn’t quite, but that might just be because it looks different.

Sometimes you just have to deal with different parts of a scan at separate times. If an image has very light and very dark parts, then curves will work across the whole range so the light parts move with the lightest parts. If you isolate the light and lightest parts then contrast moves work better because the light part is dark relative to the lightest.

Sometimes I’ll just duplicate the scan layer and put a curves on each layer. One layer deals with “zone A” on the image and the other deals with “zone B”. Then use a mask to blend B over A. Sometimes a simple gradient mask works just fine, sometimes hand paint and blur the heck works. How you mask depends on the nature of the underlying problem.

Sometimes you just have to mask something by hand but the first time I spent six hours fixing the first of 30 scans this way I decided there had to be better ways. “Yeah, could you get that portfolio done by next Tuesday?” “You mean Tuesday next year?” “No.” “Oh…” If you are going to have to do hand work, I recommend scanning at a higher resolution than you need. That lets you be more sloppy (faster) in your hand work because it averages out when you resample down for the final image.

Repeat first advice : Use the scanner program to get the best scan you can before worrying about how to fix the scan in PShop.

New second advice : Practice. Try different things. Keep getting better.