Sunday Mailbag

March 11th, 2007 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I’ve been working on some artwork for a client and have been having a hard time sending pencil drawings of the work to the client so that they can adequately see them before I start on inking and coloring. Do you have any tips on how I can scan the pencil drawings better for my client?

A: I’ve totally replaced the fax machine with scanning and sending jpeg images to clients for approvals. That is pretty much the standard now, and what most clients expect.

Of course you need a scanner, but not a very expensive one. Unless you also use your scanner to scan full color, physical artwork that you then embellish or otherwise edit in PhotoShop or some other imaging program before sending to the client, there is no need for a high end “pre-press” scanner. Those types of scanners are designed for accurate color and extremely high resolutions, specifically as a replacement for the old drum scans for reflective artwork that would then go straight into the magazine’s Quark or similar document for output to the printer. They are VERY expensive, usually many thousands of dollars. Scanning pencils for approval and even line art or tight pencils for eventual digital color does not require a pre-press level scanner.

I have a Microtek Scanmaker 9800XL scanner, which I like a lot. It’s very big, and able to scan a 12 x 17 inch image. That’s useful for my needs, but a typical 8 1/2 x 14 or 8 1/2 x 11 scanner will do the job with a little tiling of scans for larger images.

For pencils the client does not usually need high resolution. I will scan my pencils in at 200 DPI, as a grayscale image. If necessary I will resize the scan to match print size, as at least with magazines many clients will want to drop the image right into their layout and print out the page with text and headers in place for a look at the final composition. I will also go in and play with the levels a bit, so the sketch is very visible and none of the areas are too light or too dark. Usually it’s too light and I will darken it overall. I will then bump up the contrast just a bit to get rid of some of the smudges. Then I save it as a jpeg image at a compression of 6. Even a full page at this resolution and jpeg level is a small file and can easily be e-mailed.

Not too complicated. A quick scan, a little level work and making sure it’s at print size, and off it goes.

Thanks to Matt Lassen for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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