Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 20

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A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 20
StillWorking With Multi-generation Sources


This is the twentieth installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!


Last week, we left off on our script with splitting off copies of our original upscaled scan. Now we're going to apply separate treatments to each of those layers in the hopes of making a script that can prepare our scan for a wide variety of needs (and with the scans themselves having a lot of variation to them). If you have nothing but time you might not script any of this, just use these different techniques on a case by case basis.

First, select the "noise reduction" layer. As you saw last week, this scan is fairly noisy, owing to its origins as some ink on newsprint. Generally, anything you can do to reduce this noise manually also has a negative effect on the areas of detail. But there are some exceptions that'll effect things minimally, in most situations.

We're going to use the filter Surface Blur. Go to Filter-> Noise -> Surface Blur to bring up the dialogue.

Surface Blur is a really powerful tool, but has a pretty simple interface. It spreads a blurriness over the image at the Radius you set, affecting or not affecting varying amounts of contrast, depending on the Threshold. The larger the Radius, the wider the spread of the effect. The lower the Threshold, the more areas it effects.

Play around with the control until you get something that reduces your noise without impacting your details (or not very much, anyway. There's a reason we're working with two layers here). You might find that it helps you to temporarily turn on your Threshold Adjustment layer while you do this, so you can see what the effect will actually be when your file is a bitmap.

Next, still on the same layer. we'll take another counter-intuitive step and use Unsharp Mask on the layer. Treat it normally, just as you would have with previous applications, but be sure to very carefully set the Threshold of the effect so that it's not undoing any of the work you did with the Surface Blur tool!
Now run Surface Blur again. (And unless you live in the future, where computers are much faster, you're probably now getting why I recommended you script all of this. These processor-intensive plugins really eat into your time!)

And here's the result.

As to whether it's really worth it, that depends on how detailed the artwork is you're trying to replicate, and how much of a time crunch you have. I used this because I could-- I just threw it in the script, and when this layer (or a section of this layer) was useful, I used it. And certainly someone looking to do a bunch of work in a hurry while still keeping most detail could do a lot worse than this. But my opinion as to how useful it was definitely changed over time...

Anyway, our second layer is our "Sharpened" layer. We're going to treat it exactly the same as we have other materials in the past, so go ahead and reread the relevant sections from previous installments if you're unsure. The only real caveat is that the very noisy blacks can mean that your sharpening brings out a lot more undesired artifacts than normal, causing that noise to be captured in a way that it wouldn't otherwise.

Okay, now that I'm done sharpening (lightly) my "sharpened" layer, I'm going to select the "cleanup" layer and then turn off the script. The script is done! Now all that's left is our cleanup.

Just like when we discussed cleanup of original artwork, there are a ton of ways to address the basic problems—

1. Strengthening up the solid black areas while 2. Keeping as much detail as possible.

When I'm faced with a page I'm restoring from newsprint, the first thing I do is hold the actual print copy I'm restoring from and scan my eyes across the page, looking for any special areas of interest. Any really tiny fine lines? Any color noise/paper noise that my eye might accidentally read as detail now that I'm looking at it in black and white on a screen? Any splatter or teeny tiny tone or other things that need to be addressed in a special way?

First thing first, I'll use the lasso tool (L) to grab any of these specialty areas, and copy and paste them onto their own layer for safe keeping.

Then I'll start the standard, "Do this on every page" kinds of things. Make a Marquee (M) selection of the entirety of the "outside the panel" section of the page, and fill this with white (G for Paint Bucket tool). Do the same (except filling with black) for any large, Marquee-appropriate black areas. And then, before anything else happens, do some careful analysis of my "noise reduction" layer versus my "sharpened" layer, clicking them on and off, zooming in on various areas and seeing how they compare to each other. 

Then we're going to do something very simple—we're going to take the eraser tool (or make a layer mask and use the same procedure) and erase through the "sharpened" layer to reveal the "noise reduction" layer underneath, to whatever degree that's useful to us, essentially keeping the best of the sharpened layer and getting rid of the worst.

After you've done this, bring up the Burn and Dodge tools and use those to eliminate any remaining amounts of noise you'd like to. (See previous installments for more details on settings, etc).

...and the rest will have to wait for next week!

To download the scan we've been working with, go here and click on "Load Full Resolution File"

Next week: Cleaning up the mess!

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at LivingtheLine.com.


Jeff Seiler said...

Hey, Sean, can I use the Lasso tool (L) to grab any of the comments I post on AMOC that piss people off and then copy and paste them elsewhere, for safekeeping? Just wonderin'.

Keep up the great work. I really enjoy it, even though I understand next to none of it. BTW, my not understanding it is not a failure of your explication; I barely know how to use Word. ;)

Sean R said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jeff! Yeah, I have a tendency to Lasso things in my life and put em away as well. I try to do this for the best things, not the toughest things... but it varies with mood, like everything else :)

Carson Grubaugh said...

I once tried to Ctrl Z real life.

For about two weeks prior I had been doing a project in Photoshop where I was constantly having to undo things, so my left hand was basically hovering in that Ctrl Z claw formation. One day at work, doing picture framing, I made a mistake on a mat and my hand raised into the air in that same position. My co-worker, who was an illustration major, thus very familiar with Adobe products saw it, immediately recognized the hand shape and asked, "Did you just try to Ctrl Z reality?" *lol* "Yeaahhhhh. I have been working in Photoshop a lot lately."

Good times.

Sean R said...

Oh man, I have tried that as well...the weird things production jobs will do to your brain. I remember when I first learned how to use the Pen tool (vector tool) in illustrator, and I found myself "tracing" objects with it in real-life. In traffic, sitting stationary looking at people's faces... and of course when truly immersive tech is finally here it will be a whole other level of mind-fuckery.

Jeff Seiler said...

Do u mean, Sean, that someday we will be able to actually L that @$!hole who cut us off in traffic, or that d&*/\$!g who talks too loudly at the bar about his insider trading?!?


Once again, I say, "You are a genius!"