Rachel’s Five Rules of Scanning

Rachel's Scanning Rules After I wrote my tutorial on how to clean up line-work, it occurred to me that I should talk a little about scanning. I didn’t have space to do it in the linework tutorial, but I do have a few thoughts on scanning. Here’s some advice from someone who scans a lot both for my hobbies and for my job where I usually am the one digitizing historical materials.

Scan in High Resolution.

When I was first learning how to cut wood, I was taught- You can make a piece of wood shorter, but you can’t make it longer. In other words, cut a little bigger if you have to choose. Since slicing off an inch is easier than realizing you’re short an inch.

You can always reduce the resolution of an image, but increasing it will result in loss of clarity.

Resolution is something people seem to get confused about, so let me try to explain. Resolution is always measured by the number of dots per one linear inch (in the US, other places use the centimeter). This is shortened to DPI (Dots Per Inch) for as most printers or Pixels Per Inch (PPI) for digital media.

No matter how high PPI (Pixels Per Inch) your image is, the internet has a resolution of 72 PPI. Meaning, if you create an image that is 200 PPI and measures two inches tall, when you post it on the internet it will appear to be 5.5 inches tall. ((22 PPI * 2)/72PPI = 5.5)

Some professionals work as high as 1200 DPI, but I think that’s a bit much. Bare in mind that professional publications are usually printed between 300 and 400 dpi.

Choose your File Format Carefully.

There are many digital file types. I’m going to talk about a few common ones here.

“JPEG” stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group- a fact mostly useful to show off your knowledge, but won’t really matter much. It is sometimes also called a .jpg or a jpeg. JPEGs are always compressed files. JPEG is designed for compressing either full-color (24 bit) or grey-scale digital images of complicated real world images (photographs). It is a great format when there is subtle color change in an image, but using a high compression rate can result in loss of quality.

“GIF” stands for Graphics Interface Format. It is an 8 bit format meaning that maximum number of colors supported is 256. GIFs are always compressed and rarely used these days.

“PNG” stands for Portable Network Graphics format. This was an updated version of the “GIF” format and literally supports millions of colors. It is the format I usually use for my web posts as it tends to compress to a small size without loss of detail and my paper dolls are full color without a lot of subtle shades. PNG has largely replaced GIF on the internet.

“TIFF” stands for Tagged Image File Format. TIFF was originally designed for scanners as a universally acceptable format in a time when scanning companies all had different formats they were using. TIFF images are not compressed as a default setting. This is the preferred format for archival scanning, because there is no compression. However, the lack of compression results in very large sized files. Therefore, TIFF files are rarely posted or shared on the internet or printed from. TIFF files can handle bi-level (black and white), grayscale, palette-color and RGB full-color images.

When I scan, I scan at 600 dpi as an uncompressed TIFF files in greyscale, since I work in black and white.

Save your raw files.

I call my rough scans “raw files”. Theses are my 600dpi uncompressed TIFF files, usually in greyscale. They are very large files.

I keep them in a folder called “Raw Files” it contains all the raw scans dating back a long long way. Sometimes, you have to go back to the very beginning, so keep a copy of the unaltered scan in case you need it.

Hopefully you won’t, but if you do than you’ve got it. I have only had to go back to these files once or twice over the years, but I have been grateful I had them if I needed them. (Usually, because I accidentally deleted something.)

Know you Scanner and Choose it Well.

I have used HP scanners, Epson scanners and Canon scanners. They are all a little different. Learn your scanner settings. Read the manual. Get comfortable using it.

If you are scanning full color art work, than carefully check how many colors the scanner can read. A colored pencil drawing, for example, can literally have millions of subtle shades. If your scans are coming out poorly, than is it your scanner? Your scan settings? Or can your scanner just not handle the color depth.

I don’t own an expensive scanner. I use an all in one printer with a cheap scanning bed. I work in black and white, so I don’t worry about color loss. If you do worry about color loss, invest in a good quality scanner. If you do invest in a good scanner, avoid letting it get bumped or knocked around.

Prep your Image.

Before I scan, I erase all my line-work carefully, than I correct any problems I see.

I stick a piece of white paper between my sketchbook page and the next page, so the image on the page behind won’t bleed through.

These things make sure my scan comes out pretty good the first time. Re-scanning at the high resolution I want in takes time and I don’t always have that time.

So, these are my rules of scanning. What are your rules? Anything important that I missed? Let me know in a comment.

How I Clean up Black and White Linework

Today, I am please to present a tutorial on how I prep my scanned line work for paper doll sets. I was asked some questions about this by Bethany, who shows off her paper dolls on her Pinterest board.

In this tutorial, I will show you how I clean up linework from a rough scan to an image with only black & white. I don’t know if this is a perfect set of instructions, but I have done my best to encapsulate the process I use.

Before you begin, you will need your scanned linework. I scan at 600 DPI, but other people scan at other things and that’s okay. Load your scan into your version of Photoshop. I use CS5 and CS3, because I am quirky.

Ready? Okay… let’s do this.

Step 1: This is Your Scan.

In the image above you can see my 600 DPI Tiff that I have opened in Photoshop. My scanning bed is just a little too small to fit my 9 by 12 sketchbooks, so normally I scan in two parts and then join those parts using Photoshop’s automated picture combine features. In the end, this is what the scan looks like right before I am ready to start cleaning it up. As you can see, this is for a majorette set for Marisole Monday & Friends.

Now… let’s get ready to mess with it.

More Below!

How I color my paper dolls…

The number one question I get is- How do you color your paper dolls?

And my usual answer is- Photoshop and the BPelt filter.

Still, I keep getting the question, so clearly that answer does not satisfy.

So, this post aims to illustrate the steps that go into the average paper dolls coloring and to answer questions I get about the process I use to make paper dolls. In other words, this is how I color paper dolls. Hopefully, you’ll find some of it interesting and useful, or at least fun to look at.

I’ve tried to include everything someone would need to copy the way I do things, but I’ve been doing this for a long time and I might forget to say something important. So, bear with me as I try to show how I do things with lots of screen captures and a sneak peek of Coastal Princess’s colors.


1. You already have Photoshop (I use CS3, but others will work) and you have installed the BPelt Flatting Plugin for Photoshop, available here for free.

2. You have an image you’ve scanned and cleaned up that you want to color. That image must contain only black and white. If there is ANY other color in the image, this process won’t work.

So, armed with an image saved in black and white, we begin the epic battle with the world of coloring paper dolls… Fortunately, short of paper cuts, we should be okay.

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How to Draw a Shirt for a Paper Doll

Marisole paper doll template I think I’m grossly unqualified to be writing this post.

I don’t have any formal art training after high-school. In fact, I think of myself as an avid doodler more than I think of myself as an artist, but I’ve had a few requests for thoughts on drawing clothes for paper dolls, so I am going to try to offer a tiny tutorial on how I draw.

I encourage people to draw their own clothing for the paper dolls. That is how I learned to draw by drawing for my own paper dolls and those my mother drew for me. I think the best way to learn is to do it over and over again. I have some of my old paper dolls from high school… perhaps I shall post them for people to see my early works.

If you want to learn how I draw a t-shirt, the post continues below. I don’t normally do that, but this ended up LONG, mostly due to the photos. Speaking of the photos, I am really bad at them… so, please forgive the remarkably poor iPhone pics.

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How to Make a Stand for Any of the Paper Dolls

For this to work, the doll has to be printed on card-stock or been glued to some. It won’t work if the doll is just made of flimsy paper. I used Florence to demonstrate this method, but it will work with any of the paper dolls that have bases.

Sorry about the image quality. I only have an iphone for picture taking and I know it’s not ideal.

Cut out the paper doll and place her on top of a spare strip of card stock, at least three or five inches wide. Carefully draw a line in a curved line down from the doll to the bottom of the card stock. I recommend doing this in pencil. I did it in bright red pen so it was visible.

So, after you cut out the stand, it should look like this. Draw a line a quarter inch in to make the tab to glue to the back of the doll. I’ve drawn the red line where I would fold back this tab.

Fold back the tab and then glue it to the back of the doll. Double sided tape would also work fine, I think, but I always used glue.

And now the paper doll can stand on her own.

Magnetic Paper Dolls

Magnetic Paper Dolls

I have become fairly addicted to the idea of magnetic paper dolls, so my first ever tutorial for the blog is about how to make magnetic paper dolls with a set of images I created for the purpose. I used to dismiss magnetic paper dolls as the misbegotten children of paper paper dolls, but I promised a friend I would make her some magnetic paper dolls.

She came to visit and while we were hanging out watching a movie (and I was drawing for the blog), she commented how when she had a school library of her own, she wanted to have a set of the Marisole paper dolls that would be magnetic for the children to play with. This got me thinking about magnetic paper dolls in a different way. How hard would it be, I wondered, to turn Marisole magnetic.

Well, since she just got her first job as a school librarian (Yay!), I gave her the in-progress set when I saw her last. She loved them, but was worried that the kids might ruin them. I said I would post the PDF’s of the images on the blog, along with directions so that she could print out new ones if she needed too. Of course, it took longer then expected.

Anyway, here are magnetic versions of Marisole (Pixie magnetic paper dolls are forthcoming). Enjoy them and I would love the hear for anyone if actual children like them. They managed to entertain me for a lot longer then I should admit in public, but I don’t have any readily available children to test them out on.

You can expect to see future editions to these as I convert old sets to the right size and remove their tabs. Enjoy.

{The Directions to Make Magnetic Paper Dolls}