Inktail: Preparing Art for Print
In this second part of my series where I am making mistakes in public, I’m getting a coloring book print-ready. I’m using the new-to-me program Affinity Publisher to lay it out, and I am using Affinity Photo to get the hand-drawn art ready for layout. Something I learned last time I did this, with Inktail & Friends, is that it’s not as simple as getting a good scan or photo of the art. What you need is just the black lines, saved with transparency (I’ve been saving to png files).
And again, last time I did this I made a lot of mistakes. I’m hoping to avoid those this time, and wind up with a cleaner product. I was dreading this process, to be honest. That’s part of why it took me four years to get back around to it. The last one was so much work (and honestly not a lot of profit, not like a novel). However, I have dedicated fans and that makes me happy. So again, this is a labor of love!
Here, I have photographed a page from a sketchbook, and imported that into Affinity Photo. You can see the shadow on the page has translated to ‘gray’ in the image. If you were doing this properly, you would ensure that you didn’t have any shadows. I have said I make a lot of mistakes? But don’t worry, it can be done away with. Removing shadows just takes a little longer. Why don’t I scan the art? Well, my current scanner is crap. And I don’t feel like spending the money to replace it. In fact, if you squint at the top of this screenshot, you’ll see that I took this photo with my cell phone (I’ll also note I bought my phone for the high megapixel camera, you couldn’t do this with most cell snaps).
The next thing I’m going to do is eliminate much of that shadow, and get a nice crisp black. I’m going to do this by going to the ‘adjustment’ tab, and then sliding those brightness and contrast bars over to the right – usually about +25 is good, but that’s something which varies. I eyeball it. Doing this allows for a better pixel delineation and when you do the next step, it’s simpler. One thing I usually do here is to merge the photo layer and the adjustment layer, for pixel selection with the selection tool. I’ll also go ahead and create a new layer, and fill that with the bucket tool, in a solid black. This layer goes under the photo layer.
My preference for selecting all the white pixels is to go to the dropdowns at the top of the screen, choose ‘Select’ then ‘select sampled color’ and you will see the box (captured above in screen shot) pop up. Click on the area of photo you want (white space!) and then adjust the tolerance. I found that for my purposes, 20% was usually a sweet spot. You’ll find that if you slide the bead back and forth, the ‘dancing ants’ will move, which may help with the right selection. And you can always ctrl-Z it away if you choose unwisely!
And now that you have what you want selected, hit the delete button. Poof! I like Affinity Photo’s way of doing this better than Photoshop, I don’t have to rasterize and smart object… I just do. What you should see, now, is black on black. This is why we put the black layer under the photo. You won’t see that cleanly, but what it will help with is that gray shadow I pointed out at the beginning.
Now you can see all the flaws. I’ll use an eraser brush to get that white line off to the left side of the image – it’s the edge of the paper. I’ll use select by color again (at most, I’ll have to do it 3-4 times, 1-2 is more common) to eliminate the gray pixels. At this point, I’ll hide or delete the black layer. Sometimes, for images with delicate lines, I’ll duplicate the image layer, and then set the top one to ‘multiply’ to make darker linework. And then I’ll save it as a png file, checking the box to not save any hidden elements.
There are a few ways you can port over your images into Affinity Publisher for layout. I usually just go to ‘file’ then ‘place’ or Ctrl-Shift-M to bring in the images I have cleaned up and saved in their own folder related to this project. Here, I’ve put Inktail sipping tea with Foxglove on a page for coloring, and the other page is the back of the image before, left mostly blank in case of coloring with markers, or, as you can see, as an activity page for the colorist.
I realize most of you will never need this tutorial. However, if you happen to want a nice graphic for a book, and you wind up needing to clean it up? This is not the method you would use for a logo, by the way. That is a vector graphic and it’s a whole ‘nother process. I was very relieved to discover how much simpler and faster this process was than the last time I’d attempted it in Photoshop. I had been planning on digitally re-drawing every single image for this book. Which was a daunting chore.
Inktail, Too! isn’t quite print ready. I have to finish up with the text on ‘back pages’ before it’s ready to be sent off to the POD publisher (I’ll be using KDP Print) and I will be creating a color cover flat for the printed version. Plus a single cover for the ebook version, which will be published on my website for downloading and at-home printing. I’m hoping to have the time to get it done before next week, but if not, then it may be two weeks before I finish up this series. I’m in no hurry – I have a sneaking suspicion that printing and shipping proof copies of projects is waaaay down Amazon’s list right now.