The Glories of Antiquated Technology

As the result of a fabulous consultation with Lucy Ruth Cummins of Simon & Schuster last April, I have been, oh so slowly, coming up with more black and white samples aimed at interior illustration for children’s books. Not picture books, as those are usually in full color, but middle-grade to young adult novels. Ms. Cummins also suggested that I concentrate on animals. No problem, says I, and off I went to create new, amazing samples in glorious black and white.

But that’s not what this post is about.

The first scan @ 600 dpi on the HP. This probably has not had any tweaking in Photoshop.

In my first few posts I made mention of the difficulty of scanning black colored pencil. My scanner (an HP Photosmart All-in-One thingy) simply refused to see the lighter grays, so a lot of the subtlety of my drawings got blown out. My wife’s scanner is a newer version of mine and even though it can see more gray tones, it still knocks out the lighter stuff. And to make matters worse, my art work is often on paper larger than 8.5×11. Look at your scanner. See how the glass is lower than frame? Imagine trying to get a good scan from a 9×12 piece of stiff watercolor paper.

Now the solution to all of this is very simple. Get a good, legal sized, flatbed scanner. Unfortunately, my budget will not allow that.

So what’s a boy to do? Call on his geeky friends.

That’s what.

One such friend of mine used to run a large format digital print shop. When I told him of my problem, he said “I probably can’t help you. The scanner I’ve got has a SCSI cable. It won’t hook up to your new machine.”

Ah, but I have an old G4 Macintosh that I was thinking of scrapping. Not any more. The new (old) scanner was easy to install. The AGFA website still had downloadable drivers and manuals. In minutes I was up and running. And the results? Holy dpi, Batman! That thing works! And it’s flat. I’ve draped 12×14 art work over that thing and stitched it up in Photoshop. No problem.

The scan on the left is from the HP scanner at 600 dpi. I think I went back into the original art and darkened things up and boosted the contrast in Photoshop. The one on the right is from the AGFA scanner. It’s a 16 bit file at 450 dpi. It is HUGE. I don’t remember if I bumped the contrast on this one or not.

A close-up from the second HP scan. Note all the blown out white areas.

The same close-up from the AGFA scan. Hopefully you can see some sketchy lines in the light area under his jaw line. That’s my under drawing. My original layout scribbles.

I’m sure there are scanners out there now that will hold this kind of detail, and there’s no way I could have afforded the AGFA when it was new. But that can’t stop me from singing the praises of a piece of antiquated technology that not only works, but rocks.