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< Piro >

color layering with markers...

"A scanner colorful"

Saturday - March 8, 2008

[Piro] - 09:51:02 - [link here]

When i started to dive back into coloring, i once again ended up feeling most comfortable with and finding the best results using COPIC markers. For some reason, i just get a color depth and feel that really feels better than my digital coloring efforts. Granted, there is a learning curve to digital coloring, but it's not coming very naturaly for me. I recently purchased a HP PhotoSmart Pro B9180 printer (a higher end printer targeted at photographers and fine art printing - uses pigment inks and prints on fine art paper and canvas, archival up to 200 years) and with this new higher output device, i've been doing some experimenting. We're planning to sell prints in the near future - prints that show the kind of detail and subtlety in my work that you just don't see on the web or even in the books - but one unexpected benefit of the higher end printer is that it really opens things up for me to do more COPIC coloring.

One problem with COPICs is that they smear pencil lines, so i can't color original sketches. The usual way to deal with this is ink your drawings on new paper and color those. Well, i've never been much of an inker, and inking for me loses a lot of the drawing feel. After i started experimenting with my COPIC markers, i came up with the idea of scanning my drawings and printing them on good paper and seeing if the markers smeared the printer ink. To my surprise (and delight) it doesn't. :) The biggest limitation with this method was the resolution of the printer - by the time you printed your drawing out, Colored it, then scanned it, there was a real loss in line quality that hampered the quality of the colored images.

When i started struggling once again with digital coloring (i know it's a question of learning things and setting things up right, but I'm still a ways from being there) it dawned on me that maybe i could print out this high rez scans with this new printer and see if the COPIC markers smeared that pigment ink. Once again to my extreme delight, i found that they did not.

So, i sat down and fiddled around with coloring. As expected, i was a hella lot happier with my COPIC colorings than i was with my digital efforts. Of course, the final product, so to speak, will not be a completed COPIC image - There are some things i want to do in photoshop. The backgrounds, for instance, will require some digital shmukshing, so in the end the final image will be a digital creature... but a good chunk of the image will be from analogue sources... which i think is a perfectly valid way of working, if you can make it actually work.

By getting the new printer, i significantly strengthened that link in the workflow - the poor image quality that i was coloring. What that did, however, was expose another weak link in my analogue-digital-analogue-digital workflow: the scanner.

Now, for years, i've been using a Canon CanoScan LiDE 35 scanner - portable, does a fine job with greyscale scans, resolution is fine, etc. At one point i had purchased a CanoScan 8000F scanner, a much bigger beast that had better resolution and transparency adapters... but since desk space in the past was at a real premium, i ended up switching back to the smaller scanner and the 8000F has been sitting on a shelf.

The real weaknesses of the LiDE 35 became real apparent when i tried to scan the COPIC colored image back into the digital realm. The first scans looked... off. They really did. You could see strokes in the scan that were much better blended in the original. Not really wanting to go out and buy a new scanner unless i had to, i broke out my 8000F and tested it to see if i got better results.

Oh ya. Better. Much better.

I took some screenshots to show the general differences. Note that the linework in these images is what was printed on (rather inexpensive) Kodak Premium Matt Photo Paper, so these scans are once removed from the original source (and still look pretty good, imho) This screenshot shows the difference between a 24 bit 1200 DPI scan on the LiDE 35 and a 48 bit 1200 DPI scan on the 8000F. Pretty visible difference, isn't it? To get more of a apples to apples comparison, you can look at this screenshot which shows the difference between 48 bit depth 1200 dpi scans on each scanner. The most noticeable thing for me is that the 8000F is way, way more accurate with the color capture. Here's a zoomed out view of the last two scans, which give a better overview of the color differences. And just for fun, here's a screenshot of the Erika image and the Miho image, just to give a little more sense of what they look like overall.

Of course, the real test is to turn around and print the scan out on the same paper and compare them. The print from the 8000 DPI scan is very, very close, and looks really good. You can really see the difference between the original and the print when scanned from the LiDE 35.

Now, i'm sure that real pros who do high end fine art printing are already having heart palpitations if they are reading this. They would probably blanch if they looked at them and saw all the glaring differences... but as the 'artist' who did it, i think my opinion on how the reproduction looks compared to my original has some weight. :P

Now the thing i'm going to turn to is building some better brushes for my digital hatching. I've been doing some reading and learning a bit more about brushes. The trick to using photoshop, i think, is really setting things up right, and that takes some experimenting.

< Dom >

Thanks, old man, and I (roll) hope you rest well.

"Passing Into Legend"

Wednesday - March 5, 2008

[Dom] - 17:17:44 - [link here]

It would be a serious blow to my status as a geek if I let another day go by without saying my piece about the passing of Gary Gygax, the grandpappy of Dungeons and Dragons and a huge influence on the geek generation. After all, if it hadn't been for my discovery of some old AD&D books at a garage sale when I was a kid, I probably wouldn't be here today, a veritable paragon of geekdom. I'd probably be... well, I'd probably still be a geek, but I certainly wouldn't have the rich memories provided by almost 20 years of social gaming.

I got into this hobby early - my cousin Hai can probably tell you when, but he introduced me to D&D at a very young age - I think I was 8 or 9 at the time (imagine that! Other people had the same books as me!). I spent hours poring over those books trying to figure out the arcane rules, and when I figured them out enough to start making my own characters, it was like a flood gate opened - my notebooks filled up with notes on what I could do with new characters, or how I could best emulate my favorite fantasy characters in D&D form.

My first real friends (I know a lot of people who know me now will be shocked by this, but I was a really shy kid and didn't like talking to people) were fellow D&D fans too - we would pull out our beaten-up notebooks at recess and play for 20 minutes at a time, and then on the weekends our parents would help us meet and we'd play even more, resorting to the flashlights when bedtime came around and scuttling back under the blankets whenever our moms would check up on us.

I remember in 7th grade, we had a project in school to write letters to famous people, and I chose to write to R.A. Salvatore. What did I ask him? About how his books worked in D&D.

I remember almost every detail of those letters clearly, from how he answered my numbered list of nitpicky questions with an identically numbered list of clear, simple answers to how he complimented the 12-year-old version of myself for my writing skill. I remember him telling me to stop sweating the little details of the rules and start thinking like a writer. I still have those letters around the house somewhere, and I should probably pull them out to remind myself of where I came from.

That's only one of a thousand D&D stories I have - stories that may have still happened without E. Gary Gygax's rambling, often cryptically organized books, but ones which were certainly enriched by the wonderful game he helped create.

I'm Dungeon Mastering two games this weekend, and each game is going to start with my players pouring out a can of Mountain Dew (or Rock Star, or Jolt, or whatever) for our dead homey, the one who made some of our best memories possible.

I'd like to hear the stories of how D&D helped shape you, too - I've spent the better part of the last two days reading people's anecdotes of how D&D changed their lives, and I could stand to spend another few days reading your mail and sharing old war stories with you.

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