Start with a Scan

"Turn Your Scanned Images Into Artwork"

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Type of Book
Title: Start with a Scan
Author: Janet Ashford and John Odam
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Publication Date: 1996
ISBN: 0-201-88456-9
Price: $34.95

coverStart with a Scan is a visual, step-by-step guide which shows you how to transform raw scanned images into good-looking finished illustrations. The book includes three chapters on the technical basics of scanning. But the bulk of the book is devoted to showing you how to start with a scan of almost anything (a lackluster photo, a clip art engraving, a household object) and use either image-editing or PostScript illustration software to turn it into an original, high-quality piece of art. Each chapter includes color and black-and-white graphics, clearly written text, captions with how-to details, sidebars on special topics, and occasional quotes on related ideas. It is appropriate for either PC or Macintosh users. There are not click and drag instructions for every technique because the authors wanted the book to be applicable for a variety of different software programs, versions, and computers. But there is enough detail that you can translate from the system that the authors are using to others. Photoshop-specific features are referred to quite often, but other image-editing programs include similar functions.
User Level
Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced computer users. Just about anyone could gain from reading this book. Design students and people who are new to the computer graphics field and want to know what can be done with scanning will come away with a wealth of ideas. It is also perfect for experienced designers and illustrators who work with computer graphics every day and are always looking for new ideas and techniques to stimulate their imaginations and broaden their repertoire.

The content of Start with a Scan is organized into 13 chapters. All of the scanned images in this review are from the book and should give you an indication of the richness of the book.

page layoutChapter 1: Getting Started--a general introduction that includes what the book is about and how to use it. The image to the left shows the general format of the book.

Chapter 2: Working with Scanners--discusses different types of scanners as well as digital cameras, still video, and video frame grabbers.

scanning tipsChapter 3: Technical Considerations--gives you excellent advice on planning ahead to make sure you get the best scans based on how the scan will be used. Also gives you information on how to prepare the original; getting it straight; scanning modes; file formats; and handling large originals. The image to the left shows a tip from the book.

silhouetingChapter 4: Editing Scanned Images--explains how to improve image quality, tonal range, and how to correct color balance. Detail is given on histograms; adjusting gamma values; and the methods of color correction. Techniques of crafting quality scans are presented, such as cleanup and repair; getting rid of specks; repairing damage; removing extraneous details; removing backgrounds, sharpening; and eliminating moire patterns. This is an excellent overview of the subject, with just enough information to show you what can be done without overwhelming you with detail. The graphic to the right shows before and after images where the background was removed.

rotated imageChapter 5: Working with Printed Clip Art--sources of printed clip art are provided. You learn how to work with bitmapped images and modify them in a paint program. adding colorCropping, inverting, scaling and other transformations are discussed as well as how to use color wheels and palettes to modify images. Examples of using filters on line art are shown. There is also a whole section on converting bitmaps to PostScript Art which is wonderful and filled with ideas. It discusses: autotracing; adding color; flipping, rotating, and skewing; changing stroke and fill; combining; and modifying scanned art in a page layout program. The image to the right shows a bird icon that was scanned and then rotated to create the design. The image to the right shows you the effect of adding color to a PostScript drawing.

recursive montageChapter 6: Applying Artists' Techniques--shows you how to work from photo line artreferences and create unique images. You learn to use "photoscrap;" create and use traditional drawings; and paint electronically. Line quality, mood and montages are discussed. Examples are: enlarging small images for special effects; creating a montage with blended layers; and creating a recursive montage. The image to the left shows what can be done by taking one image and repeating it at several different sizes in layers, and then overlapping colors. The graphic to the right shows how a scanned photo of a shoe can be traced to produce a line art image and then colored blue.

hand-made textureChapter 7: Creating Textures and Backgrounds--if you thought you knew scanning objectseverything about textures and backgrounds, this chapter will give you some new ideas. Detail is given to scanning textured paper; scanning handmade textures; scanning cloth; applying filters to scanned cloth; scanning objects and using filters on scanned objects; creating PostScript patterns; using photos as textures; and scanning marbled paper. The image to the left shows how a fingerprint can be used in a graphic. The image on the right shows how scanned objects can be used.

Chapter 8: Working with Scanned Photographs--various ways of altering and enhancing deleting elementsscanned photographs are shown. You learn to: fix a photo; delete elements; morph between two photographs; boost color; change color; add color to grayscale photos; create duotones; and add texture. The image on the right shows how elements can be deleted to enhance a photo.

Chapter 9: Transforming Photos into Graphics--how to use bitmapped or PostScript effects onsilk screened look applying filtersphotos is explained. The discussion on bitmap effects includes: creating high-contrast images; posterization; solarization; applying graphic filters; creating montage illustrations; and using transparent layers. The PostScript effects section explains: creating poster-style graphic; creating a silk screened look; and applying custom line screens. The image to the left shows how you can combine an original photo with a version that had a filter applied to it. The graphic to the right shows how a simple scan of a boat can be turned into an image with a silk screened look.

Chapter 10: Creating Type Treatments--discusses type from historical sources and convertingcreating new typefaces scanned letters to PostScript fonts. You learn how to create new typefaces such as an original caps font and how to scan pencil drafts for a new font. The image to the right shows a new "grunge" alphabet that was created by using an X-Acto knife to cut rough half-inch high letters from a sheet of black paper.

Chapter 11: Scanning Real Objects--gives you tips on scanning real objects and polarizing colorsthen turning the images into art. Information is provided on creating a fish print; polarizing colors; posterizing an object scan; and creating a montage of object scans. The image to the left shows a photo of a fish that was produced by polarizing colors.

Chapter 12: Creating 3D Illustrations--creative ideas on extruding scans in 3D. Examples are cityscapegiven of creating beveled edges; extruding a decorative shape; and creating a cityscape from extruded clip art. Scans as texture maps is also explained. The image to the left was created from extruded clip art.

Chapter 13: Multimedia Projects--learn to design for the screen and multimedia. Resolution, screen size, and color depth are looked at. There is a section on creating screens for CD-ROMs; creating graphics for the Web; and creating graphics for animation.

Personal Comments
Start with a Scan is one of my favorite inspirational books. Its large 8-1/2 by 11 inch format makes it easy to read, and it is visually stunning, with each page filled with color images. I especially like the timeless quality of the book. As it is not specific to one program or version, you don't have to run out every year to buy an update when a new version of a program comes out. You can tell the authors love their work and want to share their enthusiasm with others. It truly shows you how to turn scanning into an artform.

Graphics: CorelDraw & Adobe Photoshop
Web Page Editor: Macromedia Dreamweaver
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series