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I am looking for suggestions on a convenient solution for the following workflow.

  • Scan a hand-drawn panel

    enter image description here

  • Fix and retouch drawing errors (using a small set of simple brushes)

  • Separate elements into layers (using the Magic Wand or manual lasso tools)

    enter image description here

  • Colorize elements (I can create the textures outside the app though, this is not a priority)

  • Add lettering - I currently do the letters by hand, and combine them with a hand-drawn box from a pre-arranged collection.

    enter image description here

All this, of course, in very high resolution and with the end goal of printing.

A very nice bonus would be a well designed organizing solution for the isolated elements, like a library. Integrated versioning (with the possibility of creating quick snapshots of various stages) would be sweet, but it's totally not a requirement.

I am currently doing this with a bitmap editing program from the Corel range. It works well, but it wasn't designed for this kind of job and these kinds of bitmap sizes.

Products I'm considering:

  • An older version of Photoshop, like 6 or CS1 (a new one would break my budget)
  • Xara Designer which is promising integrated bitmap and vector editing - I'm planning to give this one a test run, it has a free trial

Products I have ruled out (but I'm open to changing my mind):

  • GIMP because it's still weak on the print production side of things

Is there any other professional software around that can help me with this? Does anybody know actual, high-quality applications specialized in comic production?

I'm on a tight budget, but I'm willing to spend some money.

I personally need a Windows solution, but for the sake of making this a useful question to others, suggestions for all platforms are welcome.

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Regarding print production and GIMP: you don't need to worry about print production when creating the images. As long as you have the target DPI & size ratios, and output copies of the finals in a non-proprietary format (such as TIFF or EPS). –  horatio May 3 '11 at 14:55
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The main tip I would give has nothing to do with the software actually. It is simply to scan in black-white bitmap mode. That's where there are absolutely no shades of grey in the image; all of the pixels are either pure white or completely black. Assuming you're scanning at a very high resolution, the aliasing won't be apparent and the lines will be smoothed out if/when you downscale the image later.

The reason for this is because it makes selecting lines and empty areas of the image so much simpler. This will make every other step of the production process much easier. Using the magic wand to select areas becomes trivial, using the fill bucket to fill large areas of color becomes trivial, etc.

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Thanks, why didn't I think of this myself! This has the potential to save me a lot of hassle. I will try it out (and scan with a considerably higher resolution than 300dpi). –  Pekka 웃 Apr 30 '11 at 17:46
    
The old rule of thumb for minimum size for line art (black only) was 1200dpi –  horatio May 3 '11 at 14:50
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A few things to explore:

1) A more modern version of Photoshop that includes the smart object feature (yea, expensive)

2) A recent version of Fireworks that includes the library tools (typically used for wireframing). The advantage, IMHO, of FW could be the fact that you can build scalable library elements that don't distort the line quality upon resize. Plus there's a lot of vector support in FW.

3) An actual wireframing application.

I also have to assume someone, somewhere has created software specifically for comic book production workflows, but I'm not familiar with that industry. (This sounds like a great app for an iPad, btw)

Also, bonus points of hand lettering all the text! Nice!

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Good input! I may have to look into Fireworks. Smart objects look interesting, too - I may be able to get hold of a CS2. Re lettering, thanks! I'm still experimenting with the best way of achieving a natural flow and still keeping it on a straight base line - it's going to be one combination of pen and letter size that does it. –  Pekka 웃 Apr 30 '11 at 16:23
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