My friend is an illustrator and has lot of sketches that she wants to digitize to put online. She is also working on a children's book.

How should she scan the images and what are some beginner steps that she can take to clean them up once digitized? I'm guessing the clean-up will be necessary just from the scanning process.

4 Answers 4


Are they line drawings or shaded drawings? If they're line drawings, the most common method is to scan as Black and White, trace the artwork using the pen tool (or freehand strokes with a brush) on a different layer, and work from there.

If it's shaded drawings, she should consider scanning either as greyscale (for black and white drawings) or full color (for color shaded drawings) and go from there. Depending on her comfort level with Photoshop / Illustrator, she could do her shading in Photoshop or Illustrator (multiple tutorials exist online for this).

Keep in mind that photocopy-invisible blue pencils ("no-repro blue") will often be picked up in a greyscale scan, so if that's a technique she uses prior to inking the blue lines may still show up.


As mentioned above, there are a some things to take into consideration before scanning. Are they just line art? or are they shaded? or are they in color?

Line art = Scan as black and white

Shaded = Scan as greyscale or color then desaturate in Photoshop

Color = Scan in color

I try to always scan at 300dpi that way if you need it for print later, you don't have to rescan. You can always export it for web @ 72dpi.

If you scan it in Black and white or greyscale, bring it into photoshop and adjust the brightness and contrast (usually bump up both a little) and it will help to make the background completely white w/ no paper texture/fiber/etc. This way you can easily drop it onto a background by setting the inking properties of that layer to multiply.

  • 1
    +1, but I would bump up that 300 dpi recommendation to 600 dpi. Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 17:39
  • If there is particularly fine detail I would even bump it as far as 1200dpi for the initial scan, especialy if B/W
    – Jon P
    Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 4:51

Using Photoshop this usually does the trick:

  1. Scan in RGB or Grayscale whatever you prefer and also depending on the sketches

  2. Paper won't be completely white and you may have non-sharp edges of your sketches. Use either Image > Adjustments > Levels or Image > Adjustments > Curves.

  3. Adjust to desired result (make sure you'll look at 100% crop instead of zoomed out image)

For beginners Levels will be easier to work with than Curves. Working on a histogram with linear tool like levels is is easier to handle.


If they're line drawings, you should convert them to Greyscale, and Posterize them. Next, trace over them with a pen (I'd use Vector Graphics here), and then add a few gradients to shade the image again. If you're doing something more complicated, convert it to a Raster image, then mess with it further.

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