Scanning in ink drawings as a transparent layer

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Lau, Nov 13, 2008.

  1. Lau Guest

    Does anyone know a quick and simple way to make an ink drawing transparent, like this:


    rather than this:


    If I scan in a pen and ink drawing, I can use Multiply to then colour it underneath, but this still leaves the file as non-transparent.

    I'm basically looking for something a bit like "Ignore all white" in Illustrator – is there a way to say "Make all white transparent" in Photoshop, leaving the black lines intact?

    They're complex drawings so manually selecting parts is impractical, and wand selection tends to bugger up the edges of the drawing.

    Any tips or suggestions appreciated, thanks. :)
  2. MacDawg macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    I'm at work and not on my Mac, but doesn't GraphicConverter let you manually select a color value to be transparent globally? I've never done it, but I seem to recall the option. Or maybe I just made it up. :eek:

    Woof, Woof – Dawg [​IMG]
  3. Lau thread starter Guest

    I didn't think I had Graphic Converter, but I do! I think I got it as part of a software bundle. I'll have a google and a nose around, thanks for the suggestion, MacDawg. Photoshop would be ideal, but I'll take what I can get. ;)
  4. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Nov 6, 2006
    Norfolk, UK
    This should work but it depends on how complex the lines are and may need a little tweaking of the 'fuzziness' in some cases

    (Note on windows at the moment) Ensure the drawing is a new layer (ie not the background one)
    go to
    select: colour range
    select the white (adjust fuzziness if needed) and click ok
    delete white and this should leave just the pen drawing with the rest transparent

    Theres other ways no doubt but thats the first way that popped into my head.
  5. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    ^ Yep, I would just add to scan at 1200-1800ppi to keep that line crispness. Try messing with your scanner software to see if you can scan as a bitmap, with some possible flexibility over the clipping point between black and white (depending on your scanner), converting it to greyscale to work on once in Photoshop. That will help with the selection fuzziness issue. :)
  6. Lau thread starter Guest

    Now, for some reason I'd never got that to work properly in the past (there had been white bits showing through or the edges were dodgy) but it works an absolute treat on the drawing I just tried. Thanks LeviG!

    BV, I'd always scanned as a greyscale (as bitmap seemed a bit too contrasty) but I'll see what it can do in the labyrinthine settings.

    Thanks all, that's going to make things a hell of a lot easier.
  7. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    Oh, I just assumed it was pen work, where all you might want is black and white. :eek:
  8. Lau thread starter Guest

    Actually, it's not working quite as well as I hoped, as I am officially a tit and had left it on multiply. :eek: :eek: :eek:

    Here's it with the colour range selected (which is nearly there, but there is some white):

    Picture 4.png

    but the effect I really want is this:

    Picture 5.png

    (The background is just to show it.)

    I suppose what I really want is the effect of having drawn it on transparent film, so when I haven't pressed down as hard with the pen and it's gone a bit greyer, that's more transparent black rather than grey.

    BV, it is pen and ink, and although I do want it to be black and white and contrasty, I still want the variations in transparency and the line, if that makes any sense. I'll try rescanning it as a bitmap though, I may have to sacrfice that, I think.
  9. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    The thing is, for working flexibility, I'd probably do it with a mask after making your selection, rather than cutting all the white out. Work in greyscale; it sounds like you want to keep some grey pixels in there that are transparent.
  10. Lau thread starter Guest

    Actually, with a bit of playing around with your bitmap settings and scanning it ludicrously hi-res, it works a treat! I'll try a mask though, that's a good idea, thanks.

    Thanks all. :)

    (and my toasted cheese is ready, happy day :D)

    Attached Files:

  11. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    Hi-res is the shiz for scanning illustrations. None of this 300ppi weak-sauce nonsense. :D
  12. Lau thread starter Guest

    Yeah, If I'd just looked at the settings I might have realised this. :rolleyes:

    Picture 7.png

  13. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007
    What you effectively want to do here is make a density mask, the old fashioned way.

    Assuming your mode in PS is grayscale (if it is still in RGB from the scanner, change it to Grayscale):

    1. Go to your channels palette. You should see just one channel, named 'Gray'.

    2. Drag and drop this channel onto the 'New Channel' button at the bottom of the Channels pallette (looks like a page with a folded corner). This will duplicate the Gray channel. Why? I hear you ask. So that you can preserve the densities of your original channel, with all its subtle blacks and grays, etc.

    3. Working on the new channel only (which will be called 'Gray copy'), hit Apple-M on the keyboard to bring up the curves pallette (or go to Image>Adjustments>Curves via the menus). In the curves palette you will see a square grid with a diagonal line.

    4. Grab the top right point of the diagonal line and slowly move it to the left whilst keeping it at the top of the square grid. This will shift all of the densities of the image up in equal proportion. Do this until you are satisfied that you have changed most of the grays to black. The trick here is to do as much as necessary to capture all the densities you want, without destroying the outer edge by making it too hard. Click OK when you are satisfied.

    5. If there are any 'holes' within your new channel that you want to fill in, i.e. to capture any lightly shaded areas, then fill them in with a solid black brush.

    6. Still working on the 'Gray copy' channel only, hit Apple-I on the keyboard. This will invert the image.

    7. Hold down the Apple Key and using your mouse click on the icon of the new channel in the Channels pallette. This will make a selection of the channel (active dotted line).

    8. Now click back on your original Gray channel, the one with your undisturbed image in. Now just do Apple-C, Apple-V (copy and paste).

    9. Go to your layers pallette. You will see a new layer with your newly transparent drawing inside it. Turn off the old 'background' layer underneath.

    Sounds long winded, but once you get the trick you'll be doing it in seconds. You can also make density masks for RGB or CMYK images using broadly the same method, just choosing the darkest channel as the basis of your mask.
  14. Kwill macrumors 68000


    Mar 10, 2003
    Steps 2 through 10 from "Rasterized Smart Object" can be recorded as a Photoshop Action.

    1. Select all and copy.
    2. Paste into a new channel using the channels palette.
    3. Deselect and invert so that background is black (Cmd-I).*
    4. Make a selection from the channel (Cmd-click thumbnail).
    5. Create a new layer.
    6. Mix desired color [black] in Color Picker. (Kbd=D)
    7. Fill the selection with that color (Opt-delete).
    8. Delete "Background" layer.
    9. Delete Alpha channel.
    You can revert to saved after recording the Action and close the file (so it won't be applied twice). With all scans in the same folder, select File: Automate: Batch. The last named (or selected) Action is filled in by default. Browse to the scan folder for the Source. Browse or create a new folder as the Destination. Press OK and all your sad faces will become happy faces. :)
  15. Lau thread starter Guest

    Thanks covisio and Kwill – they're both along similar lines and both seem to work really well. I suppose it's better to lose a bit of detail when you do the selection than do it the way I was doing before and have bits of white left in where the detail was.

    Everyone's been really helpful, thanks. :)

    Attached Files:

  16. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Mar 10, 2005
    Image: Select Color Range

    Select white

    Adjust the threshold until you have all the white you want

    Then create a layer mask on that layer, hiding all elements of white in it. Problem solved.
  17. MacBoobsPro macrumors 603


    Jan 10, 2006
    An alpha channel should keep the 'furry' edges when saved as a tiff or PSD.

    I would personally trace it in illustrator as the 'furryness' is neglible.

    A third option would be to save it as a PNG. But bear in mind a PNG only works in RGB mode.

    EDIT: DOH!!!! I reread your post. :rolleyes: I see you're importing not exporting. Magic Wand should be easy enough. Highlight all the black with the wand (or use Color Range) then press Apple + Shift + j and it will cut the highlighted stuff onto a new layer. Then just delete the original layer. Thats a quick and easy way to do it.
  18. Yr Blues macrumors 68020

    Jan 14, 2008
    Depending on how you use it, you might want to try the transparency effects in Illustrator or Indesign once you scanned in your drawing.

Share This Page