Art: Digitizing Pencil/Pen Line Drawings - ART for Worldbuilding

Are you doing Inktober or another version of art practice this month? What if your art could be used for your world building?   If you like to draw on paper like I do, how do you transform that art from yellowish photo version to usable art? Let me show you how I do it. The techniques I use are general enough to use with many programs and should give you a jumping off point.    

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What You'll Need

To draw this piece, I used a mechanical pencil, white polymer eraser (s), paper/drawing book, and a waterproof pen. An opaque white pen can be handy for corrections or highlights.   When I digitize art, I use either my phone's camera or my family's printer/scanner. Today we'll talk about using our phone or a digital camera.   Graphics software - I use Affinity Photo and Designer. But this can be done in any modern graphics program from Gimp to Photoshop.  


The Art

  • Draw lightly in pencil and re-enforce only the good lines.
  • Take a picture of the pencil drawing before you ink it, for backup.
  • Ensure you have good contrast on your line drawings.
  • Vary your line widths for visual interest. (This is where a brush pen comes in handy.)
  • Do your best to erase well after you ink. (It will leave fewer marks to deal with when you digitize.)
  • Taking the Photo

  • Ensure you have good lighting
  • Don't let there be shadow on your art. (I tilt mine to not have room shadow or uneven lighting. I also don't center it in the photo to keep my hand and phone's shadows out of the picture.)
  • Make sure your camera lens is clean.
  • Learn how to use the camera. On my phone, I can just tap where I want it to focus.
  • Take your time, ensure the photo is level in the camera view and not tilted perspective-wise either.
  • Take several pictures.
  • Quick Clean Up

  • Import the best picture.
  • Grayscale (if it's not already)
  • Curves/Levels (Curves work faster for me)
  • For good blacks, I duplicate my drawing layer/group and set the layer mode to multiply.
  • Ensure your "whites" are white by sampling around the image. 255, 255, 255 is white. 0, 0, 0 is black.
  • Manual Clean Up

  • Open a new layer. (Don't work on your original art layer, so you can always go back to the original.)
  • Zoom in and touch up with white and black. Change your brush sizes for large areas vs. detailed work.
  • Verify the image is clean. Work in a logical path through the image. I start with the Upper Right, move down in a 'column' and repeat for the next 'column'.
  • You may need to select an area and do levels or curves again.
  • Export/Save

  • Use the best resampling method available to you. Lanczos 3 is the best I have available for exporting the same size or smaller images. But it's the newest option. If you don't have it, read here for other options.
  • Use the highest quality you can. If there's a file size limit - go down a bit in quality if you must. JPEG is usually smaller than PNG.
  • Name your images logically so you can find them.
  • For WA art (not maps - I do bigger for this) I use a max dimension size of 1920 (for 1080p) and go for less than 1MB size for faster loading on pages.
  • General Art Tips

  • Make a sampler in your notebook or art case of all the pencils, pens, and other art supplies you use, so you can get the right tool or color for the job
  • Be kind to yourself. Pros got to that level with a TON of practice.


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