Converting tangible illustrations into digital files

Scanning originals or drawing anew?
Some considerations

[These guidelines deal with existing tangible illustrations, and determining how to get them into the optimal digital form for their intended use.]

What kind of illustration do you have?

Tangible illustrations (or physical, or non-digital, illustrations) will generally fall broadly into one of two categories:

For continuous tone images (photographic slides, prints, or negatives)

To be incorporated in a project, photographic slides, prints, and negatives must be scanned at a correct resolution and scale for their intended use and output (print, web, PDF, etc.). Authors may wish to scan their own photos or have it done by a third party. MetaGlyfix would then make necessary adjustments to tone, contrast, sharpness, and the like, and, if the originals were of poor quality, any cleaning and retouching required.

What are the correct resolution and scale? They depend on a number of factors that vary from project to project. Clients are urged to contact MetaGlyfix before scanning for advice about optimal dimensions and resolution for the photos and project at hand.

(For a simple rule of thumb for determining dimensions and resolution that works in typical circumstances, see the guidelines for Submitting Manuscripts and Illustrations. The rule of thumb holds as well for images directly from digital cameras)

The preferred format for submission of digital files of photographs intended for print, is TIFF. For images destined for screen and web, TIFF, JPEG, GIF, and PNG are usually acceptable. MetaGlyfix can advise for each case.

(For guidelines on preparing continuous tone images for submission for print, see Print Publishing: Submitting source images for illustrations, Part I.)

For everything else ...

For non-continuous tone illustrations, each case needs to be evaluated to decide whether a direct reproduction by scanning or photography, or by a transformation into another format, would be best. Many factors are involved, including the quality and condition of the original, the intended use, the time available, and the cost.

Again, clients are urged to contact MetaGlyfix at the outset. MetaGlyfix can advise on the best methods for each particular purpose, which may or may not involve commercial or professional graphic services, including those of MetaGlyfix.

Scanning an original vs. drawing anew

Often there are better ways to show a scholar’s illustrative material on the printed or digital page than by scanning source material. This is especially the case if the source illustration is of poor quality, the scan needs cleaning or touching up, or the author wishes to edit or otherwise change the original. It may also be the case when an author has multiple original illustrations of varying quality and/or lacking stylistic cohesion that are intended for a single article or volume.

The two major determining factors are usually quality and efficiency. In many instances new drawings are superior in quality: they are clearer and more legible, stylistically consistent, and will output (i.e., print) better. “Efficiency” encompasses production time, overall cost, and reliability and ease of output. Clients may be surprised to learn that new drawings of problematic originals are often more economical as well. Clients might also consider whether the problematic illustration might be used again, perhaps repurposed in another setting, perhaps with later modifications. In such cases, new drawings might be advised.

MetaGlyix can give an honest assessment of the options for each job, as well as firm quotes.

What the client needs to prepare

Clients first need to organize and to assess their illustrative material:

MetaGlyfix can explain as much or as little of the technical steps as a client wishes to know, but we will advise

If MetaGlyfix determines that its services may not be required, we so advise. For example, an author may want several illustrations and tables prepared for a book or article for publication. In most cases, the author’s publisher will require that illustrations be finished and press ready — so, MetaGlyfix would prepare them. However, the publisher would probably prepare and typeset the tables for the author — therefore, MetaGlyfix services would not be required for the tables.

When direct scanning or photography is sufficient, MetaGlyfix can advise on the optimal dimensions and resolution. There is no single determinate that covers all types of originals: some may be better treated as photos, others as one-bit graphics. Some client materials will give best results with a combination of scanning or photography, plus digital illustration by MetaGlyfix. The section on quality of digital files in the guidelines for Submitting Manuscripts and Illustrations gives a brief overview of possibilities. Details of scanning and otherwise preparing line art to be printed as is are given in Source images for print publication, Part II — Line art and everything else.

Bear in mind that most jobs that MetaGlyfix accepts are complex, one-of-a-kind projects that require the convergence and integration of many techniques. Even the simplest-looking finished graphic may have entailed such complexity.

(For guidelines on preparing line art, maps, and other non-continuous tone images for submission, see Print Publishing: Submitting source images for illustrations, Part II.)

Last updated 26 April 2014 (Saturday) at 19:34:01 EDT