It depends on what you have! Each technique creates a different effect and can ultimately change the way the work looks digitally. This step doesn’t have to be purely about documenting your work, think about how you can use these processes to enrich and add to your work.
What is the best way to digitise what I have built?
What do I have access to?
Have I watched some tutorials on the equipment I have?
Do I understand the strengths and limitations of the equipment I have?
Have my assets been digitised in a way that’s suitable for me to use them in my print?
Notebook and pencil to record technical information
Camera, scanner or both
Your digitisation process is going to depend on:
The nature of your assets
Your access to equipment
There are a number of ways you can digitise a handmade asset.
The most common are:
Scanning - flatbed scanner
Photographing - smartphone or digital SLR
Remember to have a little fun with playing up certain characteristics of each process - like layering works with a scanner or experimenting with shadows when photographing.
Figure out your equipment
What do you have access to and how does it work? Access some tutorials to get yourself started. Type the make and model into Google and see what pops up.
Get your head around file types and resolution
Read the blog posts and start to develop an understanding of what file is used when. Figure out the file types you are able to create with the equipment you have. Watch a few clips about resolution, pixels and file types. Having a base understanding of how things work always results in a better outcome.
Do some testing
Digitise one asset and record the process so that if it’s successful you can repeat it. Chances are you will need to change settings/ set up etc. to get it right. Remember to make notes so that you can repeat the process!
Digitise those assets!
Suggestion: write a list of everything you are going to digitise and the technical info needed. This kind of note keeping is really helpful in future projects. Make sure you are saving all the files to a common SD card or cloud based folder (keep all your files together).
Retrieving, checking and storing your files
Naming files and folders is really important, think of your device as a library, naming files and folders makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for, rather than tirelessly sorting through folders. Taking time to think about the ‘information architecture’ of your digital assets is crucial.
Create a folder on your computer and label it something obvious. We suggest ‘Digital Handmade Project’. This is going to be your master folder where all files will live.
Create another folder called Digital Assets. Inside this folder create folders with the names/ descriptions of each asset you have captured (e.g. Ink Drawing). This is so you can find each asset or element quickly in future.
Locate/ download all of the files you have created and place into the appropriate folders. This could mean moving the scans that are already on your computer or downloading images from an SD card.
Open each folder in a programme such as Bridge, Lightroom or Preview
Have a look through your files to get an idea of how the images have turned out. Now is the time to delete anything that isn’t going to be useful. You need to be systematic and a little ruthless - you don’t need a trillion images.
Start to select your favourites by starring or changing names (for this sorting stage I use Adobe Bridge, which allows you to ‘star’ images. I go through the images from the shoot, giving a 1 star to the images I like and want to edit). If renaming be careful not to delete the file extension, and to give your file names a title that will help you locate it later. Something vague like ‘test scan’ really isn't helpful in a blind panic.
Scanning your assets
Scanning physical work onto a computer using a flatbed scanner is a great way to easily ‘transfer’ your work into a digital format. It usually involves placing something flat (drawing, print, photo) onto a bed of a scanner. This process flattens the work, which is usually good for 2D illustrations and other materials. Scanning can also be an interesting tool to try things such as collage.
It is important to keep in mind, scanning can sometimes create a lot of visual ‘noise’ which makes parts of the scanned image slightly fuzzy. However, this can be fixed and removed when the work is digitised through programs such as photoshop or pixelmator.
You can scan physical objects as well, however, that’s more for artsy experimental files… watch the clip on how the scanner works to see why.
Scanners are the best way to capture the above types of assets because despite advances in digital camera (and cell phones) technology, if new, they produce files that are consistent and high resolution.
Each scanner has different settings but there are a few SOPs (standard operating procedures) that you should aim to follow:
Ensure your work is as clean and ‘perfect’ as possible - you don’t want to scan data such as smudges and unnecessary lines that could have been rubbed off beforehand!
Check your line weight - is it so light the scanner won’t even see it??
Clean the scanner bed before and after use
Check the file format the scanner is set to capture - you want the format that won’t compromise your work later
Check the resolution - it should be as high as possible and no lower than 300ppi
Check the density setting - if your lines are light you may want to adjust the density
Check ‘document type’ setting - you may want to adjust to ‘photo’ as opposed to ‘text’
Check the scanned image before moving on! It needs to be the best scan possible BEFORE you hit the editing phase. Sometimes you have to ignore the ‘rules’ and experiment to make sure the scan is the best possible for your project.
Photographing your assets
Again this comes down to access.
We recommend using a modern Digital SLR to do any photography. This is because the overall resolution will be higher as is your control with file types. However, smartphones are getting smarter! Again, as long as you end up with a high-quality image, in the correct file type ready to be edited then all is well.
Things to consider while photographing:
Am I simply ‘documenting’ an asset or is this an actual photoshoot?
Lighting matters - keep it consistent. Unless you are doing a shoot that has specific lighting needs your light should be consistent. No highlights, no shadows and natural where possible (to avoid yellow/ blue tones).
Framing matters - only capture what you need to see. Plan your shots, use a grid and keep the perspective flat and not distorted.
Tripods are your friends - while not always necessary they make things more accurate and professional. Remember, anything that doesn’t move, wobble or shake can act as a tripod.
Resolution matters - check the file formats. If possible shoot in RAW format.
Remember: experimentation is a big part of this process because there isn’t one ‘way’ or SOP for everyone. It really does depend on what you have access to.
A wee video to appeal to the geek in us all ...
Tips & tricks
Resolution matters - you can always make things smaller. Digitise at the highest resolution possible
Work with what you’ve got! There are so many ways to do this - don’t be trapped by the ‘correct’ way - as long as you have a high resolution digital version of your asset in a usable format, that’s all that counts.
Know your file types - they are different for a reason.
Know your gear - search the make and model of whatever equipment you’ve got and watch some tutorials about it. Get to know the strengths and limitations of what you have access to.
Avoid camera shake: It is handy to use a tripod when shooting motionless objects. Tripods help provide a steadiness which is sometimes hard to achieve using a camera handheld.
BACKUP is beautiful - back up your files! You can either use a portable hard drive or a cloud based system (like Google Drive), it depends on personal preference. Both have pros and cons. BUT, your files need to live somewhere other than your desktop. Seriously, back them up. Stop what you are doing and do that now.