Scanning Images with Apple Notes.

Inktober 2019 week three Legend No 15 section with red cast.

Unwanted Red Reflection.

Scanning my Bic biro Inktober drawings on a flatbed does not work. Because the repeated biro crosshatching is polishing the ink and causing the LEDs in the scanner to reflect in a way that makes black become red. Not a good result. Bugger.

More detail about this, Inktober, and drawing with ball point Bic biro pens at the end of this post.

So scanning my drawings on my flatbed scanner was not working. But I was sure I had a fix. I knew that Apple Notes had a document scanning ability. I’d try that.

Scanning Artwork with Apple Notes.

I fired up Apple Notes on the iPad, tapped the plus sign (+) selected ‘Scan Document’ and lined the iPad up on my Inktober Post-it note stuck to the table with blue tack (you get helpful hints if you’re not doing it right). The iPad camera clicked and whirred and sampled away with its yellowy boxy visualisations over the drawing and then when it was satisfied clicked definitively, displayed the image it had scanned momentarily, then shrunk it away to a thumbnail and asked if I wanted to scan another document. Notes puts the scans into a PDF.

I examined the scan and it was fine. Shadows round the edge because I hadn’t flattened it to the table perfectly but that didn’t matter. The image was all squared up, sharp, no key-stoning or distortion even though I’d hand held the iPad and lined it up by eye.

Apple-Notes scan and flatbed scanner comparison.
On the left the Apple Notes photo Scan and on the right the scan from the flatbed scanner with the red cast. Only on heavily worked illustrations does the red come up this badly.

I very much doubt my hand eye co-ordination good enough to get perfect alignment. If it was not for the software scanning intelligence I think the captured image would have been blurry from camera shake and no way would the edges have been as squared up as they were.

Likewise if it had just been a photograph.

So I was satisfied first go – no experimentation required.

Paranoid Me.

I transferred the PDF of the scan created by Apple Notes to my desktop Mac using Dropbox. I avoid the Cloud, I never stay logged in to anything, I turn off location services on everything, I cover up the cameras on my devices, I lie to Facebook and the only organisations that know my real birthday knew it before the desktop computer was invented.

However if you are more open and relaxed than me then Notes on your other devices will already have the PDF scan. You probably won’t have to do anything to transfer it.

Getting the Image Out of the PDF.

There are two ways I extract the image.

The legend that is Bruce and the spider that wouldn't give up.

One is to open the PDF in Preview. Select the image you want to export and then select Export from the File menu. In the next window that opens you can select the location where you want to save the file and its format (PDF, TIFF, PNG, others – (your other options vary depending on the file format you choose)). I use JPEG at a resolution of 300DPI at its best (lossless) setting.

The other way to get them out of the PDF is to open the PDF directly with Gimp or Photoshop and extract the images in the file format you want. Then save them.

Examine the File in an Image Editor.

I opened my scan in Gimp (or Photoshop) and it was sharp, good colour, good detail and at the required resolution . But most of all no red reflection. And Notes included a small border around the edge of the artwork when it completed the scan which I like. Very happy.

Doing it Properly.

So far I’ve been slapdash using Apple Notes to scan and the results are good. In future I will be more considered. I will set up my two lamps with bright daylight bulbs either side of the artwork and use a stand I have that I can fix the iPad into for rock steady scanning with Notes.

I did try taping a Post-it flat to the table using scraps of masking tape on the edges but Notes didn’t like that and flittered away doing its yellowy box things all over the image but never completing. It seems to like defined right angled edges to work with. The scrappy masking tape was breaking that edge up.

Because Notes immediately after a scan asks if I want to do the next document – I should be able to keep swapping the images I want scanned and it should respond automatically and keep scanning as long as I keep feeding it images. Making the whole thing speedier than using a flatbed. I’ll update this when I try it out more.

Flatbed Scanners will Become Redundant.

I intend to scan in a lot of family snapshots that I have back from the days before digital cameras. Doing it by scanning documents with Notes on the iPad will be much much faster than loading and unloading a flatbed scanner.

Flatbeds will become redundant. If this scanning feature isn’t built directly into cameras yet, it soon will be.

Inktober 2019.

When I do Inktober I do it for practise. To try things outside my normal way of working. And I set parameters to give me constraints and a challenge.

Week two composite of Inktober 2019's images and prompts.
Composite made from up of the images done for week two of Inktober 2019.

This year it was to work with Bic biro pens, mainly, on 75mm (3 inch) square coloured Post-it notes.

Biro Gives a Fine Line.

So far I’ve used red, blue, black and green biro pens. The Post-it notes I inherited are a variety of colours; dark purple, red, blue, green, orange, pink, yellow and white. I use a white ink gel pen for highlights and a colour pencil or two if I feel I need an extra colours to make the drawing work better.

Bic biro ball point pens make a finer line than you think. It’s only when I scan the image and look at it magnified on screen I see how fine it is. I often get small gaps where I thought I’d shaded up to an edge. Quite often I have to go back to a drawing and make adjustments based on what I’ve seen in the scans.

Also as a consequence of the fine lines you have to double and tripple cross hatch over an area to get a solid black. And sometimes do it again when you go back to the drawing because the ink drying lightens it and so does the paper sucking it up it.

I prefer this extra work to adding a black felt pen to get a black solid. You get better gradients and subtleties of tone with the biro reminiscent of fine etching. A felt pen kills that stone dead.

Other times I fix some problems digitally either with a brush set to match the biro or use the sampling tool to copy parts of the artwork to fix other parts so as to keep all the textures.

I try to make these images as much as possible in the real world but there are always things to tweak digitally to get them just right. Mainly the white ink gel dissolves and mixes with whatever colour of biro I’m using. Mostly this gives a pleasing result but sometimes you want it to be a white white.

The Point of Inktober is to Have Fun.

Also my point of doing Inktober is to have fun doing as much of the art as possible in the real world with real media as a contrast to my usual way of working which is to do the majority of the art in digital after working things out with a pencil.

You can’t beat working with a pencil in the real world. At least not until any virtual environment exceeds the resolution of the real. And under Newton that should be impossible.

The Drawback of Biro.

Repeated working of the paper flattens all texture out of it except the scores of the ballpoint and the ink in these scores become polished and reflective. The outcome of that is that the scanner LEDs are reflected back and register as a red cast rather than showing as black. Not a good result.


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