Friday, May 12, 2006

Digital Clean-up

Recently, I was asked to do a little synopsis of how I import my drawings into Flash. So here goes. Basically, I start with a pile of inked drawings. These are scanned on a regular flatbed scanner with a pegbar attached so that all the drawings register. These are all saved as .tif files.

Next, I batch import all of the tif's into a program called Adobe Streamline. This program is somewhat old and I don't even think Adobe makes it anymore. Mine is only usable in OS 9 (Mac); but it's a great program for tracing bitmaps and turning them into vector files. I highly recommend avoiding the "trace bitmap" function in Flash, it really screws up the line quality. Streamline is very faithful in it's tracing and I highly recommend it.

Here's an example of the before and after:

On the left is the scanned drawing. On the right is the vector image.

Hope this helps some!


NobleCrayfish said...

What sort of settings do you use in Streamline? I've tried the program before and I couldn't get anything useful out of it.

Also, Streamline is now integrated into Adobe Illustrator, so anyone who wants to follow along can use illustrator for the smae results!

Marc Deckter said...

Great post Nick!

I wish I knew about Streamline when I was making my castleBERDskillz website... I traced all my scanned drawings with the Flash "line tool"!

Gabriel said...

The principle is the same as if you would do a "trace bitmap" on flash. Why aren't the results the same? Because you can't control the parameters much or its just that flash is not very good at recognizing stuff?
I once did an awful animated piece and my trick was to scan at a very high resolution. If the bitmap is pure black and white (no greys) it will still have a small filesize, specially if compressed as a gif or png. I prefer png, cause it also can have transparency.
Your post was enlightening, Nick, but i still have one doubt: what are the dimensions (in pixels) of that drawing prior to the vectorizing?

ncross said...

I have the settings in Streamline set to a high tolerance, meaning you end up with a lot of points, but since the file size isn't an issue for me, then that is no problem.
For some reason flash tends to ignore a lot of the subtelty in a drawing and make the lines really lumpy and uneven. It could be the resolution, but since I've tried doing with the same drawings in both programs the results are not the same, streamline does it perfect.
That is interesting though that illustrator does the job now..i'm using an old version of illustrator still. I don't have tons of money to spend on upgrades for all my software (I'm saving up for a Final Cut Pro update).

Gabriel, the pixel size of my scans are 2384 x 3067- the equivalent of a 300 dpi scan of a Oxberry camera 10fld.

Troy Little said...

Thanks for the post Nik, I was pretty fed up with the Flash trace bitmap feature. I'm going to try out the feature in Illustrator on Monday and see how that works. Clean up in Flash is tedious.

It probably didn't me help trying to do clean up work on plain old copy paper (like inking on paper towel) but Chroma Color paper is in short supply on this coast.

Brian Romero said...

I also recommend Silhoutte for batch processing bitmaps to vector art.

Mitch K said...

Wicked Nick, thanks! I was dealing with this problem. Flash is starting to bother me.

(thanks too: Brian!)

Corey said...

That's amazing! Can you still buy Streamline? Or do I have to play the part of the pirate?

Oh and good luck on your cartoon, I can't wait to see it finished!!!

Florian Fiebig said...

hey Nick,
nice plog you have. i like your drawings a lot.
according to your profile pic, animation made you age rather quickly :)

do you have shivan ramsaran's e-mail or adress.

i used to work with him at dynomight..."the greatest king"


RÃ¥nny said...

whao, thx for enlightening your audience with your brilliant art processes. You're the greatest.

I've actually tried Streamline before...back when I was 17...LOL...but I didn't quite understand it. I think I'll try it again, this time, with more optimal results...or so I hope.

ncross said...

Hey, you're welcome. I have a lot of crazy theories about doing all this crap. Basically it stems from having to do everything myself and trying to figure out the fastest and most efficient ways to get my stuff finished.
Glad you folks are making use of this stuff.

Brian Romero said...

Just a notice for the Mac users, Streamline doesn't exist for OS X.

Ryan G. said...

Yeah, the new Illustrator CS has this "live trace" function that is sweet for turning your line art into vector images.. You have to place your art into illustrator then go to "Object" to "live trace" to "make and convert to live paint", and thats it.. kick ass vector image

Jim M. said...

Thanks so much Nick! I'm psyched to bring this up... ;)

david gemmill said...


i used to use adobe streamline way back before i became a lazy asshole and transferred to wacom. however, i hold you the highest respect for your approach because i remember how tedious it was to scan convert and clean up rough edges. although. i think i respect anyone doing solo projects/shorts so it doesn't seem like i am the only one.

anyways. keep up the great work. we have to encourage each other. actual animation/animating is kind of dying,but not as long as there are still a small number that keep things moving.