There’s nothing better than showing your sketches in the best light — and photos — possible. Here are some tips and techniques on how to make them look their best.
This post is inspired by one of the questions I had after giving my sketchnoting class at General Assembly the other night: what are the best ways of capturing what we sketch, and getting them into formats we can use and share?
Great question. These days, capturing and sharing your sketches using your smartphone or tablet is the way to go, but it’s worth knowing a few details if you want to get the best results. Here are some tips and app recommendations to get you capturing your sketches like a pro. All are free, and (unless otherwise stated) all are available for both iOS and Android.
Just so you can see how the results of these recommendations compare, here is a photo of my sketch, taken with my iPhone:
It depends on how you’re going to use the sketches
First things first: you have to know what you want to capture your sketches for. It’s all about where your sketches will end up:
- Instant sharing on social media or your intranet – Snap away! That camera phone is fine
- Capturing for project work or for a presentation – You’ll want your images nice, white and clean, in a way that fits your workflow
- Enhancing, colouring and editing – A smooth vectorised image is best
If you just want an image of your sketches to share on Instagram, Twitter and so on (or maybe your work intranet or chat room), the camera app on your smartphone is fine. Some pro tips:
- Always get your sketch in as much light as possible
- Watch out for shadows of either you or your phone
- Try dynamic angles for added interest
- Include the edges of the paper or sketchbook, and the markers you used; people love to know more about the process behind the magic of the final sketch
Capturing for project work or for a presentation
The camera phone probably won’t give you a sharp clean bright squared-off image, so go for a scanner app like CamScanner (for iOS or Android) or Office Lens (for iOS, Android or Microsoft). Both of these are mainly meant for document scanning (as well as receipts and business cards), but their image scanning is great too. Both have great edge detection and perspective fixing… so no more wonky images at odd angles to tidy up!
What’s more, both include optical character recognition (OCR), so depending on how neat your writing is, they will automatically capture that in an editable format too.
Office Lens is perfect if you already use OneNote or OneDrive, and you can export your scans as editable Office files. It also has a great feature of being able to toggle between ‘Photo’ view, ‘Document’ view and ‘Whiteboard’ view, depending on what result you’re after. The ‘Whiteboard’ view can give amazing results of your scrawls on a whiteboard, even in a dim room. But beware! As you can see in the demo image below, coloured shapes end up looking pretty janky.
Other worthy scanning apps are Scanbot (super fast if you have lots of separate sketches to scan in one go), Evernote’s Scannable, and TinyScanner (iOS or Android). Evernote itself has a great image scanner, and will save your photos directly to your Evernote or to any other one of your favourite clouds. If you don’t use Evernote, then the stand-alone Scannable app is worth a try.
Enhancing, colouring and editing
Maybe you need to capture your sketches to tidy up a lot more in an image editing application? Or add colours, or combine sketches together? If that’s the case, any of the scanning apps above are fine, but try Adobe Capture CC (iOS and Android), and capture your sketches as vectorised images. It does a tremendous job of cleaning up, clarifying and smoothing out the lines of the sketch.
There are loads of digital drawing apps that let you import existing images (either from the camera or the albums on your smartphone), so I’ll leave those for another day. But I have to mention SketchBook by Autodesk (iOS and Android). SketchBook not only lets you import an image as a new shot from your camera, but it lets you erase the colour of the paper behind the sketch, so that it sits on a transparent background. This is super useful if you want to add layers of colour ‘behind’ your sketch.
Try them out
I hope these tips have given you some ideas for how to get better results when capturing and sharing images of your sketches. What works best for you? What pro tips do you have to share? Let me know in the comments section below.
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