Thursday, September 21, 2006

Getting Scanned

FedEx brought me eight pages of original art in from an inker. Huh, wonder why he didn't just email in files?

Didn't take me long to figure out why. It's not only a pain in the arse. It's expensive.

Comics are drawn at 11x17. Tabloid size. Consumer-end scanners have become more high-end over the years, but they're legal-sized. Way smaller. And you need print-quality scans for print. Fancy-pants scans produce nice results. Low-end scans mean your freelancers all yell at you later.

I trotted over to Staples a few days ago.

"Do you have an 11x17 scanner?"

"Sure do." He motioned to a high-end copier system. I looked at it, skeptical.

"Can you do 600 dpi grayscale or bitmap on that?"


I walked back later and picked up my scans. Walked home--about 3/4 mile--and opened the files.

They were all 3x5 inches, at 600 dpi.

Back to Staples, this time on my bicycle.

"Oh, I don't know why that happened. Well, no, I do. It's because our scanners only scan at 400 dpi."


"Can you scan it at 400 dpi at 100 percent? That way when I reduce it to comic book dimensions, it will be 600 dpi."

"Sure, come back tomorrow."

I stopped by Staples again on my way to meet two of our writers, Fabian and Stuart, for a plot lunch.

"Actually, we can only scan at 200 dpi. But we can change the size in the computer so that it is 400 dpi."

"You mean change the dimensions? But I need 100 percent."

Exasperated, I put my pages into my Marvel Comics art carrying bag (a bonus given to Marvel employees at Christmas one year, perfectly sized for comic book art) and went for lunch. Stopped at a few service bureaus in Manhattan.

"Yes, we can scan that for $11 a page."

Yowza. I'll go to Kinko's tomorrow.

It turned out that Kinko's had the same setup as Staple's. Or I could use the self-service scanner--which only could scan legal-size. Which was only slightly better than using my $20-on-sale UMAX scanner at home and stitching the images together in Photoshop.

I went to another service bureau. This time they wanted $24 a page. For $200, I could buy the low-end 11x17 scanner that all the comics guys have... and the only reason I never did that (besides not having $200) is that it doesn't work with OS X and takes hacking to make it work.

In the end, I sat at Kinko's by the Empire State Building for ages, scanning in halves for forty-five cents a minute while some guy checked me out and tried to talk to me. I brushed him off. When I finally finished and took my credit card out of the payment slot, the man asked a question.

"I looked at those pages," He said, pointing at the Wagner/Rubinstein art I was holding. "Aren't you scared of that art? I saw it has demons on it." Our big supervillan was dirty and evil-looking on them. Maybe he could be construed as a demon.

"What? You think I should be scared of these pages?" I was stumped. Was this man trying to pick me up by suggesting I was so fragile that a comic book page could frighten me? Did he think I was going to faint or something? Too weird. "Art doesn't scare me," I announced. I got out of there fast. What a freak.

Update: Just ordered the $200 Mustek scanner. Sure it will be a frustrating day of installing, but it should be worth it.


Elayne said...

The odd thing is, Marie, that even if it takes a little "hacking" to make the Mustek work with OSX, my husband can do it - has done it - easily and uses it for work and we're right in NYC. Seriously, give us a call if you choose to buy the Mustek and need assistance.

Marie Javins said...

Thanks Elayne. I just emailed da boss to see if I could buy the Mustek. If I get the okay, I might well have to give you a call...

Steve Buccellato said...

Hey. I have a Microtek Scanmaker 9800XL. It works great (so far!) and it's about $1300. Can shoot 1600-dpi full sized. Only a couple of years ago 11 X 17 scanners were about $5K. So it's a bargain.

Here's a link:

Marie Javins said...

$1300??? Um... let's see, I have negative $900 in the bank (living on overdraft and waiting for someone to pay me, ah, the wonderful life of a freelancer), and then all the regular bills to pay, plus that damn roof bill... so realistically, all I need is... $7400. No problem.

Elayne said...

Great to see you've ordered it, Marie. We're in the Bronx phone book (i.e., listed with directory assistance), but email me if you can't get our number. Rob would be happy to walk you through anything you need to know, it wouldn't be the first time he's done so for a fellow pro!

Steve Buccellato said...

Heck, Marie, I know YOU'RE broke, but I thought this was for Teshkeel use. What kind of place makes you pay for their scanner? Jeez!

Marie Javins said...

Oh yeah, they'll pay for a $200 scanner, no problem. But a $1300... that would be a hard sell now that most inkers send in files instead of boards. It's the only time I've hard to do this so far. Well, anyway, you gave me the chance to bitch about the fact that lots of clients need to pay up... or I"m going to start turning in the work the same amount of time late that they paid me late.

Yeah, that'll work...

(For the record, Teshkeel always pays on time. It's the other people that make me go into overdraft.)

Marie Javins said...

Thanks, Elayne.

Periscope studio said...

So did you get it working? That Mustek instruction post is easily the single most popular page on our blog. You'd think the people who make the scanner would post a how-to on their own site, but until then, we'll take the hits.

-Steve Lieber

Marie Javins said...

Hi Steve-

It's on back-order. Argh! Thanks for writing that post. If you noticed someone reading it in Kuwait a few times in January (on a Mac), that would have been me.