Digi Tutorial : Using Your Handwriting on Pages Without A Wacom [YOU CAN DO IT!]
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Digi Tutorial : Using Your Handwriting on Pages Without A Wacom [YOU CAN DO IT!]
By Tia Bennett

If you don't have a Wacom tablet, no need to fret! You can still include your own handwriting and/or drawings on your digital pages. All you need is a scanner and a good photo editing program (I use Photoshop CS2 in this tutorial) and you are set! Even though I have and use a Wacom tablet, truth be told, I still like to "go Old School" quite often; creating my own scripted and hand-drawn digital images with paper and pen first. I'm sharing my favorite way to accomplish this in this tutorial. Keep in mind, there are always numerous ways to accomplish the same thing in Photoshop. If you have a favorite way, too, please share it with us on the Digital Message Board! We'd love to learn from you, too!

1. First and foremost, pen choice is important. [PAGE 2] Think about the image you are trying to create and choose your pen type accordingly. For a thick, chunky, or heavy look, use a marker or pen with a larger point size. You could even try using a dark crayon for a textured look! If you are shooting for a more delicate, detailed look, however, choose a pen that is finer in point size. Even a regular ball point pen would accomplish this smaller line. Inventory the pens you own and don't be afraid to experiment with several different ones. Just be sure they are a dark black, brown or navy blue in color for scanning purposes.

2. The other item of great import is your paper. [PAGE 3] You need to choose a smooth, clean, white paper for your background. Most often, I use my regular 20 pound white copy paper. Keeping your paper - AND scanner bed - CLEAN will ensure an easier selection process when it comes time to extract and create your brush image.

3. Be creative with your images: scan your signature for a personalized stamp on your pages. [PAGE 4] Digitize your doodles for a whimsical, elegant, or otherwise personal touch to your layout! Trace, sketch, script, and print your heart out; the possibilities are endless!

4. When you are ready to scan your image (I have chosen a "One Cool Dude" scripted title) lay the page flat on your clean scanner bed, and in PS, select EDIT>IMPORT. [PAGE 5] Select the appropriate hardware and scan your preview.

5. Crop around your image, and change your settings so that you are scanning 300 dpi (this is my preference; you may choose a lower resolution if you need to) in black and white. If you can adjust the contrast on your image, it really helps to adjust the Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights so that your black/white contrast is crisp and strong. [PAGE 6] Scan and import your image into Photoshop.

6. You now have a raw image in your photo editing program. [PAGE 7] Now the fine-tuning begins! Don't be scared. It looks like a lot of steps, but it is really rather simple.

7. First, zoom in on your image to at least 100% (or more) and with a hard round eraser brush, get rid of any little ink smudges or imperfections on your background. [PAGE 8] If you have paid careful attention to the scanning step, it shouldn't be that big of a deal.

8. Now it is time to select your image. [PAGE 9] Choose your magic wand tool from the toolbox, and above your workspace change the number for the Tolerance to about 50. You may need to fiddle with this number a bit, but if your image is clean 30-50 should be just fine. Click on a piece of your image. Marching ants will appear around your selection.

9. Without changing tools, select from your menu SELECT>SIMILAR. [PAGE 10] Marching ants should now be surrounding your entire drawn, scanned image. If this is not the case, you may need to change the Tolerance setting in the previous step.

10. Now choose from your menu SELECT>MODIFY>EXPAND. When the prompt box appears for your "expand" size, choose 1 pixel. Watch how this changes your image thickness slightly. You can modify this to your liking. (Expand to a larger point size, OR, SELECT>MODIFY>CONTRACT to a smaller thickness if that is what you prefer.) Once you have finished this step, once again go to your menu and SELECT>MODIFY>SMOOTH. Again, in your pixel size prompt box, choose 1-2 pixels for a slight softening of your lines. [PAGE 11] Feel free to experiment with this number, too, and see how it changes your selection.

11. Now comes the magic! [PAGE 12] Without deselecting your marching ants image, click on the "New Layer" icon in your layers screen. Click on the "Eyeball" icon next to your Background Layer to make it invisible. Finally, click on your New Layer in your Layers Menu to select that layer as the active layer.

12. Now, in your toolbox, select your Paintbucket (Fill) tool. With a black color at 100% opacity, click inside your marching ants selection and watch the entire image fill in your new layer. [PAGE 13] You have just created a new, digital version of your image!

13. Now you need to save your hard work. First we will save your image as a brush. Make sure your image is not bigger than 2500 pixels in either direction, or your brush preset will not accept it as a new brush. In your menu above, select EDIT>BRUSH PRESET. [PAGE 14]

14. When your new brush pops up in a window, give it a name that will help you remember what it is and that YOU created it! (In my case, "tia.onecooldude" would work just fine.) [PAGE 15] Click OK.

15. Choose your brush tool in the tools box to activate the brush palatte. Open your brush palatte and scroll down until you find your brush! [PAGE 16] Ta-Da! Your own handiwork, officially in Photoshop! :)

16. Now that you've created your brush, you need to save it. Click on the little arrow at the top of your brushes palatte and select PRESET MANAGER. [PAGE 17] A new window full of your currently loaded brushes will pop up.

17. Scroll down to your new brush and click on it. In the row of buttons to the right, Click "Save Set." Choose a folder to save your brush in, and name it appropriately. Click OK. Your brush is now saved as an ABR file, and can be loaded and unloaded via the preset manager. [PAGE 18]

18. The last step for saving your work is to save your transparent file as a PNG. [PAGE 19] First, delete your background layer, then select FILE>SAVE AS. Choose your appropriate folder, and then select PNG from the drop down Format menu. Name your file and click OK. If your PNG Options window appears, choose "None" and click OK. You have now successfully created and archived your own personal imagery in your program! Stamp away!!! [Page 20]

If this seems daunting at first, never fear! Just commit yourself to practicing over and over, and it will totally grow on you!

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