Should I use a scanner or a digital camera to capture my art?

The question comes up…do I have to scan my images, or will a photo from a digital camera work just as well?

As usual, the answer is, “it depends on what you want to do with the digital image.”

Cameras are great for the instant gratification of sharing a drawing, perhaps my favorite use of a digital image. It’s so fun to see other Zentangle artist’s work, and to be reinforced by the wonderful community of artists on the internet.

I take loads of pictures of my work…work in progress especially. Often, my favorite version of a drawing is not the final version…sometimes I take my tangling too far. The camera is teaching me to leave more white space in my drawings.

I wish I had stopped here. I should have trusted the shading to create the contrast I wanted.
The finished piece with more tangling and shading. It feels muddy to me now.


The good news and the bad news: distortion

Cameras “see” objects the way that we do…with perspective that changes based on the angle of viewing. In the image at right, the green shape is not a rectangle, however it outlines a real-life rectangle which is my drawing pad. The camera distorts the shape of the drawing pad, and so it distorts the drawing too.

For the purpose of sharing a Zentangle drawing, distortion really doesn’t matter. However, if I want to reproduce the drawing, I’ll need an undistorted image, and a scanner is the best way to achieve that.

Conversely, if I just want to share my drawings, but protect them from unauthorized reproduction, using my camera images can be a smart strategy.




Scanning Zentangle artwork: size does matter

Scanning a drawing is a key step for many creative projects. A scanned drawing can be viewed on a website, printed small or larger, or output to wall-size art. Each of these uses (and many others) require different minimum resolutions for the scanned file. The resolution is determined by the number of dots per inch, “dpi” (you will sometimes see this referred to as points per inch, “ppi”…same thing, for our purposes).

When you scan your artwork, you have the opportunity at the outset to determine the size of your image, by setting the dpi options in the scanning software.

The first rule of thumb: scan large.

You can always make an image smaller, but you cannot enlarge it without losing quality. To control the size of the scanned file, you adjust the dpi number in the scanning software dialog box that appears right before you scan. This is called setting the resolution of the image.

Let’s look at some examples of the same image scanned at different resolutions.

The image at right was scanned at 72 dpi, which is the resolution for images viewed on a screen. The pixel dimensions for this image are 279 pixels wide x 265 pixels high. If you click this image, it won’t get any larger than presented right here.

The following image is the same tile scanned at 300 dpi, which is the minimum resolution for images to be commercially printed. The pixel dimensions for this image are 1162 x 1103, so it is too large to be presented here in full…you can click the image to see it at actual size.

Now here’s a trick for Zentangles…even if you only plan to use the image at 72 dpi onscreen, you can still get a better final image by initally scanning the image larger, then saving down to 72 dpi. The image on the left below was scanned at 72 dpi. The sharper, brighter image at right had no image correction. It looks better because it was originally scanned at 3oo dpi, then it was resaved in Photoshop at 72 dpi in the Save for Web dialog.

Scanned at 72 dpi, 279 pixels wide by 265 pixels high
Scanned at 300 dpi, then saved down to 72 dpi, 279 pixels wide by 265 pixels high

Line, Shape and Texture advice from/for T-shirt artists

Reading a post of best practices for artists at a tshirt site, I ran across this…

Lines are pretty simple things but here are some interesting things you should know. The direction of a line can convey mood. Horizontal lines are calm and quiet, vertical lines suggest more of a potential for movement, while diagonal lines strongly suggest movement and give more of a feeling of vitality…

The whole post is great, but just that much is interesting to consider. Some tangles do feel quieter than others…I’m going to start paying attention to the direction of the lines as I choose tangles, watching for correlation.

Using my first attempt at a Zentangle as a study, below, the second column from the right with diagonal lines does seem more lively than the columns on either side of it.

My first attempt at a Zentangle drawing, I think from late 2009.

Let’s talk about scanning tangled images

I scan most of my Zentangle® tiles and Zentangle-inspired art (ZIA). After some recent conversations in the Zentangle groups I follow, I realized for the first time that some people might perceive scanning and digitally manipulating these images as not in the “spirit” of Zentangle for a variety of reasons. Since I expect to share plenty of ideas about scanned images at, I thought I should start with a consideration of why to scan or take a photo of a drawing at all.

Why scan or take a picture of a drawing?

  • To share the drawing.
  • To “see” it. I liken it using a quilt wall when designing a quilt. Your eye needs space between you and the object to see it as a whole. With a quilt, you have to stand across the room to create that space. With a drawing, you can hold it at the end of your arm and squint. If you have a digital image, your zooming options are unlimited. Zoom out until it’s the size of a quarter; zoom in and discover the many images within your image.
  • To output your drawing for commercial printing. From traditional printing like t-shirts and stationary to post-internet innovations like one-off printing onto cell phone cases, you can customize just about anything now.
  • To use as a basis for unlimited numbers of new compositions. Print out your image multiple times to color it differently, draw a frame around it, or continue the work as a larger image. Cut up multiple copies and make kaleidoscope designs. (Or do all of those things onscreen with software.)

These potential reasons to scan an image…they are all about after the drawing is made.

When I am drawing, or “tangling” as I usually call it, I enjoy the benefits that so many others find from the practice. I go with my mistakes, I try to make beautiful deliberate marks, SLOW DOWN, just looking for the next line…you know the rest.

But when that drawing is done, it’s beautiful and it’s mine to do with as I please. And I scan it because I can, and it takes me new places.

Coming next:  Tangle scanning…size does matter.



Tangle Party Logo v3

original scan with no image correction

Version 3 is sort of a version of IX, a tangle taught CZT9. It started with two narrow auras around the words “Tangle Party.”  At this point, I drew a Z-shaped string behind (like Hollibaugh), taking care to create some closed shapes to fill by making the Z touch and go behind the auras. I aura-ed the Z, then alternated auras between “Tangle Party” and the Z to get the IX effect.

I like the simplicity of this one, using just a few tangles. I think it helps keep the focus on the words. I also liked the final outline of this one, and couldn’t wait to see it against a black background. Here’s my final logo version of it:

When  I was drawing this, I was unhappy with the line work…frustrated at the difficulty of drawing those long auras with any kind of grace whatsoever. Now, I have to admit that I like the irregularity. I also like how the points on the Z remind me of party hats. Maybe a vertical card for this one…



Tangle Party Logo Project, v2

Original uncorrected scan

My second approach to tangling around typeset words to make a logo. I decided to create only one string, a rectangle with bent sides. My plan of attack was to start with tangles that could stand on their own somewhat, and then connect them with tangles that were linear. I think the extra white space around the letter forms improves the legibility of the logo. Using all capital letters gave the central area a density that holds it own…if you squint and look at it from a distance, the words form a pretty solid rectangle of black. That gave me a lot of freedom to keep the tangled part light, and still have enough contrast in the finished piece to be interesting.

The final version of this logo that I used in the header takes the entire piece and sets it at an angle. There are a number of ways to do this digitally, but the method here was using the 3D palette in Photoshop CS6. The 3D tool has several options…I chose “3D postcard” because it keeps the art flat, but moves it to a slightly different plane, as though you were holding a postcard in your hand and tipping it in different directions. Though one could certainly draw to this perspective, it’s fun to experiment with already drawn art to see how it can be adapted.

So, does logo number 2 pass the business card test?

Moving on to Tangle Party Logo Project…v3.

After "Curve" Correction in Photoshop - Apple Key + M brings up the dialog box on a Mac.

The Tangle Party Logo Project

“Tangle Party” wasn’t even supposed to be a blog.

After talking about CZT logos with another CZT, I had some ideas I wanted to try about tangling around typeset text. “Tangle Party” came to me quickly, and in a few minutes, pages started spewing out of my printer, featuring the words “Tangle Party” in a few different fonts and in different uppercase/lowercase configurations. For the last few days, I’ve been tangling around the words in different ways, working through trial and error to see what appeals to me. I have 3 so far.

Tangle Party v.1

original scan, no image correction yet

I started this version with a narrow aura around the whole text, then I drew an outer string that was a deeper aura around the text. I added a few pencil lines for additional strings within the border.

As I worked I began to think more about scale, realizing that some of my patterns were going to be beyond tiny if this artwork were reproduced on a business card or another small format. I also like to use a lot of black areas in Zentangle tiles, but I realized here that solid black would compete with the words.

After “Curve” Correction in Photoshop – Apple Key + M brings up the dialog box on a Mac.

The first thing I do after straightening an image is to open the Curves dialog in Photoshop. This adjustment allows you to make your blacks blacker and your whites whiter. (Stay tuned for another post soon that explains this step in detail).

Though I enjoyed the process of drawing this, in the end I didn’t like this irregular shape as a logo. So I tried a cropped version:

Another Photoshop tip: I wanted even richer blacks after I saw the piece cropped and surrounded by the black border. For that, I duplicated the layer in Photoshop and set the new layer’s blend style to “Multiply.” Then I adjusted the opacity slider for the new layer until I was happy with the black tones. This effect does darken grays also, so it has to be used judiciously. As a final touch on the Multiply layer, I selected the white area outside of the text and made a layer mask, so that the whiter white would show through from the underlying layer.

So how does this logo hold up on a business card?

Coming next: Tangle Party Logos v2 and v3.

Logos…are they all that and a bag of chips?

Everyone that goes into a new business will answer the question at some point…do you have a logo? Pick up any “start your own business” book and I’ll guarantee there’s a chapter about getting a logo for your business. You’d probably expect me to provide a long list of all the reasons you need a logo…after all, I’ve designed lots of them.

However, I don’t think a personal logo is the automatic answer for CZTs. Zentangle already has a lot of visuals: a Zentangle logo, the CZT logo, the “Anything can happen one stroke at a time” graphic (which I hope is part of the identity CZTs are permitted to use?). In addition, there is the distinctive look of the art itself. On your business card, which is a better conversation starter, a traditionally designed logo, or a piece of art that you drew yourself?

First and foremost, don’t let not having a logo stop you from making sales calls and inquiries about possible classes. If you want a logo, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to set it in stone…you’ll be printing/speaking/teaching again in the future, and you’ll know more then. Having watched many people labor over a logo instead of getting to the actual work of promoting the business, I can’t let my CZT friends go there. Have a logo or don’t, but don’t get stuck on it! :)



A Tangle Gone Wrong Becomes New Tangle!

I was trying the tangle “cyme” for the first time. (CZT Michelle Beauchamp used it beautifully here.) Well, I spaced it wrong and got 4 pointed petals. As we work with what’s on the page in Zentangle, I decided it looked more like a butterfly now than a flower. The next step of cyme is an all around aura, so okay, give it the once-around. Then I alternated between adding an element and adding an aura, until the shape became more butterfly like. I want to try a pattern fill with these now. Maybe it’s called “Aurafly?”

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