View Full Version : Hardware - Scanner and Tablet.

09-25-2009, 12:40 AM
This might exist somewhere, but other than the 'mouse vs tablet' thread could not find it, sorry if this is a tired old subject...

I see an entire section dedicated to software used in cartography, but don't see much for hardware. I need to buy a scanner and (possibly) a tablet, so wanted to ask a couple of questions:

1. For hand-drawing outlines then scanning them in, does the scanner quality matter? What about taking photographs then scanning them in to make textures from? Curious what scanners the folks here are using and if just a plain old HP multi-function will do or if I should be aiming higher.

2. How does a graphics tablet 'feel' compared to drawing on paper? I've never used one.

Thanks for any insights on this!


09-25-2009, 01:05 AM
Yes, there are other ongoing threads on tablets on the site, and one or two asking questions about scanners. A standard scanner, like the one you got, should be perfectly fine. Unless you have a really small scanner, and a very large hand-drawn map to scan into it, I would never photograph a drawing to scan it in. There is nothing better than to scan the hand-drawing directly.

Even though technically a hand-drawing is B/W, I usually scan in grayscale, then in Photoshop (or whatever software you are using to scan into) increase the contrast, lighten or darken the image as you need, otherwise you'll get artifacts or other "dirty" results which can be problematic to work with, once you've got it in software to color and finish your map.

Because I work in vector, I usually scan at 300 dpi, to have the best line results. If you go too low a scanning resolution, fine lines can become "jaggy". Of course most everyone here uses raster apps, so I guess you'd be scanning at the working resolution you use to create your map - whatever that may be.

I run a pro graphic design studio and I use an 11 x 17 flatbed to do all my graphics in.

Another thing I've learned, especially for doing hand-drawn map work, is that I hand-draw the coastlines and rivers first for example scan and place on my work map in Xara Xtreme Pro 4.0 (the proggie I use to map with) I hand-drawn the mountains, forests, swamps, city/town icons, and every other element separately. Sometimes I print out a copy of my coastal/river hand-drawning and use it to trace around while creating other elements. Thus before I'm done, I usually hava four to six different hand-drawings combined in a single map.

In other words, I don't draw everything in one sitting. I draw things in parts and add to the final map. I try to scan at the same resolution and I try to draw at the same scale as all my other hand-drawn parts, but I never hand-draw everything on a single piece a paper. Like adding map tokens onto an existing map, I hand-draw each element separately and composite the whole while working on the map. That way, if you screw up the mountains, for example, you don't have to draw the entire thing again. By doing the mountains separately, you can always redraw them "better" then composite back to the primary map.

I hope that helps...

Also we have some tablet-using masters here, like Torstan who like me does pro work for publishers. He swears by tablet use, and one day, I'll get my own and do the same. Tablet technology is getting better and better. So if you can afford, I'm sure its like the difference in not having a computer, then getting one. Once you get used to the tablet, you'll never go back to hand-drawing the old fashioned way. Still I get excellent results doing it old fashioned so make your choice and go for it. You'll eventually find what works best for YOU.


09-25-2009, 02:42 AM
I draw all my maps with a wacom tablet. From my experience I would say that using a tablet is like drawing on paper to 90%. It takes a while to get used to it, and in the beginning you will curse it more then once. But after a while you learn to live with the good and bad sides of a tablet. First of all I will admit that I can't get the same precision with a tablet as I get on paper, but the easines to redo your lines quickly (ctrl+Z) compensates for that. And in the end after having a complete map coloured and done the end result is way better in my photoshop maps then they are on the paper ones. So I really appreciate to work with my Wacom, and could never cretae the work I do without it. It is well spent money :-)

09-25-2009, 02:08 PM
Thanks for the response folks - appreciate it. I see a Wacom in my future, now off to read that other huge thread and try to figure out which one :)

09-25-2009, 05:58 PM
For what it's worth, I absolutely LOVE my cheap little Bamboo. Unless you're going to go into business doing this stuff, it should be plenty for you.

09-29-2009, 03:29 AM
So far I've gotten the best results drawing the whole thing by hand and having it scanned at staples for five bucks. Any time I'm going to use my cheapo all-in-one scanner, it's just to scan in a rough drawing that will be re-drawn digitally anyway. The only way to know if it will work for you is to experiment.

I have also found the table to be less accurate ( anything wacom is good quality tablet. I bought an off brand once and ended up giving it away as a present ), resulting in shaky lines. You can eventually draw nice smooth lines with it, but that takes a lot of practice. It's strange looking at the screen and drawing on a smaller pad at first. You can tape a piece of paper over the surface of the tablet to simulate drawing on paper.

If you get a tablet, make sure to play around with the sensitivity options and different nibs until it feels just right. It's a very customizable tool.