Multiple scanned sketches in one document with PS?

Hi guys,

Is there a way to place multiple scanned pencil sketches into one document with a white background without too much fuss?

I got intensely bashed by my professor yesterday during presentation when it came time to view my “ideation” slide up on the projected wall. I was horrified too because the scans looked like off-white yellowy rectangles placed hurriedly onto a white background! As I was “placing” the images in my InDesign document the night before, they looked fine and blended, until I saw the projected slide up on the wall! What a mess. I was in a rush, it was 4am and I didn’t have time to take each of my scanned images into PS and remove the background (which is what I normally do) and then place them onto a fresh white background.

I have heard of people using “multiply” in PS and placing the scanned sketches “as is” into a new document. Does that work; does anyone know of a better way?

I have included an image of Carl Liu’s work, to show you what I am trying to achieve and also a screenshot of my messy ideation page.

Thanks in advance for any advice:



Use levels in PS to set your white point (the background). Once the background is properly white you can set multiply in InDesign, no need to do it in PS. You might want to set black and the midpoint too with levels.

I never ‘remove’ (I assume you mean delete/erase it?) the background, and as long as you’re scanner is ok you shouldn’t have to.


Thanks for the advice. I tried your method and it does work fine. But I also found this online: What is your opinion of this plug-in? I downloaded it and it works awesomely! I was merely googling for info on removing white backgrounds out of line work sketches and this came up:

I am amazed how easy it works, as a filter in PS. I thought I’d share with the masses! :slight_smile:

By the way, Jada, may I ask: what is it that you use personally for creating your presentation boards? Most of my classmates use PS and also Illustrator to lay out text, images, sketches, etc. But my professor keeps telling us InDesign is so much better and creates smaller file sizes. Is this true? I personally am new to InDesign and it still frustrates me. Do Industrial Designers use InDesign a lot? Am I missing out at this stage as a student if I just stick to PS and AI?

Thank you! Anyone else can chime in if you’d like to offer your opinions.

InDesign only links to the files (images) you include so the files becomes smaller and easier to work with. You can reduce the display quality to whatever is needed for working with, i.e. the computer has less data to work with. For larger documents (e.g. project reports) InDesign is the tool you’d want to learn. For really artistic posters a combination of Illustrator and PS is what I’d choose. For the kind of posters you will use in ID I still think InDesign is better. Bottom line is learn all three of them, and if I where to drop one of the three it’d be Illustrator. For my work I find that more and more of the things I used to do in Illustrator can be done in PS (I’ve never been an advanced user of Illustrator though). … but just to get it clear: learn all three is my recommendation, even though you might not need to become an expert in all three.

This is a good start. Didn’t get a chance to look at the plug in. But I’ve never needed to do anything beyond this.

Use multiply on the layers menu. This turns your background transparent. You may also have to adjust the levels on the layers, but multiply usually works just fine.

Also, invest in a good scanner!

Thanks to everyone’s advice. Classes finally ended until Fall! Whooohooo! I will take your advice, Jada, about learning all 3 programs. Best to know and have as many programs under one’s belt. It’s a competitive world out there and best know as much as one can! :slight_smile:

by the way, what worked for me the best was just using magic wand and deleting the white background of my sketches and then placing all those sketches onto a new white background in a new PS file. It worked well. The “multiply” function didn’t work well for me and you could still see edges of paper when I tried placing sketches next to one another, so by deleting their backgrounds, the problem was solved easy.

When using multiple only parts of the picture that are white become 100% transparent. If you imagine the picture as b&w, what is white becomes 100% transparent, and what is black becomes 100% opaque. Everything in between will have different levels of transparency. That’s why I recommend using levels to make sure the background is white.

For final cleanups I invert the image so it is easier to spot the noise and paint it black. Then invert back. Sometimes you can blow out the image to much by just using levels, but it’s more of an issue when snapping photos of sketches instead of scanning.

Ok, Jada. Next time I scan more line work into PS, i will play with the levels and make sure all my sketches backgrounds are as white as possible and then use multiply. I will let you know next time I have to arrange a bunch of individual line sketches onto one large canvas and let you know if multiply works for me this time around. :slight_smile: