One of the things that makes projection design so unique is that we have the ability to present just about any kind of media — cartoons, home movies, photographs, drawings, textures, smoke. Just about anything you can imagine can be pushed through the computer and onto the screen. But the big question I am always asked is: where does this stuff come from?

It is a question with many answers. First and foremost, all great designers thrive on research. Before you decide what to do, you usually look for some inspiration and a particular style to bring to the project. Many of these images usually come from books or magazines, as these are easily accessible.

Once you have collected your research, you will need to transform it into a digital file. It is hard to believe that, once upon a time, scanning your artwork was a huge, expensive ordeal. Nowadays, you can buy a pretty decent scanner for around $100 and scan your artwork in seconds.

While we are on the topic of scanning, I asked Kevin Stone, a professional photo retoucher in New York City, for some scanner secrets. Stone has retouched images for a lot of the advertising we see every day, working with clients such as AOL, American Express, and Pfizer. Here are Stone's “Top 10 Rules For Scanning.”

10. Make sure to set your scanner to “descreen.” Depending on the source, the line screen (which appears as dots or lines in the printing process) will be different for the media printed. For example, a newspaper will have a very low line screen, as it is a lower resolution image, while a color magazine has a much higher one. Some scanners even have settings where you can choose the line screen you are attempting to smooth out.

9. When scanning a multi-page spread, the best thing to do is cut the pages out and scan them separately. Yes, this will destroy your magazine, but it will eliminate the buckled, bent roll in the center fold.

8. Use the Unsharp Filter Mask to sharpen after Descreening.

7. Sharpening for Power users: duplicate the photograph layer in Photoshop, then set the mode for the top layer to "Hard Light" or "Soft Light." This will cause a dramatic change in the picture, but this is okay, because that's not how it's going to end up. Then go to Filter>Other>High Pass. Choose the radius that creates the sharpening level you need, but be careful because…

6. You can oversharpen, creating halos and artifacts. Be especially careful to…

5. …Clean your scanning bed. This will eliminate a lot of problems, such as dust and smudges, but if you have these annoying dots and speckles you can try to…

4. …Eliminate dust and scratches. Start with a flattened version of the artwork, if you have used any sharpening techniques. Now duplicate the layer, and go to Filter>Noise>Dust and Scratches. Adjust the radius and the threshold until the dust just barely disappears. Did that? Good. Now if your image before had any noise, dots, or grain, you can try to match it by using the grain filter or the Noise>Add Noise filter. I like to add a little of the Blur filter at this point to soften it up if it needs to match film grain. Now go to Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All. Yep, hide everything. Now select the mask on that layer, and use the paintbrush tool, on the mask only, to “Paint Out” any dust or scratches. If there are any other defects, you could always use the:

3. Clone tool, option-click to set the pattern or…

2. The healing brush…

1. Hmm, not quite ten. So let's say, make sure, above all, that you have your scanner turned on, and let's go! Have fun!

Next month, “Part 2: Buying Images. Where do I find them? How much should I spend?”

Got a problem that you need solved? Found a cool trick you'd like to share? Looking for a recommendation on hardware or software? Comments? Drop a line to

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