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Colin Smith
April 5, 2016

We just launched a new update for Autodesk SketchBook on iOS and Android, and it has something new and pretty cool in it: Scan Sketch.

This version of SketchBook — version 3.6 — includes an excellent new way to bring your traditional sketches directly into a digital workflow. When creating a new file from the Gallery, there is a new option called Scan Sketch. This tool uses your device’s built-in camera to import a physical sketch as a base layer. But this isn’t just a standard image import. The Scan Sketch tool actually recognizes the perspective and distortion of the image in frame. Scanned sketches will be imported as transparent line work with color data. Perhaps most important: It automatically removes the background if you want it to. Check it out in this video:

The three modes for Scan Sketch

Once you’ve taken your photo, you have three options:

  • Black & White: Import your sketch as a black and white image while automatically removing the background.
  • Color: Import original colors from your sketch while automatically removing the background.
  • Original: Import your original image including the background.

Note that you can choose any of these after you take your photo, so you can keep the flexibility open if you’re not sure which one will work best with your photo. Here’s an example of some physical sketches we captured and brought in as color while also removing the background:


Tips for scanning your images

The Scan Sketch tool works quite well, but of course the quality of the physical sketch you begin with matters. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your sketch transfers:

  • Lighting matters (a little bit): An intense spot of light could potentially create breaks in a line drawing. Likewise, a poorly lit room won’t help you create strong contrasted lines. A desk with a table lamp that’s not too bright is probably perfect.
  • Watch your shadow: If you are taking a photo by perching above your paper-based sketch, you might find yourself casting a shadow on the paper. Doh!
  • Too much background? Did your camera capture background space you don’t need? Once you’ve scanned in your image, use the selection tools to draw around the area you want, and then copy and paste this “cropped” portion of your your scanned image into a new layer.

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Colin Smith

Colin is a Sr. Product Manager on the Automotive and Conceptual Design Team at Autodesk. During his 25-year career in the CAD industry he has worked in customer support, training, consulting and as a product manager for Alias and Fusion 360. Currently, he works on SketchBook Pro and Create VR and is based in Toronto, Canada.