Help semi-automating a repetitive workflow

My daughter likes to draw a lot, and we recently got a decent scanner in order to scan her artwork in. When we’re planning to print it out again (e.g. for an advent calendar she just finished), I touch the pictures up in Acorn so they’ll print better. This process is very repetitive, and I’d appreciate any help with how this might be automated to some degree, or with making some of the steps redundant if possible.

Here are the current steps I’m doing - I just did these for 26 different images for the advent calendar. I generally start by selecting all the images in Finder, then opening them in Acorn and doing them one by one, closing the tabs as I finish.

  1. Rotate the image if required.
  2. View | Zoom to | Fit in window.
  3. Since the images sometimes have a slight black strip down the edge if the image wasn’t perfectly aligned in the scanner, Image | Crop. I then have to select “Lock dimensions” in the tool window for every image, and also deselect View | Guides and Grids | Snap To Canvas for every image. Then adjust the crop rectangle to best remove any black edges, and press “Crop Image” in the tool window.
  4. View | Zoom to | Fit in window again, since cropping always messes up the zoom for some reason.
  5. Now I clean up after the scanning. Her images are mostly black and white, either pencil or pen, with lots of white background. The paper grain is visible from the scanning and the images are generally somewhat grey. I start this process by finding the darkest point I can in the image, and then using the magic wand select from that point, increasing the tolerance until (hopefully) all the image is selected and the background is not. Depending on how much feathering she’s done, this can be tricky.
  6. I then use Select | Quick Mask. I usually use the Paint tool to tidy up the mask, removing any spots, anywhere she’s rubbed something out which still shows, any hairs that got onto the scanner, etc. I basically paint the mask anywhere I want plain white in the final image.
  7. So, I select the the Paint tool, and then immediately press x to change the drawing mode.
  8. Then I spend some time fixing up the mask. I also sometimes have to remove the mask to leave areas where she’s feathered, that were still unselected by the magic wand.
  9. Once I’m done, I turn Quick Mask off, and then Select | Inverse.
  10. Then Edit | Fill…, and press OK on the dialog box to use the last settings (fill with white).
  11. Clear Selection.
  12. This process leaves a light grey border around the actual drawing, where the paper grain still remains. This is visible everywhere, but it’s particularly obvious where I’ve had to remove the mask for feathered areas. To fix this, I do Image | Curves, and drag the curve of the light areas up, so they blend into the white a little better.
  13. Then I increase the contrast of the rest of the image. If the drawings were pencil and I don’t want them very dark, I’ll adjust the bottom part of the curve to achieve this. If the drawings are pen and should be darker, I’ll sometimes use Image | Auto Levels, although it’s often a little too aggressive.
  14. Then, I’ll save the image and close it, and move on to the next.

So, lots of these steps are at least partially manual, but it seems like some could be removed or at least automated. In particular, when I do this for a series of images that have all been drawn in the same medium and scanned at the same time with the same settings, it seems like I should be able to apply a standard curve for steps 12 and 13, or at least a default one that I might need to tweak for a particular image. I might also be able to use levels to replace step 5? I’d also really like to get rid of the steps I have to do every time in #3. I’m using keyboard shortcuts for about half the tools and could learn more, but removing the steps would be even better!

Any suggestions for this would be very welcome, and would help save my time and sanity!

Hello, and welcome! Comments inline below:

I’m not sure why you’re choosing Lock dimensions here? I’m not sure you need to unless you’re wanting the pixels dimensions to stay the same size?

And you can change the defaults for snap to canvas under Acorn’s preference, or hold down the control key to temporarily turn it off when moving a guide or a crop.

< A whole bunch of other steps here />

I wonder if maybe you tried the curves first, that might help with the cleanup? Other than that, I’m not really sure what help I can offer without seeing a couple of the original images (and what the final output should look like).

You could save some filter presets possibly, but that’s not going to help with cropping black edges out.

Retrobatch ( Retrobatch, from Flying Meat ) might be able to help out a bit, but without seeing the images I can’t actually say.