Creating Digital Magazines

As a couple of visitors have asked how I create the magazines on this site I thought I'd throw up a quick How-To guide on the methods I use. This is purely the way I choose to do it and will likely differ from most other peoples own methods but it works for me and that's what counts. If you are wanting to create your own digital magazines from print copies feel free to do so using whatever method suits you best.

Click here if you have edited scans and want to reduce the size of the PDF file.

Let's get started …

Equipment

You are going to need a scanner. If you are serious about getting good quality versions with a minimum of fuss you will almost certainly need to use an A3 scanner. I am afraid to say A4 scanners do not work well for magazine scanning unless the magazines in question are of a small size format. A large number of magazines coming out of the UK in the 80's & 90's were created using large format paper sizes. Whether this was to prevent photocopying or simply because they wanted the biggest magazine on shop shelves is a mystery but the side effect of this is when using an A4 scanner you can only scan a portion of the page necessitating scanning one page maybe four times to get the whole page followed by a lot of work joining the scans to recreate the page. Personally I think this is just a waste of my time which could be better spent, hence having an A3 scanner.

I use a Brother MFC-J6510DW all-in-one unit as it has a native 600dpi scan to media card feature but there are plenty of other A3 scanners on the market to suit all budgets etc.

Tip: Scanners generally come with white background plates which is a real pain when it comes to bleed through of the print on the reverse side of the page. A black background negates this bleed through significantly so I have taped a black piece of card over the top of the white to get a better result. If you don't wish to do that at the very least try getting black card and placing it over the top of the page to be scanned as it will result in better scans.

Depending on how you choose to scan your magazines you will need a Stanley knife. More on that soon …

 

Magazine Prep

There are three methods of scanning a magazine depending on what you want to happen to the print copy and depending on the binding type:

  1. If you want to retain your print copy generally you will be pushing the magazine down onto the plate
  2. If you do not wish to retain the physical copy afterwards and it has a stapled spine you remove the staples and scan the pages or
  3. If you do not wish to retain the physical copy afterwards and it has a straight edged glued spine you debind the issue and scan the pages

I choose options 2&3 as over 1000 magazines in my basement makes for a significant amount of weight on the foundations and because I am creating digital editions I simply see no need for holding onto physical copies afterwards. If I wanted to sell them afterwards then option 1 would be my only choice but I do not like the blurry result of spines lifting the inner area of the pages when scanning and have no real interest in going through the hassle of advertising magazines on auctions sites and shipping etc so I might as well get the best scans. From this point I will only be talking about options 2 & 3 given they are how I process my scans.

 

Debinding Magazines

If the magazine has a stapled spine simply remove all the staples from the back edge. Some magazines might have an additional staple holding inner pages together (Leisure Line mags for example) so just make sure you get them all out and you're ready to scan.

If the magazine has a glued spine before I do anything else I scan the cover page @ 600dpi to ensure I get an edge to edge scan. Then I use a Stanley knife to cut down the spine at a depth sufficient to remove the spine and the glue ONLY!! Some people choose to use a ruler and cut away a small portion of the paper as well. This tends to get rid of the occasional glue spill but I prefer to try to remove the glue/spine only and leave the whole page intact. If you have access to a paper cutter/guillotine that can accommodate the amount of pages that make up the magazine it makes for a painless way of doing it but they are simply too expensive for me (cheap ones only do 20 – 40 pages) so I have to make do with a Stanley knife. Donations towards a cutter gratefully accepted 🙂

 

Scanning

This is where the A3 scanner earns its keep in my books. If you are scanning a destapled magazine where the pages are essentially an A3 folded in half thus creating four separate pages I scan each page by dropping it on the plate, keeping it as close to straight as possible then reverse, repeat, rotate and reverse to get all four pages scanned then move onto the next etc until the mag is complete. While it results in a minimum of handling it does mean you need to collate the pages into order after editing them.

If I am scanning a glued spine magazine that I have debinded I place the spine edge of the page against the outer edge of the platen but not at the top corner. This means I lose approx. 2mm in the inner edge of the page but not at the top or bottom. As a general rule the 2mm doesn't result in any real loss of content unless an image spans two pages and in those situations I look at the image and weigh up whether it is important enough to warrant scanning the page in the centre of the platen to retain the extra 2mm. In most cases it isn't warranted but occasionally you may find it worthwhile doing so. Scanning against the edge results in pages that are almost perfect in regard to not requiring rotation which is good news as rotation results in aliasing on the pages resulting in a slightly soft look to the text.  

Tip: I always scan my magazines @ 600dpi for the cover and 300dpi for the content pages. Some people choose to scan magazines @ 96dpi which is the standard DPI rating for most monitors but it allows no leeway for the increasing resolution of screens like the retina screens on iPads and newer laptops etc. You can always down sample to create smaller size files later but generally I only scan a physical copy once so it makes sense to use a resolution with some headroom.

 

Editing

I use Corel's Paintshop Pro software but these steps can be applied to any decent photo editing software. You will need to work out how to apply the equivalent steps to your particular software be that Photoshop, GIMP or whatever. If you are yet to acquire software I believe you can obtain Adobes CS2 suite which includes Photoshop for free from their website. The page is here but you will need to create a site login. Both software and keys are available there. The software is pretty old now (7 years) but I am fairly sure it runs on Windows XP/7 (not sure about Windows 8 though) and for the basic editing I do it's perfectly fine.

 editing-1

After you have imported the scans onto the PC open the editing software and load up the first image. Without processing any cropping use the Rotate/Straighten tool to straighten the page. I tend to find a horizontal line on the content of the page itself as seen on the image above, rather than using the outer edge as you wouldn't believe the amount of magazines that have been cut askew. After you have straightened the page so that the content is aligned correctly locate the Crop tool and draw a box as close to the edge of the page to retain as much of the content as possible.

 editing-2

In the image above you can see that the page has been cut at the publishers slightly out of alignment. Cropping on the outer edge would have resulted in the cover being not straight. Ugh!!! When you have the box to your satisfaction apply the cropping. You are now left with just the page. Repeat these steps on all the pages but DO NOT adjust the top/bottom crop size if you can help it although page width can be altered as required. If you have a magazine where the pages have been cut askew I tend to back the cropping off a small amount to allow for this. Although it means you might lose an extra millimeter or two keeping the page sizes the same on the vertical (top and bottom) results in nicer viewing experience in side by side viewing mode. More on that later.

At this point a lot of people will simply save the image and move on to the next one. Some may decide to drop the size from the native scanned size down to something else to reduce the file size. My advice is DON'T do this as unless you retain backups, once it is done there is no way to undo this as higher resolution screens become available in the future without up scaling, which never provides as good a picture as the original scan.

Where my scans are concerned however, I choose to edit at the least the cover page of the magazine to remove blemishes where possible. Some people like Meppi choose to 'edit the heck' out of every page of their magazine scans to get them looking like they were created digitally or as if they are copies of a pristine print copy. I personally believe that the digital copy should reflect what people held in their hands all those years ago from a nostalgia perspective. If it is about just presenting the information why not just recreate the issues digitally rather than going through the scanning process in the first place? I have absolutely no issues with his philosophy around how he processes scans at all. Each to their own. I just like the small imperfections that a print copy has (barring pages cut askew) that tell me I am reading what was a genuine print issue such as paper discoloration (to a degree), the paper grain etc. Feel free to apply whatever steps you want when creating your own digital editions. Just don't expect any sort of thanks if you feel like dumping a whole lot of raw scans together (no cropping/rotation steps above) to create a magazine. That's just lazy in my eyes and doesn't do justice to the publishers for the work they did creating them.

Anyway, in the example below we can see that the top edge has some damage from creasing. Obviously the cover would look better with this removed so the next thing to do is apply the Clone tool to edit these out.

editing-3

Right click on a section of the page bordering the area to be edited then left click to apply a clone of that area to the area that needs to be fixed. If the explanation is a little vague just try it and you will see the effect the Cloning tool has. Repeat the process on other parts of the page requiring editing, remembering to right click near the affected area so as to not end up with color issues if applying a clone from somewhere else on the page. As you can see in the image below the imperfections on the top edge are now gone, making for a nicer looking magazine cover.

editing-3a

When the page looks to your satisfaction the last thing to do is decide whether it needs any sort of color correction applied to it before saving the completed page. This is especially important on the white pages where the age of the magazine and paper stocks used can result in yellowing of the page over time. Scanning with a white back plate often exacerbates the problem where thin paper is concerned.

 editing-4

In the image above you can see the results of applying a couple of brightness/contrast ratio's to try and clean up the page. Obviously, for this example applying a brightness/contrast adjustment of 2:20 results in white looking markedly better however doing so will result in darker images which may result in a loss of detail unlike 1:10 which on the whole makes a minor difference to images. At the end of the day it's over to you how much correction, if any, that you think you should apply to get the best looking page. Every magazine is different and until you have a scanned page to work with you cannot tell how it will look. My advice is to look at a few pages with differing corrections done to them WITHOUT saving them and settle on a value for the WHOLE magazine rather than chopping and changing values on a per page basis as the resulting magazine will look different from page to page which isn't ideal.

Other ways of dealing with the issue include copying the page twice, making a full page adjustment then copying the original images from the second copy over the top of the first page but that relies on the images being square to allow easy copy/pasting or applying a fill into the white area. I do not advocate that however as it invariably results in unsightly speckles from variations in the color resulting in the fill not applying uniformly on the page. Probably best and certainly easiest to just to adopt whole page adjustments for white pages and make judgment calls on full color pages (usually ad pages) whether to adjust them or leave them be. 

Creating your Digital Magazine

After you have edited all the pages of the magazine it's time to compile them into one file. I prefer PDF files as it is an industry wide standard and if you choose to you can do some pretty cool things to them such as creating chapters/bookmarks or creating hybrid versions with OCR text for search ability etc. Other sites use .CBR or .CBZ files which are simply a .RAR or .ZIP file with the file extension renamed. As I use PDF's on my site the following instructions pertain to this format only. 

First off you need Adobe Acrobat Pro or some other PDF creation software like NitroPDF. If you don't have this you can download Acrobat Pro 7.0 for free using the Adobe CS2 page I mentioned earlier. It's a great way to acquire a legitimate product with spending a cent so go do it now!! When you have downloaded and installed the program open it and click through the mandatory acknowledgement screens. Once done you can close the program.

Locate the directory where your newly edited scans are stored making sure only those files are in the directory and that they are in the correct order (eg, for stapled magazine scans you have renamed them to the correct page number order etc.)  

Right click on the directory name in Windows Explorer and if Acrobat is installed click on Combine supported files in Acrobat … Acrobat will open and present a Combine Files menu.

editing-5

Click on the large icon under File Size and click on the Combine Files button as seen highlighted in red box above. Acrobat will now compile all the images sequentially into what will become your new PDF file. After a short time the magazine will be displayed. Next we setup the magazine to display the cover page singularly while displaying the content pages side by side just as you would look at a print copy in your hands.

Press the CTRL+D keys. A document properties menu is displayed. Click on the Initial View tab.

editing-6

In the following drop down boxes/fields select the following as seen in the image above:

  • Navigation Tab: Page Only
  • Page Layout: Two-Up (Cover Page)
  • Magnification: Fit Page
  • Open to Page: set to 1 (if not set to that by default for some reason)

 

Click on the Save button. Name the file as appropriately and once the file has been saved onto your computer close Acrobat and open the saved file by double clicking on it. All going well you will be presented with a digital copy of the original print copy with content pages displayed side by side. Congratulations, you have now created a digital version of your print magazine. Feel free to throw the physical out in the recycling and the digital version weighs nothing, doesn't make for a fire source in your basement and won't grow moldy with time 🙂

Any improvements to this guide feel free to let me know. I hope this helps somewhat in getting your magazines converted.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for the guide! I have currently been using a scan snap which is perfect from A4 or smaller (very quick and scan both sides at the same time along with auto rotating) but unfortunately many of my magazines are in the large format you mention. I’ll save up for an A3 scanner and apply your method 😀

    1. Hiya,

      Welcome to the site. Can’t say I’ve seen a Fujitsu SnapScan before. Certainly interested in seeing what the quality of the scans are like but the A4 size means I’d still need the A3 scanner. Then there’s the price of something like the x500 which is serious money.

        1. Hiya,

          This site is closely linked to Retromags already with some content from one site available at the other. Additonally, this site doesn't really have an awful lot of non-english content so in many ways it is probably better for your Italian site to specialise rather than encourage mutual linking as it gives that site a unique point of difference for visitors just as the Australian/New Zealand content here does for OGM.

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