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Author Topic: Hand drawn scanned backgrounds  (Read 353 times)

Hand drawn scanned backgrounds
« on: 14 Nov 2017, 14:49 »
Hello ladies and gentlemen!

I'm a big fan of retro computer games and Ι nourish a big love for Sierra's adventure games.

Particularly I like their SCI1 era

After a long search on the internet about the exact procedure they followed to create those amazingly beautiful backgrounds (e.g. in King's Quest V), the only thing I found was a blurred sentence (and not at all detailed) about it. It's written "SCI1 gave them the ability to use hand-drawn paintings that was later scanned in 256-colors".

I am not satisfied with this information.

So, my questions are: Can someone explain me in a more detailed way, what was the exact procedure they followed to create the background art? Can someone suggest me a detailed article? A video link maybe?

I have a Samsung scanner and I can draw/paint with pencil and water colors and I use the GIMP drawing/painting/editing utility. How could I reproduce the exact result?

Thanks in advance.




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Re: Hand drawn scanned backgrounds
« Reply #1 on: 14 Nov 2017, 16:31 »
Pick a resolution for your game. King's Quest V used 320x200, but I recommend 320x180 instead, which scales nicely to current HD resolutions.

Start by drawing a 16:9 rectangle on a piece of paper as a guide, for instance 8"x4.5".
Paint the background, then scan it at 100 dpi or more. Finally, open the scan, and crop and scale it down to 320x180.

The sentence you mentioned is probably less about the specific technique and more about the fact that backgrounds in earlier Sierra games were saved as a list of drawing instructions, whereas SCI offered the ability to store a pre-drawn bitmap.


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Re: Hand drawn scanned backgrounds
« Reply #2 on: 16 Nov 2017, 11:44 »
And after you've done all of that, convert it to 256 colours using GIMP or something similar. I recommend GIMP, because it adds a nice dithering effect that reminds me of those old scanned in backgrounds on Sierra and LucasArts adventure games. Of course most programs will add dithering when lowering the colour count to 256 colours, but I prefer the way GIMP does its dithering effect.

The result should be something that looks similar to a background from the old SCI games, but probably a little better, since those backgrounds used slightly less that 256 colours, since some colours were reserved for characters or menus.

Re: Hand drawn scanned backgrounds
« Reply #3 on: 16 Nov 2017, 11:47 »
If you want to reproduce their results, I'd say draw the background you want, trying to mimic their style.
I have not seen many originals, but my guess is that they probably used acrylics and/or markers.

Just like Khris said, the art should have the same ratio as the screen 16:9 if you aim for most modern screens (to export at 320x180), going for the older ones will be picking between 320x200 (the actual resolution of the old games) or 320x240 (the "correct" resolution for a 3:4 screen with square pixels, but this is a debate for some other time).
I'd recommend drawing a little more than what you plan to use, just to make sure you have a bit of wiggle room in the borders.

Once the art is done, you just scan it, resize and crop to the resolution you want, then and adjust brightness, contrast, and color (scans always look different, so you might want to do some adjusting).
Finally you might want to convert it to an indexed palette, to reproduce the technical limitation of the time. I'd say you limit it to 150~200 colors instead of 256 (Back then they had a limit of 256 colors total, so they had to dedicate part of these to the characters that would show on that room and also the UI including the items).
Here is how you change the color depth in GIMP:

There is a good chance that after resizing and retouching and changing the color depth of the image some details might be lost, look wrong or have some dithering you dislike.
This you just have to fix pixel by pixel.

And I think that's pretty much it.
« Last Edit: 16 Nov 2017, 11:51 by CaesarCub »