How to re-create a poor-quality microfilm scan
November 9, 2014 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Calling graphic artists: I have a microfilm-derived copy of a newspaper article from 1873. The copy is poor quality, to the point where it's hard to read. I don't think any sort of simple image processing is going to fix it. I'd like to re-create the article from scratch, but I have very little experience in this area.

I'm looking for advice on which specific fonts to use, and how to create those little horizontal section-dividers. I'd also like to know how to make the resulting copy looked "distressed" (but not nearly as distressed as the original).

A strict true-to-life match is not important for my purposes. The fonts and overall appearance should be reasonably close to the original, but we don't have to go crazy here.

I don't have easy access to Photoshop. I'd prefer instructions that can be accomplished in GIMP. If necessary, though, I can probably find someone who has Photoshop installed on their PC.
posted by alex1965 to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAGA, but you might try initially setting it up in Inkscape, then exporting as a raster image for any post-processing in GIMP or Photoshop. Inkscape also has quite a large array of filter-type effects on its own that can be applied, BTW.
posted by XMLicious at 9:02 AM on November 9, 2014

You have two possible routes here. One is to go onto a free font site like dafont and search through the "eroded" fonts. There are not so many eroded serif fonts with upper and lower case letters, but something like Times New Yorker might do the trick. Then reset the piece using the eroded font.

The second route is to choose regular fonts and ornaments and typeset the piece as if it's a fresh thing, then generate a graphic and subject it to aging by means of filters on GIMP or Photoshop. The benefit here is you can choose much closer fonts to replicate the 1873 look. This is what I'd do.
posted by zadcat at 9:03 AM on November 9, 2014

If you feel particularly adventurous, and if you can find a better-quality high-resolution scan of another issue of the same newspaper in the same font, you could use FontForge to create your own crude font from scratch.

(Or there might be a simpler and less-generalized tool for doing this, I notice that Googling "bitmap font generator" returns lots of results. A bitmapped font, the sort that would be created by assembling a bunch of images of the letters, would probably only look good at one particular size/resolution.)
posted by XMLicious at 9:22 AM on November 9, 2014

Best answer: This is how it's done:

clean version

aged version

Fonts: Bodoni, Serif Beta 6, Bergamot Ornaments

Tools: InDesign for the typesetting, Photoshop for the aging (noise + zigzag for randomization – this could be done more subtly if you had time)
posted by zadcat at 9:43 AM on November 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Notes to add: keep in mind that typographical standards have changed since that newspaper was set in type. People put periods at the end of lines of type where we don't any more, letterspacing was more open because metal setting didn't allow for negative kerning, and linespace changes in this article from wider, to tighter, then narrower again.

The cut of Bodoni I used is not free, but Serif Beta is, and a subset of Emily Lime's Bergamot Ornaments is also free. Manfred Klein has made a free Bodoni version or you could research other free serif fonts that might do.
posted by zadcat at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could also create a clean copy, print it out, photocopy it, then photocopy the copy until it looks degraded enough. Then scan it back into your computer.
posted by oxisos at 4:49 PM on November 9, 2014

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