Addressing Gray Fills and Uneven Line Weights

I would appreciate input from the Society’s armorial illustration community about how the Traceable Art collection can best address the issues raised in this month’s cover letter item on line art.

I originally added light-gray fills when I was creating the clip-art collection to address an issue that came up at Pennsic Heralds Point, in which new folks would sometimes trace an outline template but then not be sure about which areas were supposed to be filled in. As the collection later became more frequently used as a source for digital clip art, those fills proved useful in ensuring that the SVG files always had “fill objects” that made it easy to apply colors to the body of the charge.

Obviously those gray fills don’t show up when the images are traced by hand using a lightbox, and I had always assumed that people would replace them with appropriate color or monochrome fills when creating their submissions.

However, over the last year or two I’ve been seeing those light-gray fills show up in OSCAR line art images, and have wanted to do something about it, so over the last couple of months, I’ve been brainstorming approaches to automatically produce versions of the images with the gray fills stripped out.

In order to ensure that I make this change in an effective way, I would greatly appreciate the community’s input on the following questions:

Does anyone have a sense of what kinds of workflows are most likely to result in these gray fills being left in place?

Am I right in suspecting that the problem is more likely to affect people who are using the PNG files rather than those using the SVG or PDF files?

What type of modified file would most thoroughly solve this issue? Black-and-white PNGs with fills and antialiasing stripped out, so that every pixel is either black or white with nothing in between? Or outline-only PNGs with the fill areas converted to transparent pixels?

While I’m at it, would it be useful to anyone to have these files in GIF or JPEG format rather than PNG?

If folks are running into the same issue with vector files, what would be more helpful: Black-and-white SVGs with the fill areas converted from light gray to white? Or transparent SVGs with filters applied so that Inkscape treats light areas as transparent?

Or maybe the solution is something else that I haven’t thought of?

On a related topic, am I right in assuming that the difficulty with line weights is primarily a challenge for PNG users, who can’t simply add strokes to the outlines of charges?

Does anyone know of a useful technique for increasing the size of those lines in popular “paint-style” programs other than retracing every stroke?

Please let me know in the comments here, or message or email me in any venue that is convenient for you.

I appreciate your feedback.

2 thoughts on “Addressing Gray Fills and Uneven Line Weights”

  1. Using a raster graphics tool, you can bulk up the outer outline by using a 2-4 pixel inner glow in black, usually with very little feathering.

    In theory you could fatten up all lines by selecting the white and/or transparent area then invert the selection, then expand the selection 1 pixel and flood full black or use a contrast took to darken the selection.

    Neither of these methods gives you a super clean image, though.

    As for the light grey, add a note to the page explaining that pale grey fills are in use and that they need to be retinctured. Whether it’s a flood full in a raster tool or a vector shape fill in a tool such as Inkscape shouldn’t matter.

    Alternatively, put up a color version of the image so folks can see what gets colored, but download black and white.

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