Tom Swift Jr Endpapers

When looking at the sad state of Tom Swift Jr. endpapers in one of my beat up old books, I got the idea to digitally clean up the very cool illustration of Tom looking out a window in the Sky Queen laboratory. It turned out to be a more difficult task than I envisioned, but the results are worth it.

First, I tried to use software to remove the halftone or Ben-Day dots making up the background color. In gimp I didn't have much success using various filters, so settled on a brute force approach. Each day after work I took my time doing a small amount of manual cutting out of dots. To make the job easier I split the image into layers, shown in the following steps. Apologies for the low quality jpegs, made to keep the web page small.

Step 1: Endpaper scan from book with broken binding. Not a collectable book, but perfect for this chore!

(Step 2: Dot Removal. An exercise in patience! Not shown in effort to avoid boring you, gentle reader.)

Step 3: Work on instrument panel foreground and white highlights.

Step 4: Work on Arvid Hanson's models and desk, tedious with the many horizontal lines.

Step 5: Oscillograph.

Step 6: Model and real planes.

Step 7: Scene through Sky Queen window.

Step 8: Thoughtful Tom.

Step 9: Sky Queen background.

Step 10: Finished product!

There were quite a few additonal steps not shown. I also realized from my Tom Swift Jr books that different endpapers present slightly different portions of the original illustration. (I wonder if the original still exists?) So I scanned in a few to get additional slices of the picture around the edges. I also corrected a few mistakes:

  1. The original instrument panel has a line on the panel that mistakenly extends beyond the chemistry glassware.
  2. Two drawers on the lower right don't have their vertical lines inked.
  3. The oscillograph shows an impossible horizontal plot.
For purists the corrections are in separate layers that can be turned off to recreate the original.

Importantly, the original scan is at 600 dpi and much sharper than the greatly reduced jpeg images here. At the end of the process I merged intermediate layers yielding a final two in addition to the background color: blue foreground and white highlights.

Finally, the blue foreground, which is multi-shaded due to variations in ink, was filled to one shade with holes filled in. To reduce aliasing the layer was blurred several times using a small blur radius. The result should look fine at up to 24" x 36". I now proudly have an 11" x 14" version on the wall soon to be surrounded by several black and white 3x5, 4x6, and 5x7 illustrations from TS Jr, similarly cleaned. (Without need for dot removal those are much easier to clean!)