Hacking the Moleskine Creative Cloud Connected Smart Notebook

Sketchbooks are a big part of my process (I usually bind my own to keep costs down and to recycle paper) and I was excited to read that through a collaboration with Adobe, Moleskine is about to debut their second line of smart notebooks and cloud connected apps (the first line being a collaboration with Evernote a couple of years ago) which in addition to deskewing, and fixing contrast through the app much like competing smart notebook/app platforms will allow you to send the resulting scan to Adobe’s servers for conversion to a SVG file. This file can then be imported straight into Illustrator CC or downloaded from Creative Cloud to be used offline. Video from Moleskine’s website.

Seems awesome and I’d love to give it a try but while the app, Creative Cloud storage, and the conversion are free the Moleskine notebook is about $35 and not widely available. Wanting to try this out for myself without having to wait to get my hands on one of the books I remembered Mark Evans had been able to make his own template sheet back when the original Evernote Smart Notebook came out. I set out to try and make my own for the second generation of Moleskine Smart Notebook.

I began by trying to determine the overall size of the marks and their position on the page. After having had found a pic of the book with an iPhone that was at around the same depth of field as the notebook page I was able to scale up the image in CAD and measure out the size of the crops. After that getting them onto a 5″ x 8.25″ sheet was pretty easy.

Success! The red bounding box means that the app is correctly reading the crop marks.

3.5″ x 5.5″

I really don’t use/make 5″ x 8″ books anymore and have gravitated towards 3.5″ x 5.5″ books for a while now so i thought i’d see if i could get this working on a smaller page. My first attempt was to simply replicate the same size crop marks at the same distance from the page margins on a smaller sheet. Doing it this way I was only able to get the app to recognize the crop marks if I took the phone pic from farther away. Far enough that the edges of the image got blurry thus defeating the purpose of the SVG conversion. It dawned on me that their app might be taking not only the location and relative size of the crop marks into account but their relationship to the overall page size. If that were the case it would make sense that the app would work if I pulled my phone far back enough that it seemed like I was really taking a picture of a 5″ x 8″ sheet of paper. In order to test the theory I scaled down the 5″ x 8″ sheet by about 50% which also shrunk down the crop marks and tried again with this smaller sheet.

Size comparison. Far right: 5″ x 8.25″ sheet. Middle: 3.5″ x 5.75″ sheet. Far Left: iPhone 6.




New Game +

Just for kicks I thought I’d see if I could do something similar with the Whitelines Link system. This is a similar system though instead of SVG conversion Whitelines smartbooks and the companion app feature: deskew, contrast fix, auto tagging, and auto upload to Dropbox or Evernote. They also use a patented paper which features white lines on a gray background, when you take a pic of their notebooks their app algorithm removes the gray background leaving you with a completely white background devoid of guidelines. While I wasn’t going to try to get the gray background stuff to work I thought I’d see if I could get the system to recognize and upload my sheet as a proof of concept.

Turns out their crop marks which are closer to tiny QR codes act as a kind of DRM and the app knows i’m not using official Whitelines paper and refuses to scan.

Paper fail.


All is not lost however, Whitelines sells a set of stickable code sheets for use with whiteboards. I was able to take these and shrink them down in CAD to a smallish (3/8″ x 3/8″) size and have the app recognize my paper as a whiteboard. Also for kicks I threw in the grid from the original Evernote Smart Notebook in there to see if it interferes with the scan.

It works! Though the Whitelines app occasionally wants to rotate the image 90 degrees.


5 thoughts on “Hacking the Moleskine Creative Cloud Connected Smart Notebook

  1. Kai Koenig

    Great work, well done. Is there any chance you could make the CC templates available?

    1. ruthven1670 Post author

      Sorry, I’m just seeing your comment now. I’ve kind of let this blog languish. In the middle of an office move, templates are in one of my backups. I’ll make them available once I’ve unpacked everything.


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