How To Scan Artwork

Introduction

Apart from photographing artwork, scanning is another method for converting your art into digital images. You can pay a scanning bureau to scan your work with a drum scanner, but you can often achieve good quality results with a flatbed scanner at home.

Professional Drum Scanning

Generally, drum scanners are of an impressive size and correspondingly expensive, costing around as much as a car or a small house. These are used by pro labs to scan your film, so it is hardly surprising that a high resolution scan can cost £25 to £50 a time. The drums used are typically a metre or so long, and a number of images are scanned at the same time, each negative being held on a small part of the drum’s surface.

The light source is in the middle of the drum and the photocell outside. As the drum rotates, it scans every point on a circle around it. The light and photocell then move a fraction parallel to the axis of the drum for the next line to be scanned. The curved drum keeps the film to light source distance constant, and avoids problems with reflections.

How To Scan Artwork With A Flatbed Scanner

  • You need a flat bed scanner installed and connected to a computer system.
  • Before use, carefully clean the scanner glass with a damp cloth or glass cleaner and dry.
  • Put the print face down on the glass. Ensure that the actual print area is parallel to the edges of the scanner.
  • Start the scanner software. On some scanners there is a scan button, or there may be an import function on your images processing software, or a separate scanner program.
  • If your scanner software does not automatically run a preview, do so (unless you are using VueScan – see tips.)
  • If your picture is skewed, line it up better and repeat the preview.
  • On the preview, use the mouse to outline the desired scan area.
  • If you are going to use Photoshop (or other image manipulation), scan all images as ‘millions of colours’. Otherwise use this for colour and grey scale for black and white.
  • Adjust the scanner resolution to give an appropriate file size in pixels. For printing, scan to get 300 pixels per inch of final print size. For web, create a scan with largest side around 900 pixels.
  • Try the auto-exposure button if there is one in the software, then adjust brightness and contrast if needed. On some scanners, resetting to default will give good results.
  • For colour pictures, set any colour controls to the default values unless you are scanning direct to a printer.
  • If your scanner has a setting that allows you to improve shadow separation, use it.
  • Scan the images, saving in TIFF, BMP or PCX, but not as JPEG.
  • See the related ‘How to’s’ for what to do with your scan next.

Tips

  • Always set the size measurement on the software to read in pixels when making a scan, unless you are scanning direct to a printer.
  • Third-party scanning software may produce better results than that supplied by the scanner manufacturer.
  • Never scan at a higher resolution than the actual optical resolution of your scanner. Never use any ‘sharpen’ command in the scanner software.

Scanning Work Larger Than Your Scanner

  • Take the cover off the scanner
  • Place painting face down on scanner.
  • Scan in the first quarter at at least 300dpi, preferably higher, taking great care to align the artwork squarely.
  • Continue to scan all 4 quarters with exactly the same settings and again, taking great care to align the artwork squarely.
  • Open each of the quarters of the painting in Photoshop.
  • To remove any canvas pattern etc. optionally:
    • Apply Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian blur, have the radius at between 5 – 10 pixels
    • If you scanned at more than 300dpi, reduce each quarter to 25%
  • Go to Image
    • Go to Image Size – the window will look like this (Note: Make sure that Constrain – Proportions box is checked:

Image Window

    • Change inches to percentage by pressing the triangle next to the word inches.
    • Change Width to read 25% (when the Proportions box is checked, both the width and height will be reduced by 25%.
    • Press OK.
  • Make each of the quarters 25%.
  • If necessary, go to Image – Rotate – and select the correct number of degrees so that it will be right side up.
  • Now it is time to put your painting together.
    • Go to Image – Canvas Size – Change the width to 5 inches and the height to 6 inches. This will give you enough room to assemble the painting.
    • Next, add 3 more layers to the image, one for each of the quarters.
      • Make sure the Layers Palette is open.
      • If it isn’t, go to “Window – Palettes – Show Layers” to open it.
      • Press the triangle until the menu pops out and choose New Layer.
    • Using the Marquee tool, move the Bottom Left Side of the painting to the bottom left side of the screen.
    • Copy each of the remaining quarters and paste it into its own layer in your assembled image file.
    • You can now move around each of the quarters until they all match up with each other by selecting the layer that it is on and using the Move Tool (Hint: You can use the arrow keys

to move each section by a very small amount).

    • When you are happy that all the quarters line up, go back to the Layers Paletter and Press the triangle again. This time choose “Flatten Image” and your quarters will now be pasted together.
  • At this point, you can handle this image like any others you have edited, however you might need to trim it a little, sharpen it, adjust the colors, change the size to fit your web page, etc.

Which Scanner To Buy

Scanner technology is improving all the time, so it’s difficult to keep current with recommendations. Apart from following recommendations, the main factors to consider are the optical resolution and Bit Depth, but any new scanner is likely to be able to produce acceptable results.

Reccommended Scanners

More scanners reviewed on Amazon.com

Some consumer review magazines/websites:

References

External Links

5 comments for “How To Scan Artwork

  1. Rahj goldwin
    October 8, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Good Article ! Can u explain why we should not save as jpeg any scanned image ? I had a tough time scanning a gasket tracing into autocad, then tracing over it in autocad using circles and lines. i used 1:1 scale and printed it iut on laser printer (removed scale to paper option while printing) but the output was always off the actual gasket and couldnt match it. would happen at outer edges even 4 inches fron drg cenre. circles would become ellipses. it was torture to do the task. after 30 prints keen gave up !

  2. October 8, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Although high quality Jpegs are very good, they are still lossy compression so some of the original scan data is lost. In this day and age ever decreasing storage prices, using lossless compression on the original scans would be the most sensible option. e.g. TIFF image format with LZW lossless compression.

  3. January 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Very helpful tips! Using image enhancement software will also help improve the scanned artwork. See hee for a tutorial demonstrating how to remove glare and restore a scanned painting in Photoshop: http://bit.ly/1hAIywy

  4. Lorraine Daranll
    October 10, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Your article is very helpful! I am pretty sure I am going to purchase the Epson Expression1000XL GT, unless they make a higher end one. If you are aware of a better model, I would certainy be interested. I am excited to try it out on our next Giclee order! Can you explain how “stiching” the 4 parts of the image back together, you can eliminate any overlap?

    thank you,
    Lorraine

  5. October 20, 2014 at 5:16 am

    For stitching there’s some tools out there to make it easier now.

    Here’s a tutorial for doing it with photoshop:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAk_aw0IYjU

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