Scanners, Part 2: Ten Tips for a Clean Scan

Ten Tips for a Clean Scan

So, you’ve bought that new scanner and you have a pile of paintings sitting in the corner ready to digitize. Are the terms “dpi”, “color mode”, and “resolution” starting to confuse you? Here are a 10 tips to help get the best possible scan of your artwork.

    When preparing your scanner…

  1. Keep the scanner glass clean. Try to keep it fingerprint and smudge free. If the glass needs cleaning, use a lens cloth or something similar. Do not spray liquid cleaners onto the glass. Use them to lightly dampen the cloth, if needed.
  2. Protect the scanner glass from scratches. If you scratch the glass, it will show up in every scan you make. Again, use a soft cloth to clean your scanner. If you like to scan various objects to use for textures, such as rocks or sand, protect the scanner thoroughly by laying down a piece of acetate first.
  3. Place your scanner in a convenient area. Keep the area around the scanner free of clutter, and put it an area that won’t make it difficult to scan larger paintings, such as in a corner or near a wall. You might also want it near your computer, so you can easily adjust or hold the painting while you are scanning.
  4. When scanning your artwork…

  5. Keep the artwork as straight as possible. Most scanners will have an edge or guide that will help you keep your scan straight. This will especially help if you are scanning several pieces that will have to be stitched together later.
  6. Keep your artwork as flat as possible. If you don’t, it will create value, perspective, and color differences in the artwork. If you have to, hold the painting down while the scanner is scanning, or weigh it down with heavy books.
  7. If you need to scan several pieces of one image, overlap them. This will help align the pieces together, and help you get rid of dark and discolored edges caused by the edge of the scanner.
  8. When choosing the settings for your scan…

  9. When choosing a resolution, use more than you think you’ll need. You can always downsize the scan later, but you won’t be able to enlarge it without losing image quality.
  10. Some general resolution rules:

    • For printing and most digital archiving needs, scan at 300 dpi or more. This is the standard printing resolution. Scan higher if you plan to enlarge the painting. You usually don’t need to go higher than 600 dpi for regular color artwork, as there is little quality difference and the file sizes just get bigger.
    • For black and white line work that will be converted to bitmap images or scanned in “black and white” mode, use 1200 dpi or more. This type of artwork uses only black and white pixels. Because there is no gray to help blur and smooth the curves on your line, you need a very high resolution to avoid the blocky, pixelated edges.
    • Don’t scan lower than 150 dpi. Images for the web require a resolution of 72 dpi. However, if you scan higher and downsize it later, the quality will better. Scanning at 72 dpi usually doesn’t work for me.

  11. If your image isn’t in color, scan in grayscale. This will speed up the scanning process.
  12. Leave the fancy tricks to Photoshop. If you scanner’s software comes with options like sepia toning, special effects, or other editing features besides crop and rotate, it most likely won’t do it better than Photoshop, and will probably slow the scanning process.

I hope these tips help to de-mystify the scanning process for you. If you have any additional tips or questions, be sure to email me or leave a comment.

More scanning tips and tutorials are to come. Stay up to date by subscribing to via RSS feed or by email.