Ways to get better results when scanning art

Drawing things by hand can produce some great things. However, if you want to use them for anything online or even just to touch them up a little, you need to scan them in somehow. Scanning can be troublesome, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are some general tips on how to make your art scan better.

  • Scan at a high DPI
    DPI, or Dots Per Inch, reflects the amount of detail that the scanner records. Higher DPI settings allow the scanner to get a clearer picture of what’s being scanned. This also makes the resulting image much larger, but any decent program can resize it for you. While 300 DPI is recommended, higher is always good. Large images produce clearer images when resized, so bigger is definitely better.
  • Scan in color
    Even if what you’re scanning is in black and white, only scan things in color mode. This gives YOU control over how the image will look. Scanning things in black and white or grayscale will lose some of the details of your work. Any flaws in the scanning process (flecks, wrinkles, erased lines etc) will be exaggerated using these modes and harder to clear up.
  • Place a clean sheet of white printer paper behind your artwork
    Scanners work by reading light reflected off the item being scanned. By placing a fresh sheet of white paper behind your artwork, you make more of the light from the scanner bounces back. This greatly improves the contrast and brings out the colors of your piece. Depending on the scanner and what you’re scanning, different colored papers might produce some interesting effects. Experiment!
  • Expect to touch up your scan in an editing program
    In a perfect world, scanners would pick up every detail of your effort. Unfortunately, in the real world scanners often pick up things that are not desirable. Lines you thought were erased, smears or fog on the scanner’s glass, hair, wrinkles and even tiny specks left behind from previous things scanned can appear in what the scanner sees, marring up your work. You’ll need something like GIMP or Adobe Photoshop to clean things up a bit after scanning.
  • Choose your media carefully beforehand
    Some drawing utensils simply do not scan very well. If you plan ahead, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by using things that will scan better. If it can’t be helped, just focus on the other tips on this page as they will make it somewhat easier.
  • Ink by computer, not by hand
    If you’re drawing something to color it on the computer, just sketch it. Don’t ink it by hand; scan the rough sketch work in, then use the program of your choice to ink it. This will make coloring it easier and allow you to easily fix any mistakes you make when you ink.

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