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Dash of Inspiration: Image Quality – Poor Scans

July 15, 2013

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Image Quality: Poor Scans

Let’s keep this series going by moving through the IMAGE QUALITY grouping of the Submission Guidelines, and next up  is:

IMAGE QUALITY: Poor Scans      

The Submission Guidelines state this:

Scanned art and photography must be free of dust and scratches, careless cropping and misalignment upon final upload. Scans must be at minimum the same image size and resolution requirements for any GCU upload. Pay attention to alignment, resolution, color, and contrast when scanning your artwork. Declines may include, but are not limited to: crooked scans, poor color, dirt, dust, scratches, tears, low resolution, pix-elated images, etc.  

Scanning artwork in order to achieve a high-quality scan which will reproduce your original art, requires a few critical things.

  1. That your artwork fits flat on the flatbed scanner or that you have access to a professional quality drum scanner.
  2. That you scan at a dpi (dots per inch) minimum to EQUAL the output dimensions.
  3. You understand how to make adjustments to color and tonal values within the scanning device and/or has the post-processing tools, to obtain the closest possible digital reproduction which represents the original art.

For most professional artists, it’s worth the price to have their artwork captured digitally through a professional service. Those of us who sell Giclee fine art prints, have our work scanned by the printing/publishing house, whose professionals know how to get perfect high-resolution scans.  This is a fairly costly option however.

Today, with high resolution digital cameras you have some options which can offer a dust-free digital file and a much more affordable option.

  1. Place the artwork (no framing, no glass) completely flat against a vertical surface such as a wall or door.
  2. Choose a place with natural, even lighting for best results.
  3. Temporarily mount it at a level which will make it completely level with the camera on a tripod, using artist’s tape to hold the artwork in place if the artwork is on paper vs. canvas.
  4. Set up a digital camera (6+ megapixels minimum for greeting card size), choose camera capture settings which are the highest resolution possible (shoot in RAW format if you have that option), and put the camera on a tripod.
  5. Make sure the camera height is exact so that the artwork is straight and level within the viewfinder.  Perspective is critical here!
  6. Level the tripod, if your tripod does not come with levels use a hand-held one to level horizontally and vertically.

If you have the tools and patience, this can be an inexpensive way to achieve high resolution, dust free digital images from your artwork with great color saturation and tonal values.

Crooked Scans:  It’s very common to get a crooked scan and very easy to correct in post-processing.  If you do not have the ability to correct a scanned image which is tilted, then you should have your work scanned professionally. Crooked art or photographic scans will not be accepted on greeting cards.

Poor Color:  One of the most difficult areas of scanning your artwork or photographic images on a home-based scanner is achieving an accurate and pleasant color match to the original. Color casts of magenta or cyan are very common issues, particularly in older scanner models. Most scanners come with software to allow you to calibrate and adjust color variables. Though frustrating and time-consuming, this is a must if you wish to use your scans professionally.

july photos image 1

Dirt, Dust, Scratches, Tears:  None of these are acceptable in your greeting card images. It’s nearly impossible to scan a photograph, negative or transparency without visible signs of dust/dirt unless you have a newer model scanner designed for photographic scans which come with interactive software specifically to reduce dust and scratches. Even then, the results will not be perfect on every scan. You really must have software such as Photoshop which allows you to go ‘spot’ your images after scanning. In the old darkroom days, we used fine-tipped paint brushes and spotting inks to touch up darkroom prints.

You must keep all of these issues in mind when working to scan vintage photographs and artwork. You can not submit greeting card images with poor quality, whether they are vintage or not, and expect them to be accepted.  Even vintage work requires a certain level of image quality to be acceptable.

Too Low Resolution:  Learn about resolution and how to capture via scanning a digital file of the correct size and resolution from your original scan. If you do not completely understand this capture method, you are likely to enlarge your scans well beyond acceptable resolution and they will be declined.

Tips for scanning at the right size/resolution:

  • Transparencies and negatives are so small, you need to maintain a maximum resolution so the image can be enlarged as needed. Make sure you’re scanning at a high resolution (2400 dpi is recommended) when scanning either photo slides or negatives that you wish to enlarge later.
  • If you’re considering enlarging your scanned image from its original size, then a general rule of thumb is to double the dpi with every doubling in size.
  • If you have the negative/transparency, always choose to scan from that rather than scanning a print made FROM the film. Think about it this way … Every generation made from the original film loses some clarity and quality. So: the film is the 1st Generation, the print is the 2nd Generation, the scan is the 3rd Generation and the digital file you are now printing from is a 4th Generation … that’s four generations which have all lost some detail in clarity, tonal values and color along the way.
  • Never work in a compressed file mode when scanning. Every time a compressed file type is saved, such as; jpgs, they lose quality in your image. Always scan and work in a non-compressed format such as PNG, TIFF or native Photoshop options.

Example: Scanning 35mm film size – Scanning 1.42 x 0.94 inches (36.0 x 24.0 mm) requires the MINIMUM Scanning Resolution of 1482 dpi (583 pixels/cm). Minimum meaning any cropping requires greater scanning resolution – to print at 7.00 x 5.00 inches at 300 dpi.

july photos image 2

Next week we’ll continue through the Submission Guidelines: Image Quality section and discuss Reflections. Till next week, I hope I’ve inspired you to go look through your store and see if you can weed out any images that the reviewers will find during their weeding which might have been poorly scanned.

For great resources & tips visit the SalonOfArt

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2013 1:02 pm

    Psssst…. “If you have the tools and patients…. ”
    should be “patience.”
    You’re welcome

  2. July 15, 2013 1:30 pm

    Thanks Doreen, sometimes we look, but we don’t always see. It pays to take a second look at our work with a more critical eye I think!

    • July 15, 2013 2:33 pm

      Very true! Great example on my patients vs. patience in the article. I read it over more than once and still didn’t catch the error. My eyes just kept correcting the error 🙂

  3. July 15, 2013 3:13 pm

    Really appreciate the tips – thank you!

  4. July 16, 2013 3:06 am

    I thought patients/patience was funny! 🙂

  5. July 17, 2013 1:30 pm

    I must say I am enjoying this series. I pick up a tip on everyone. Thank you for your time and thoughts. I have a new scanner but I like the camera idea.


    • July 17, 2013 2:52 pm

      Thank you Ginger. That’s very nice to hear. The camera setup has worked very well for me in the past 🙂

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