Ask Selina- Scanning Artwork

“How do I scan my artworks when they are too big for my scanner? What kind of scanner do you use? Can I photograph the artwork? What do I do?”

You don’t need to buy a big scanner to scan big artworks. Sure they are nice, but they also cost a pretty penny (my advice? Check ebay auctions now and then, sometimes they come up cheap! That’s where I got my A3 scanner, a Microtek Scanmaker 9700XL). In terms of scanner quality, in my experience the thing that affects the quality of artwork scans the most is focal depth. A higher focal depth means if your artwork is on textured paper or isn’t sitting perfectly flat against the scanner glass, it won’t be out of focus.

Whether you score a good A3 (or larger!) scanner, or are just using standard A4 (or Letter) sized, you’ll sometimes have an artwork too big for the scanner plate. What you need to do then is learn how to stitch scans. This means scanning your artwork in pieces and putting it together using graphics editing software, like Photoshop or Gimp (a free program like Photoshop). I could tell you how, but fantastic artist and business woman Ellen Million already has an excellent article about it here which is pretty much the same process I use-

And while you’re learning about getting great scans of your art, also check out her other article about scanning, here-

Spending a bit of time cleaning up and refining your scanned image makes a huge difference to your presentation, so get those dust spots cleaned up, get your colours balanced, and display the best scan possible!

I personally think your time is better spent scanning and stitching artworks than it is trying to get a good photograph of the image. For starters, you’re going to want to have a VERY good digital camera- this doesn’t just mean high resolution, but also the size of the light sensitive chip as well, which is a major factor in the quality of digital photos. Most digital SLR cameras would fit the job, but make sure the resolution is going to be high enough to print your image as big as you’re going to want to print it. After you’ve got the right camera, photographing artwork is a very technical and skilled task. I sure can’t do it. Lighting and focus have to be perfect- NO flash! Angles have to be just right or your image is going to be warped. I’m sure just the right type of lens is needed for a good job too and you absolutely must use a tripod. You really also should have a light box, white balance cards and other accessories, and really once you get ALL of that, you might as well have bought a good scanner. I’ve priced a professional art photographer service once and their quote made me spit out my tea. They charge a lot because it is damn hard to get it right. So, my opinion is to stick with scanners.



3 thoughts on “Ask Selina- Scanning Artwork

  1. Christina says:

    I feel you there, I went through exactly that today!! Tried photographing my painting, but for prints it is not optimal. So I was recommended to a photographer and I was like you want how much?! O_O
    I know no photographer…and my scanner is built into my printer so I am not sure how good of a job it can do…but its worth a shot!
    Ill look Ellen Millions article, thanks Selina!

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