How To Accurately Digitize Sketchbook Size Artwork At A Professional Level? Scanners?
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    How To Accurately Digitize Sketchbook Size Artwork At A Professional Level? Scanners?

    Hey everybody! This is my first post ever on this great find of an art website/web forum! I have been looking for such a forum for a while to help get an answer to one key art question I have…

    My question that I desperately need help with is this… I just wanted to know how to digitize small-scale art, sketchbook size and slightly larger canvas/paper sizes, at the highest quality? For archival purposes, to have extremely ACCURATE digital copies of real works of art to last for years as perfect reproductions (or as perfect as can be) of the actual works while the real stuff ages and slowly comes apart over time and the decades. (Also, besides digitizing solely for archival purposes, I’d like to be able to work with my art in the digital realm with programs like Photoshop, Painter, etc, for graphic design purposes be it to make band posters, CD covers, T-Shirts, webpages, etc, or just so I can digitally paint over these works.

    What I'm talking about digitizing are drawings/illustrations made using mediums such as pen and ink, graphite pencil, charcoal, markers, colored pencils, water color paints, etc, of figures, characters, industrial designs (product designs), machines, landscapes, settings, concept art, and so on, drawn on paper mediums that range from your average recycled newsprint to drawing paper, marker paper, charcoal paper, etc. And most of what I want to digitize isn’t a bunch of complete, detailed illustrations or art works that are the result of incredible amounts of working time, most the stuff is quick pen and ink sketches and so on. And pretty much 90% of it is just grayscale, no color, and the stuff that is color isn’t so elaborate or finished that I need to excessively worry about color accuracy or anything like that. As for the amount of sketches/drawings that I want to accurately digitize at the best quality I can, it numbers around 120 or so.



    So I don't know what to do! Whether to look into flatbed scanners or try to find some type of business or service that digitizes images at a professional level for a reasonable price? Thing is, having done some online research I've found there aren't really many scanners out there for this, or many scanners that are built and targeted for this type of usage. And the few I've seen, like the Epson 10000 XL Graphic Arts Scanner, which fits the job, costs a huge $2,500 amount, so that's not very realistic for me. The thing is though, I really don't know what the capabilities of a typical, affordable scanner in the $80-$400 price range are these days for this function and usage. The times I was digitizing art and using scanners in the past, (to then digitally paint over it within photoshop) was about ten years ago when I was in art school and I’ve been away from the art field since then and so I'm not up to date on how good a typical scanner is in current times. So I'm wondering, is a typical scanner that goes for a couple hundred dollars pretty much all I need? Would the image quality be good enough to really capture subtle line changes and subtle changes in tones and shades? Again, I'm pretty much not dealing with anything color, it's all grayscale, so color accuracy isn't an issue or a need.

    So yeah, can anybody steer me in the right direction towards either an expensive scanner that would do the job, or inform me that a typical scanner is totally good enough? Or lastly, point out some businesses that could do this for me? For those who live in the U.S., I've recently moved to the Los Angeles, CA area (which would obviously be one of the places in the U.S. with the most likelihood of having such places and services), and I'm sure many of you live here, so maybe someone knows a place? And again note that I'm digitizing maybe 100 sketches, so if the price per piece of artwork were very expensive it wouldn't work for me since I have such a large volume of work to digitize.

    Help! Any info or suggestions are greatly appreciated! Or if flatbed scanners are the charm, name me some models! Thanks!!!!

    Gatsby216

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    Any decent flatbed scanner should work fine, and you can get scanners in the $200 range that should give you perfectly acceptable quality as long as you scan at a high enough resolution (300dpi or higher should do it.) Granted, even with a high-end scanner you almost always need to adjust the raw scan in order to make it match the original, so you'll want Photoshop or some other image editing software to do that. (Sometimes image editing software comes bundled with the scanner, but it isn't always very good. So if you have Photoshop or something similar, use that to make adjustments instead.)

    I don't know which scanners are the best at the moment, I got my current scanner a while ago (a Mustek ScanExpress A3 1200 Pro - I got it primarily to scan larger pieces. Quality is good, but it has difficulty with anything that doesn't lie completely flat on the scan bed.) In general, you'll want to look for scanners that are primarily scanners. Avoid the all-in-one multi-purpose scanner-printer-fax type of machines, they tend to have lower scan quality. It may help to look up scanner reviews on places like CNET, Consumer Reports, etc.

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; February 23rd, 2013 at 11:58 AM.
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    For smaller pieces, any entry level standalone scanner will be fine for your purposes. Avoid all-in-ones. Use the "advanced" settings in the scanner software, scan at high resolution, turn off all auto-adjustments, scan to a lossless file format like TIFF, and do all your color adjustment in a photo editing program, preferably on a duplicate of the raw scan. Pieces larger than 8.5x11/A4 are trickier, if you use Photoshop you can scan in sections and use the photomerge feature. Some photo editors that come bundled with scanners or cameras also have a panorama feature that assembles multiple overlapping images into one. Large format scanners are incredibly expensive, the only lower-priced one is the Mustek model that QueenGuenevere mentioned, but it has a CIS rather than a CCD sensor, so its depth of field is severely limited.


    Tristan Elwell
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    I just wrote a long reply and then unfortunately lost it as the webpage reloaded so I'll be brief now out of technical frustration...

    First, thanks so much for the replies and advice given so far, thanks Elwell and QueenGwenevere.

    What I had written is if I'm going with a decent entry-level scanner as advised, my list of brand options are just five it seems, HP, Epson, Canon, Mustek, and Microtek. HP doesn't seem to be really into the image/photo scanner business and offers very few details about their two models so I'm disregarding HP. Mustek I'm disregarding because of what you said Elwell about the CIS sensor versus CCD. If I was going with Microtek I'd be looking at their ScanMaker i800 Plus for a hefty $450 but I'm nixing them too unless anybody has different advice for me. Epson seems to be really into the image/photo scanner business and makes a bunch of models ranging into some pretty high-end professional models. Sadly I can't afford or justify spending $2500 on one of their large format Graphic Arts scanners. And their $740 V700 and $950 V750-M Pro is out of my price range too. So right now I'm considering from Canon either the $130 CanoScan 5600F or the $200 CanoScan 9000F Mark II or from Epson $180 V500 or $210 V600. I'm loosely leaning towards the Canon machines because I've read some reviews that say Epson's units don't mesh well with Mac software and I own multiple Macs. Also the Epsons come bundled with Photoshop Elements software so that's $40 that's not going towards the quality of the machine but basic photo editing software I don't need (I own photoshop). So yeah, I guess with my limited research I'm leaning towards one of those Canon machines. Anybody have any experience with any of these scanners? Anyone have some further advice?

    Thanks again for the advice given so far, please keep it coming and help me with this decision! I've got several years of artwork I really, really want to digitize at excellant quality, the results of some intense work years ago that I want to archive as well as work with and use to collaborate with other artists I know!

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    You've come to the conclusion that most do, which is either Epson or Canon. I've got a V500 and it works fine with a Mac, but the Canons are good, too.


    Tristan Elwell
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    I used to have a Canon scanner, it worked fine with my Mac and had great quality scans... That was a while ago but Canon tends to be pretty reliable.

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    Elwell and QG have pretty much covered everything, just adding another vote for "Yup, normal flatbed should be fine".

    A 5 year old 100 quid Canon on high dpi settings should produce scans where you can see the actual paper grain and that tiny bit of fluff that got stuck in your paint.

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