What to Look for in a Scanner as an Illustrator or Artist
Illustrators and artists probably have the trickiest time choosing a scanner with which to digitize their work for the World Wide Web. Not only will they need to check general essentials such as scanner speed, software and usability; they’ll also want to make sure their scanner is good enough to show their work in its best light, which means a rich colour depth, crisp edging and accuracy for details.
Whether you perfect your craft using watercolours or inks; design comic strips or fine paintings…you’ll need to choose a scanner carefully if you are set on achieving a result that is professional, clean and impressive.
When illustrators scan their designs or drawings through particular scanners, the outcomes can often be frustrating. Common problems of scanning illustrations include:
- The fading of colours, or colours looking ‘washed out’ (requiring extra Photoshop adjustments to be made later on)
- The struggle to get good lighting
- Lens curvature causing a ‘warping’ of the picture, or unwanted shadowing
- A slightly grainy quality
It’s important to be using a scanner that can accommodate larger documents and delicate line details in order to capture the essence of your work. Whilst all-in-one scanner-printers are getting more adept at covering all purposes, it’s probably still best to get a dedicated scanner for art and illustration so you can be sure its features will enhance your work.
Features To Consider
When shopping for a reliable scanner, here are some things you’ll need to think about.
A larger scanning area will work to your advantage, particularly if you are scanning larger paintings or prints of A3 size. Whilst most scanners come with an A4 area, minimal edging and a flatbed design will still make it easy to scan more cumbersome pieces in sections and piece together later.
The resolution of a scanner is normally written as two numbers (1200 x 2400 for example). You only need to pay attention to the ‘optical’ resolution of your scanner and should focus on the first number only.
A good scan quality will usually only need a resolution of 300 x 600, but bitmap line work will require at least 1200. Get some advice from similar artists or illustrators or surf artist forums to see how they get the best results.
Raised edges or ‘gutters’ within the scanning area could cause unwanted shadowing on your scans, or make it difficult to lay larger pieces completely flat. Look for ones with minimal edging and no protruding elements that could get in the way.
Glass panels also make the process much easier as you can clearly see the section of the work that is to be scanned.
Speed means less waiting around, and inevitably more productivity on your part. If you have a lot of work to scan on a regular basis, speed is likely to be your priority. Look for a scanner with a USB 2.0 connection if possible for a guaranteed satisfactory scan rate. A FireWire connection will work even better.
It’s useful to know exactly what you’ll be scanning before you shop for a designated scanner, so you can check it has all the features you may need. Will you be scanning transparent materials or film slides? Will it need to be compatible with your current operating system, or other software you use, such as Photoshop? Do you want an easy, fuss-free electronic filing system in place for all of your scans?
Check your scanner’s software features, fax and copy capabilities and any other compatibility elements before you buy.
Most illustrators recommend Epson scanners as the brand of choice when it comes to illustration and design. Here are some of the most popular and highly reviewed Epson models for giving you beautiful and immaculate, natural-looking scans.
Epson Perfection 4490
The Epson Perfection 4490 Photo is said to be one of the best flatbed scanners if you have a large batch of film slides you wish to digitize (sized 35mm and 2.25 inch). It offers an impressive 4800 ppi, a colour restore feature and digital ICE dust and scratch removal. Read PC Mag’s full review for more details.
Epson Perfection v600
This model has been recommended by animation and illustration bloggers across the web, and brought about significantly superior results when compared to rivals like the HP Photosmart. Notable elements include its ability to maintain a scan supremely close to its original, rich colour, and a consistent scan quality.
Epson Workforce DS-50000 Colour Document Scanner
This A3, 600 dpi scanner will accommodate larger 11 x 17 sized pieces such as comic book strips, paintings or prints – particularly useful if you not wish to scan your work in small sections.
At £1710, it is the cheapest of its type and comes with a 4 line CCD line sensor for vivid colours and crisp detailing.