Scanning for Posterity | Artists Network

Scanning for Posterity | Artists Network

Scanning for Posterity | Artists Network

If photographing your watercolors yields lackluster outcomes, attempt scanning instead.

by Mark McDermott

I have been a severe photographer for about 50 yrs. I individual very good, midrange cameras and lenses—and I know how to use them. I very own studio lights with sunlight coloration temperatures, complete with stands and diffusion umbrellas. I have ample studio place. In shorter, I have all the products and knowledge vital to do a carefully qualified task of digitally photographing my watercolor artwork in my property studio. Nonetheless I pick out to scan my art alternatively than photograph it. Why? The uncomplicated response is that I discover it significantly a lot easier to do. It’s quicker, calls for fewer manipulations and corrections, and yields continually superb effects.

How I Use My Scanned Images

I make a scan of my painting as the future action soon after signing my name. I scan everything I full, which is usually about 35 half-sheet (15×22) paintings for every yr. The images then get uploaded to my web site and online database, as effectively as saved in a backup folder on my laptop or computer. I use very low-resolution illustrations or photos on my web site and large-resolution variations for coming into juried watercolor exhibitions and publications. Good good quality digital pictures also enable me to make prints.

Scanning Massive Artworks

I use an Epson GT-20000 11×17 flatbed scanner, the Epson Scan application that came with the scanner and Photoshop Aspects. Considering that my paintings are commonly 15×22, I scan them in two halves and merge the two overlapping photographs making use of the Photoshop Aspects Photomerge device. It normally takes me about 10 minutes from start out to end.

The more substantial 11×17 scanner is valuable for reducing the selection of scans demanded to cover a more substantial painting. A smaller sized scanner (8 1⁄2 x 11) would simply just require far more scans with ample overlap to deal with an entire 50 % sheet of watercolor paper, but the Photomerge tool handles this condition really properly. The premier piece I’ve at any time scanned was a 26×50-inch painting scanned and merged in 10 pieces (see Anchorage Skyline, over).

The GT-20000 has two incredibly helpful capabilities for scanning oversize artwork. The lid is detachable, making it possible for the authentic to be placed on the scanning floor in any position. The scanning surface is also flush with the frame of the scanner so the portray will lie entirely flat on the scanner. For stiff paper, these types of as the 300-lb. cold-pressed that I use, any substantial hole between the paper and the glass scan surface will blur the picture. This “edge effect” can be conquer by increasing the dimensions of the overlap space.


The Epson Scan software package has all the controls I involve for picture acquisition: cropping, scanning density and publicity command. I scan at possibly 200 or 300 dpi, based on the sizing of the original and how in-depth the authentic is. I uncover that something in excess of 300 dpi increases the file dimensions and scanning time with no considerable positive aspects. Watercolor paintings, compared with photos, aren’t typically thorough enough to involve severe resolution. Despite the fact that I ought to use a TIFF mainly because it is a “lossless” file (that means it loses no excellent following getting been saved and edited, even numerous times), I’ll confess I usually use JPEG and have by no means regretted it.

Splicing Photographs

As soon as the partial and overlapping scans of a substantial-measurement watercolor are acquired, they require to be spliced. There are quite a few inexpensive and even absolutely free application tools for making panoramas from overlapping photographs. Some demand that you manually pick registration details in just about every impression that the computer software will use to sign up the illustrations or photos, which is cumbersome and time consuming. Some do a very poor career of balancing the colour and exposure of the numerous pieces, which is a nightmare to do manually. A prerequisite of 50 p.c overlap is not unusual.

The Photomerge software in Photoshop Elements automates all of these possible troubles and provides remarkably excellent benefits. The partial scans have to be in the identical standard orientation, but they can be marginally skewed from just about every other, have somewhat various exposures, and can be entered in any buy. I commonly use only a 2-inch overlap. The extensive greater part of the time, the success are seamless and brief. There’s no explanation to glance at any other image-stitching tool.

The moment the merged picture is comprehensive, I then use Photoshop Features to crop the uneven edges and do slight publicity adjustments to match the unique. A big benefit of using Photoshop Factors is that it is so preferred, there are plentiful and enable- ful how-to movies and articles on any subject matter just an world wide web lookup absent.

If you’ve been discouraged with the work essential to photograph your watercolors or you shell out a specialist to do it, you may want to look at scanning. If you by now have a scanner at property and Photoshop Features, give scanning a try.

Really don’t Have a Scanner?

If you do not have a scanner at home, you can provide your authentic watercolors to an workplace provide retail outlet, these types of as Fed-Ex, Kinkos or OfficeMax, and scan them there. Both destinations use HP Designjet T3500 printer/scanners, which settle for paper up to 36 inches huge. You just need to have a credit history card and a USB generate. The staff are satisfied to assistance you, but the procedure is all screen-variety pushed, stage by action, and quite uncomplicated.

You can scan to a resolution as superior as 600 dpi and save in the two TIFF and JPEG formats to your USB push. The huge strengths are relieve and price tag. A 22×30 sheet of watercolor paper will price $10 to scan, a fifty percent sheet will cost $6. The negatives are important, on the other hand. These are not flatbed scanners, which means the paper is fed by a 45-degree bend into the collection spot. This in no way damages a piece of watercolor paper, nevertheless the push mechanisms shut off if they detect far too considerably resistance. The consequence is that any paper with a weight of additional than 140 lbs. won’t feed. Considering that I use 300-lb. paper just about completely, this option won’t operate for me.

Yet another downside is that the controls for publicity and color handle are nonexistent. You will have to do some cleanup at dwelling with Photoshop Elements or an equal application. My restricted knowledge was that the success were being marginally overexposed, and 600 dpi was needed. Having said that, after carrying out some insignificant cleanup at property, the scan was acceptable.

If you’re only performing a several scans for each yr, aren’t fascinated in building the expense for a house scanner and, most importantly, not using heavyweight paper, this could be an alternative properly truly worth your investigation and thought.

Mark McDermott (markmcdermottart. com) worked as a geophysicist in distant sections of Alaska and then as an IT Manager ahead of he commenced painting whole time in 2010. His favored topics are Alaskan landscapes and illustrations or photos captured from his journey and nature photography. His get the job done has won awards in various juried exhibits and has been showcased in the Splash levels of competition sequence. He’s a Signature Member of the Transparent Watercolor Culture of America and Watercolor United states of america.

A model of this article appears in the Winter season 2023 issue of Watercolor Artist Journal.