Scanning for Posterity | Artists Network


If photographing your watercolors yields lackluster effects, test scanning as an alternative.

by Mark McDermott

I have been a significant photographer for about 50 a long time. I have very good, midrange cameras and lenses—and I know how to use them. I individual studio lighting with daylight colour temperatures, complete with stands and diffusion umbrellas. I have enough studio place. In short, I have all the equipment and information necessary to do a completely proficient occupation of digitally photographing my watercolor artwork in my dwelling studio. Still I choose to scan my art relatively than photograph it. Why? The basic remedy is that I discover it substantially a lot easier to do. It is more rapidly, involves less manipulations and corrections, and yields constantly great effects.

How I Use My Scanned Illustrations or photos

I make a scan of my painting as the following action immediately after signing my identify. I scan anything I complete, which is ordinarily about 35 50 percent-sheet (15×22) paintings for every year. The illustrations or photos then get uploaded to my web page and on the internet databases, as effectively as stored in a backup folder on my pc. I use reduced-resolution photographs on my internet site and superior-resolution variations for moving into juried watercolor exhibitions and publications. Very good good quality digital illustrations or photos also make it possible for me to make prints.

Scanning Significant Artworks

I use an Epson GT-20000 11×17 flatbed scanner, the Epson Scan software package that arrived with the scanner and Photoshop Aspects. Since my paintings are normally 15×22, I scan them in two halves and merge the two overlapping photos working with the Photoshop Aspects Photomerge tool. It will take me about 10 minutes from start out to finish.

The bigger 11×17 scanner is practical for lessening the number of scans expected to cover a more substantial portray. A smaller scanner (8 1⁄2 x 11) would just need a lot more scans with ample overlap to go over an complete half sheet of watercolor paper, but the Photomerge device handles this problem quite well. The biggest piece I’ve ever scanned was a 26×50-inch painting scanned and merged in 10 pieces (see Anchorage Skyline, higher than).

The GT-20000 has two really useful characteristics for scanning oversize artwork. The lid is removable, allowing for the primary to be positioned on the scanning surface in any position. The scanning floor is also flush with the body of the scanner so the portray will lie absolutely flat on the scanner. For rigid paper, this kind of as the 300-lb. chilly-pressed that I use, any important gap involving the paper and the glass scan surface will blur the impression. This “edge effect” can be prevail over by raising the dimensions of the overlap location.


The Epson Scan computer software has all the controls I require for impression acquisition: cropping, scanning density and publicity control. I scan at both 200 or 300 dpi, based on the dimension of the initial and how in depth the authentic is. I find that anything over 300 dpi boosts the file dimensions and scanning time with no considerable gains. Watercolor paintings, in contrast to photographs, are not usually in-depth more than enough to need intense resolution. Although I must use a TIFF because it’s a “lossless” file (indicating it loses no high quality following acquiring been saved and edited, even several occasions), I’ll acknowledge I usually use JPEG and have never ever regretted it.

Splicing Illustrations or photos

As soon as the partial and overlapping scans of a big-size watercolor are acquired, they need to have to be spliced. There are a lot of economical and even free of charge software package equipment for creating panoramas from overlapping pictures. Some call for that you manually pick registration points in every single graphic that the software will use to sign-up the photos, which is cumbersome and time consuming. Some do a bad occupation of balancing the colour and exposure of the several parts, which is a nightmare to do manually. A need of 50 % overlap is not uncommon.

The Photomerge software in Photoshop Components automates all of these potential problems and produces remarkably good outcomes. The partial scans have to be in the very same normal orientation, but they can be a little skewed from just about every other, have a little distinct exposures, and can be entered in any purchase. I generally use only a 2-inch overlap. The huge bulk of the time, the benefits are seamless and rapid. There is no rationale to appear at any other image-stitching device.

After the merged impression is total, I then use Photoshop Things to crop the uneven edges and do slight exposure changes to match the original. A massive benefit of working with Photoshop Elements is that it is so well known, there are plentiful and support- ful how-to video clips and article content on any subject matter just an web look for absent.

If you have been annoyed with the effort and hard work demanded to photograph your watercolors or you pay back a skilled to do it, you might want to take into consideration scanning. If you presently have a scanner at property and Photoshop Elements, give scanning a test.

Don’t Have a Scanner?

If you never have a scanner at dwelling, you can bring your initial watercolors to an business source shop, this kind of as Fed-Ex, Kinkos or OfficeMax, and scan them there. Both of those areas use HP Designjet T3500 printer/scanners, which accept paper up to 36 inches broad. You just require a credit rating card and a USB travel. The workforce are joyful to support you, but the procedure is all monitor-variety driven, move by action, and rather uncomplicated.

You can scan to a resolution as substantial as 600 dpi and preserve in both TIFF and JPEG formats to your USB push. The huge pros are relieve and cost. A 22×30 sheet of watercolor paper will value $10 to scan, a half sheet will expense $6. The disadvantages are substantial, nonetheless. These aren’t flatbed scanners, which implies the paper is fed through a 45-diploma bend into the selection space. This in no way damages a piece of watercolor paper, however the drive mechanisms shut off if they detect as well considerably resistance. The final result is that any paper with a bodyweight of more than 140 lbs. will not feed. Considering that I use 300-lb. paper virtually completely, this choice will not function for me.

One more drawback is that the controls for publicity and shade command are nonexistent. You will have to do some cleanup at household with Photoshop Elements or an equivalent application. My constrained experience was that the benefits were a bit overexposed, and 600 dpi was demanded. Nonetheless, after accomplishing some small cleanup at household, the scan was suitable.

If you are only executing a handful of scans per year, aren’t intrigued in building the investment decision for a property scanner and, most importantly, not employing heavyweight paper, this could be an possibility nicely truly worth your investigation and thought.

Mark McDermott (markmcdermottart. com) worked as a geophysicist in remote elements of Alaska and then as an IT Supervisor ahead of he began painting entire time in 2010. His favored topics are Alaskan landscapes and illustrations or photos captured from his vacation and character images. His perform has received awards in a lot of juried shows and has been showcased in the Splash competitors collection. He’s a Signature Member of the Clear Watercolor Culture of The united states and Watercolor United states.

A version of this short article seems in the Winter season 2023 situation of Watercolor Artist Journal.