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TL;DR tips for shopping for a new scanner

What are the primary options/types of document/artwork scanners?

  1. Small and very portable scanners. Small flatbed, foldable document feeders or move with your hand. Example [Doxie Flip]
    • These usually max out at 300ppi optical scan at 8-bits/channel.
    • Cost is higher (it's portable), quality is lower.
  2. Less expensive, smaller flatbed document scanners. Example [Epson Perfection V19]
    • Most often have an optical scan resolution of 2400 x 2400 dpi at 8-bits/channel.
    • Cost is lower, quality, and sharpness is better than #1, but less than #3 😉.
    • These are primarily built for hobbyists scanning photo prints and document scanning.
    • As a low-cost solution for home, this should be a workable solution for some of your work (sketches, exploratory work). If you tend to upscale your scans or aspire to make larger prints, you will eventually need to find a more powerful scanner.
  3. Professional tier, higher quality flatbed scanners for creative people. Example [Epson Perfection V600]
    • Most often have an optical scan resolution of 4800 x 4800 dpi. or higher. These are not limited to 8-bits/channel.
    • These also tend to be able to scan at the deeper color depths: 48-bit/channel Color or 16-bit Grayscale.
    • Cost is higher, takes up more room on your desk. Quality and sharpness are top-notch. This is often a multi-year investment, scanner technology leveled out years ago.
  4. Large format (big drawings), higher quality professional flatbed scanners. Example [Epson Expression 12000XL-GA]
    • Let's be honest folks, these are mostly identical to #3 but bigger and absolutely insanely expensive!
    • Specs are mostly the same as above.
    • Unfortunately it's a small market and therefore more expensive to produce these in lower quantity.

What resolution means and what should you get?

I will attempt to summarize and provide links for further clarification. PPI is short for Pixels Per Inch, the same thing as dots per inch.

When it comes to shopping for scanners, resolution is the primary metric. There are two primary ways that we talk about resolution. When we know the size of an image/illustration we can simply indicate how many pixels (width and height) will be in the digital file. As your comfort working digitally increases, you will become fluent in the relative scale.

We will be scanning illustrations at a resolution range of 300ppi to 1200ppi and larger if you draw small and like to scale things up. Flatbed scanner specifications are stated with two numbers, like 1200x2400 ppi. Flatbeds also usually specify a maximum resolution, like perhaps 9600 ppi. Most flatbed scanners also advertise high "maximum" resolutions like 9600 ppi, or even more, but this is a meaningless number. It is simply interpolated resolution, and we can do the same thing blowing up the image later in a Photoshop (except you won't, the quality is blurred, not improved). Resolution greater than the CCD optical rating is not real for you. While resolution does contribute to the sharpness of your image when you print it or display it, many other factors are just as important or more so. The optics and step motor of the scanner itself are quite important, this is where the difference in the cost of a scanner is actually spent.

Flatbed Scanner Recommendations

We can talk about some of this in class. Over the years I have come to trust and prefer the Epson scanners.

Smartphoone Scanning Recommendations

Google PhotoScan [web link]
"PhotoScan stitches multiple images together to remove glare and improve the quality of your scans."
Best solution I have found for larger fidelity phone scans.
This funny box hack for better smartphone scan lighting [web link]
Not a joke, lighting is almost as important as having a camera.
You don't have to buy something like this! You can emulate it with some paper and tape.