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Scanning Oversize Prints & Odd-Shaped Items

© 1997 by Peter McCormick. All Rights Reserved.

If you own a flatbed scanner and think you are limited to a 8.5 x 14 inch scanning area, you are not taking advantage of your scanner's capabilities. If you also think you can only scan thin pieces of art work you are living in a world of the unenlightened.

We have been scanning oversized artwork and small three dimensional items for years and just assumed that anyone with a scanner knew what we knew. Of course everyone knows, one should never assume anything. Therefore we will share this enlightening information with you. Figure 1 shows our new scanner with some of the things we will be scanning.

Figure 1

We told Hewlett Packard that we were going to do this article and that the scanner we had was an older ScanJet IIC whose light was getting dim. Sandy was kind enough to send us a new ScanJet 4C. We know this sounds like a plug for Hewlett Packard scanners, but the fact of the matter is we bought the first one and it has served us well for several years.

Scanning an oversized image is not as difficult as you may think. All that is required is a little planning before the actual scanning process. The example we have used for this article is a 20"x 30" painting on canvas that Peter painted several years ago. You can scan any size object as long as one dimension does not exceed 28 inches (twice the maximum length of the scanner glass). If you are scanning paintings or posters etc. the first thing to do is remove it from the itís frame. Keeping the image flat on the glass is the key to a successful scan for an image of this type.

The next step is to make a mark every eight inches along the longest side of the object you're scanning. Begin placing your marks from right to left, not left to right, as most scanners will scan all the way to the right edge of the glass. In the case of the painting, we used a pencil to draw a line on the edge of the canvas at eight inch intervals along the 30 inch side of the painting. The reason for the eight inch spacing is to allow for overlaps during the scanning process. Now turn the painting around 180 degrees and place eight inch measurement marks on the opposite 30 inch side of the object measuring from the right to left again.

Once you have put the measurement marks on both sides of the object, it time to scan. Before you can actually begin scanning you must decide what the size of the output image will be and at what resolution to scan the image. Before you can determine the resolution you must ask your printer what line screen they will be using when they run the film. For example, if the line screen is 133, you should multiply that number by 1.5 times and round up to the nearest 25th. In this case 1.5 times 133 equals 189.5 so we will round up to 200 dpi. The next thing we need to determine is the final output size. We decided that an image 1/4 the size of the original would work just fine. This number is important when we do the actual scan as you will see in a moment. Follow the steps below to complete your scan (We will refer to the object being scanned as the Painting).

  1. Open the Lid of the scanner and align the upper right corner of the painting with the upper right corner of the scanner glass making sure the top of the painting is even with the top of the glass. If you have a ScanJet 4C, remove the lid completely.
  2. Place a weight on top of the painting to hold it in place. If your scanner is close enough to your computer, you can use your hand as the weight. We placed a supporting object (books) approximately the height of the scanner under the opposite end of the painting for balance. If your scanner lid cannot be removed like it can with the ScanJet 4C, prop it up to keep it from moving the painting.
  3. Open your scanning software and prepare to scan the first section of the painting.
  4. Set the resolution to 200 dpi and check the preview window to make sure you are scanning the entire 8.5 x 14 area.
  5. Make any adjustments you feel are required such as sharpness, contrast, etc.
  6. Using the scaling adjustments in the scanning software, set the scaling amount to 25% (remember we are reducing the output image to one fourth the size of the original).
  7. When you're satisfied with your settings, scan the first section of the painting. Figure 2 shows one of the sections of our painting in the Deskscan scanning software ready to be scanned. Note the scaling setting of 25%. If your scanning software doesnít have scaling capabilities, the work around in this case would be to scan the image at 50 dpi. The explanation as to why this is the same as scaling by 25% is explained later in this article.
  8. Figure 2

  9. Save this first scan with a file name like SECTION1.TIF.
  10. Move the painting to the right until the first measurement mark lines up with the right side of the scanner glass. Be careful to keep the painting even with the top of the glass.
  11. Scan this next section of the painting without making any changes to the settings in your scanning software. It is very important to not make any changes or the sections will not match.
  12. Save this second scan with a file name like SECTION2.TIF.
  13. Continue moving the painting to the right using you measurement marks as a guide until you have scanned the entire top half of the painting. Save each new section with sequential numbers.
  14. Now it's time to scan the lower half of the painting. Turn the painting around 180 degrees and place the upper right corner of the painting in the upper right corner of the scanner just as you did in Step 1.
  15. Scan the lower half of the painting just as you did when you scanned the top half moving to the right with each step. Do not make any changes to the software settings or your scans will not match.

Once you're through scanning in each section it's time to open Photo-Paint and put the pieces together. In the case of our painting we ended up scanning eight sections. Four across the top and four across the bottom.

The next step is to create a new file to place all the scanned sections. We scanned all the sections of the painting at 25% of the original so when we create our new file we will make it 5 x 7.5 at 200 dpi which is equivalent to 1000 X 1500 pixels in size. If you get in the habit of measuring in pixels instead of inches you will seldom make a mistake. Remember 5 inches at 200 dpi is 1000 pixels and 7.5 inches at 200 dpi is 1500 pixels. See how easy it is to measure in pixels?

With the new file created and open on the screen, we can now open the files containing the scanned sections one at a time. Follow the steps below to start piecing the sections together:

  1. Start by opening the file SECTION1.TIF (see Step 8 above)
  2. Click on the Mask menu and choose Select All.
  3. Click on the Object menu and choose Create From Mask. The entire image will become a floating object.
  4. Select the Pick tool and drag the image onto the new 5" X 7.5" image. After dragging the floating object onto the new image, wait until you see a small rectangle beneath your cursor before you release the left mouse button. Note that when we scanned our first section using the upper right corner of the painting we actually scanned the upper left corner because the painting was upside down. So Figure 1 will belong in the upper left corner. If you canít see the entire new image, choose To Fit from the Zoom Level box on the Tool Bar.
  5. Open Figure 2 and repeat steps 2 through 4.
  6. Drag Figure 2 to the top of the image and overlap it with Figure 1 until the two images align. You may see a line on the left side of Figure 2 where the images overlap. If the line is present, move Figure 2 to the back by clicking on the Object menu and selecting Order. Choose To Back from the Order flyout.
  7. Open SECTION3 and SECTION4 and align them with the others. Remember to place each new section to the back using the Order command discussed in Step 7. Figure 3 shows the top four sections placed in the new file ready to be pieced together.
  8. Figure 3

  9. The next step is to begin opening the bottom sections of the painting. These sections will appear upside down and backward when they are first opened.
  10. As you open each new bottom section, click on the Image menu and choose the FLIP command. Click on Horizontal on the FLIP command flyout.
  11. Repeat Step 9, but this time click on Vertical on the FLIP command flyout. These two actions will correct the orientation of the image.
  12. Now repeat Steps 2 through 4 for each of the sections.
  13. Use the Zoom tool to zoom in on portions of the image to aid you aligning each of the sections so they fit together in a seamless fashion. Remember to move any section to the back if you see a thin line on the left of the section.

After all the sections are in place, use the necessary filters to remove any imperfections in the image. We canít really tell you which of the many filters to use because each image is different. On the image in this project we used the following filters in the order they appear. Remove Noise, Unsharp Mask, and the new Intellihance filter. The finished image is shown here in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Donít let all of these instructions overwhelm you. It only took us 30 minutes after the scanning was done to piece the eight sections together and apply the filters. The entire project took less than one hour. It took us longer than that to type out these instructions.

Now for the really fun and exciting portion of this article. How many of you reading this article knew you could scan small three dimensional items? We knew it was possible but not to the extent that we discovered during the course of doing the article. We like to call these types of discoveries "Happy Accidents" just like the late Bob Ross did when he would paint with his wet on wet method of oil painting.

Perhaps the most exciting thing we learned is that you can scan something as large as a small Teddy bear. And the good news is it's almost as simple as placing the objects on the scanner and pressing the scan button. All of the figures shown in the article were scanned using the steps described below. You are only limited by your own imagination. If you come up with a real unique object that scans well, let us know by contacting us so we can share your discovery with other Corel users.

  1. Remove or prop open the scanner lid. If you are propping up the scanner lid cover it with a dark non-reflective material to prevent light reflecting back on the objects.
  2. Place the objects you want to scan on the scanner glass
  3. Turn off any lights directly over the scanner for best results.
  4. Open your scanner's software and start scanning.

Tip: You will get better results if you make as many corrections as you can in your scanning software prior to pressing the scan button. Try the new CorelSCAN utility in CorelDRAW 7 as it can eliminate a lot of adjusting prior to scanning. After the scan you can clean up the backgrounds if necessary.

Your three dimensional scans should have a solid black background allowing you to easily mask the object or objects that were scanned.

One of the exciting new tools in Photo-Paint is the Image Sprayer tool. This tool lets you paint with images. You can save one of your newly scanned three dimensional objects as a Image list and create some great looking images.

Figure 5

Graphics Unleashed
Last Updated September 4, 1998.

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