Scanning tips: the short story....

  • Scan at 150 DPI for best results
  • Save black & white items as GIF files
  • Save photos / color items as JPG files
  • What do we already have? Click here.
  • Scanning cartridges:  click here.
  • Scanning boxes:  click here.
  • Scanning instructions:  click here.


DOTS-PER-INCH; what is the best setting to use?
    The dots-per-inch setting of your scanner should be set to 150 dpi, for any scans contributed to this project. This results in larger image files than would be practical in most other cases, but since this project will have 630+ megabytes available, we'd rather go with the higher quality if we have a choice. Experiments with other settings show that 150 dpi will still allow fine print to be read, and picture details look great. Using smaller settings loses far too much detail, larger settings waste space.

FILE FORMATS to use when saving images to disk.
    Since this project will eventually be using web browsers and HTML code to make the CD readable, there are only two major file extensions we can easily use; these are ".GIF" or ".JPG" files. Why? Because those are the two major types of files used on the Internet, which is what any web browser is going to be most familiar with.
    In most cases, the ".JPG" file extension works best. Why? GIF files sometimes look better for small images, or relatively plain images, but it is limited to only 256 colors. This loses far too much subtle detail, with anything that looks like a photograph. (Some cartridge labels would be ok, though.) Using the JPG file extension allows most images to look their best. The only time I've seen JPG files look awful compared to GIFs of the same item, is when bright, flat red tones have writing on them. And generally, moving the brightness levels of the image up just a little fixes it.
    Checking your saved images is not a bad idea; in other words, until you really know your system well, after saving an image to disk, clear it off of your screen, then load it back up from disk. If it changed, and looks much worse now, double-check everything carefully. Besides the obvious human-error type mistakes, the compression levels might have been set too low. If you are able to change how much an image can be compressed, use the default or baseline settings, and scan it in again.

SOFTWARE; scanning and painting programs
    When you buy any scanner, it should include software to run itself. You may find that this software is all you'll ever need. And then again maybe you'll think it is, for some reason, not good enough. I bought a scanner that was "twain compliant" so that I had the option to use other software if I wanted to. If you are considering buying a scanner, it is a good feature to have.
    The set-up I currently use is a shareware paint program called "Paint Shop Pro" ... in my opinion, it kicks butt! Up on top of my IBM compatible's screen is an icon of a handheld scanner. One click on this icon, and any twain compatible hardware is activated. My flatbed scanner's scanning window pops open, and I just hit the "scan" button to scan in an item. Once the scanner finishes scanning that item, the scanner's window goes away, and the image is automatically inside the Paint Shop Pro editing mode. I can then "crop" the image, rotate it any way I want to, adjust contrast and brightness, and much more. If you have a twain compliant scanner, and an IBM, I highly recommend Paint Shop Pro as alternate software. (Search the net and download it.)


    Boxes aren't very hard. As long as you are scanning them with a dpi setting of 150 (or thereabouts) you should be able to read any fine print, and the graphical details should look very good, too. Just save the resulting image file as "filename.JPG" and it should work out just fine. For this project, I see no reason not to scan both the front and backs of all boxes. The CD should have more than ample space for everything, so why not do them both?

    THE SCANNER'S LID: Experiment a bit if you want to, but you are probably best off just leaving your (flatbed) scanner's lid in the upright position. It won't fit well over your box anyway, and why take a chance of squashing a prized box? Leaving the lid up won't affect the scan quality, it will only darken the wasted space around the box. Usually, this makes the boxes edges easier to see when doing final cropping, so it actually helps us out. (Unless your box is black; then, just put a peice of white paper over it.)

    CROPPING: The term "cropping" just means to cut off the parts you don't want. It is better to leave too much empty space around an image, than to crop out some of the details. I figure they can always be cropped closer later, but you can't put back details that were cut off, right?

    ANGLED / CROOKED SCANS: Try not to scan things at too much of an angle. If they are tilted, cropping them becomes a hassle later on. Besides, straight lines pick up "stair stepping" or aliasing problems, if they are scanned crookedly. (The problem is, almost no scanner is 100% "square," from what I've read and experienced. For our purposes, just try to put one flat edge against the very edge of one side of the scanner's glass, and do the best you can. Sometimes one edge is more square than another; so you may want to experiment with that for awhile.)


The instructions above, for scanning boxes, will work just fine. If you have an instruction sheet that is totally black-and-white, you might want to scan in "greyscale" instead of in color, but everything else applies. The main thing on text documents is to be able to read them, of course.


For this, I wrote a full step-by-step text. Click here to read it. Basically, we want to use some blank space around the edges of the cart, to show its shape. Close cropping saves some space but looks less good, so we are trying to avoid it. The other tips are how to make carts look their best, as they are not flat objects. With these tips you can make some really nice cartridge scans.

Text by: Ward Shrake, January 1998

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