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3 ways a US$70 scanner can change your life

Lesa Snider | April 8, 2015
Graphic geeks love to scan things. There's something satisfying about capturing an archival quality image of a printed photo, newspaper clipping, fabric or other cherished keepsake. These days it may seem quaint to use a desktop scanner to capture images, but there's many creative and archival tasks that only a desktop scanner can perform well.

And scanning isn't limited to stuff that's flat. Keepsakes such as jewelry, pins, and other small objects are prime candidates for scanning, though you'll get better results if you drape a black or white cloth behind the object before scanning it. Other fun stuff to scan includes postcards, newspaper clippings, report cards, awards, diplomas, badges, patches, and the aforementioned concert tickets and playbills.

Recommended resolution settings

Resolution is the measurement that controls pixel size, and when you're scanning for archival purposes, higher resolution is better — to a point. Just because your scanner can capture 4800 dpi (dots per inch) doesn't mean you should scan everything at 4800 dpi; if you do, your hard drive space will vanish at warp speed. Instead, try this rule of thumb for photos: If you'll print it at 100 percent, use 300 dpi, but if you'll print it at a bigger size, multiply 300 dpi by the amount you'll enlarge it. For example, if you'll print the picture at 200 percent, scan it at 600 dpi (300 x 2), and if you'll print it at 400 percent, scan it at 1200 dpi (300 x 4).

If the item you're scanning contains text, line art, charts, graphs, or other important sharp-edged stuff, scan it at 1200 dpi (our eyes can't distinguish details at resolutions much higher than that). If you'll print the item bigger than its original size, increase the resolution by the percentage you'll enlarge it: if you'll print at 200 percent, scan it at 2400 dpi (1200 x 2), and if you'll print it at 400 percent, that's when the full 4800 dpi resolution of your scanner comes in handy. If you're posting the image online, you don't need nearly as much resolution — one-fourth of the above numbers are fine for online-only viewing.

Treat your scanner well

As portable as some scanners are, they're still fragile. If you're traveling with one, don't shake it and never put it in checked luggage. When it's time to clean your scanner's glass, don't use a paper towel unless you want to spend the rest of eternity brushing away lint. Instead, use a lint-free cloth. And don't spray glass cleaner directly onto the glass either; liquid has a nasty habit of seeping down the edges into the scanner's mechanism or worse, onto the underside of the glass where you can't reach it. Instead, spray glass cleaner onto a lint-free cloth and then wipe the glass with it.

Until next time, keep scanning, and may the creative force be with you all!


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