Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Photographing Artwork Vs Flatbed Scanning for Print Reproduction

When it comes to making prints, there are two popular ways of capturing the original painting. One method is by camera photography, and the other is by scanning. Today we will be discussing how each method is implemented, as well as outlining its strengths and weaknesses.

Photographing Your Artwork

This method is by far the most common and most cost effective. Depending on the amount of resources you have available, photographing your artwork can be done with your cellphone camera, or with a high-end DSLR. Of course, each method will result in different levels of quality.

The first thing you need to know is photographing your artwork requires a specific environment. In order to capture the best color accuracy, your painting needs to be set up in just the right kind of lighting for the camera. You will need the following:

  • Easel - for holding your artwork upright and square to the camera
  • Camera - whether it is with your iPhone or DSLR. Make sure it has a resolution of at least 14 megapixels.
  • Tripod - to make your camera level, square, and aligned with your artwork, and to eliminate shake or vibration
  • Good lighting - in overcast outdoors, or a room filled with natural light, or with a light kit that consists of light stands, strobe heads, soft boxes or umbrellas (that cost roughly $600 - $1000 on Amazon)

Photographing With Your Phone Camera

Woman Snapping Photo of Art with Smartphone

It's no surprise that snapping your artwork with an iPhone would be a popular choice. They are portable, intuitive and convenient, and great for snapping quick shots to upload to your social media channels.  Especially with the quality of camera built in these days, along with their color-editing apps, phone cameras are able to capture a surprising amount of visual detail and color.

However, iPhones do come with their own limitations. The first is the low level of control and consistency. Phone cameras do not have a manual setting in which your viewfinder can be adjusted. Rather, it will automatically focus on what it thinks is best, which may not capture your artwork accurately. Phone cameras are harder to align parallel to your artwork, which may also result in warping proportions and scale.

For these reasons, we would only recommend photographing with your phone camera for personal projects in which identification and sentiment are more important than color or scale accuracy- for example, snapping old photos from a picture album for a collage, printing images for a diy birthday card, or a canvas print of your favourite trip for your home decor.

 Photographing With a Digital SLR Camera

Armed with more manual and powerful settings, a DSLR camera is another popular way of capturing artwork for print reproduction. To do this, artists or photographers usually have a room dedicated for capturing original paintings.

An example set up for photographing artwork, sourced from

Digital SLR cameras allow you to capture and output images at higher resolution and clarity. They are also excellent for taking photos of artworks that are potentially still wet, like oil paintings or oil pastels.

Example of Photograph vs Scan by Sam Flegal. Example sourced from

However, they are also at risk to issues such as lens distortion and uneven lighting. Uneven lighting can cast shadows, influence colors and pick up highlights, all of which would be difficult to edit out. Lens distortions occur when the angle of the camera results in parts of the image becoming farther away and other parts becoming closer. This means certain parts of the image will appear larger than others.

As aforementioned, uneven lighting can be solved with an environment full of natural, uniform light. To keep glares and highlights at a minimum, photograph the piece before glazing the artwork. While an easel and tripod can help with lens distortion, the best way to minimize it is to take a picture of the artwork from above. This ensures that the camera is positioned in the very centre of the image, and the space around the image allows for any corner distortion. Using the zoom function will help as well.

Scanning Your Artwork

Because all of the previous methods are at mercy to so many outside factors, eliminating as many of them would be the best course of action. This is where scanning comes in.

Our Epson 11000XL Scanner, flatbed, with optical

resolution of 2400 dpi

Scanning allows for high resolution, without any lens distortion. Scanners also come in many shapes and sizes, allowing for a large artwork size. When a painting is scanned, all the raw colors are captured as is without any other influencing factors, such as shadow or lighting. This allows yourself or the production tech more control to tweak and edit the colors accordingly. The result is a digital file that is 80%-90% close to the original.

The result of a good color match.
Left: Original; Right: Print

Scanners can be flatbed, rolling or overhead. When placing your order, make sure you know which one you need. Flatbed scanners mean your artwork is placed against the glass, which may not work for paintings that are on slightly warped surfaces, or are wet, such as oil paintings. Rolling scanners can scan large flat artworks, but the pressure of the rollers can damage the paint. Overheads like the Cruse scanners are best.

When it comes to making prints, the reproduction should look as similar to the original as possible. Our scanning services output a high resolution file that has been color-corrected and test-printed for the highest accuracy. Check out our scanning price calculator here. We offer scanning in both 300 dpi and 600 dpi.

Once a high-resolution file has been created, you can use the same file to print your reproduction, such as on canvas, fine art paper, or metal. You can also tweak the file and save a copy of it for your social media or website.

If you are interested in art scanning please visit our website for more information. If you already have your artwork digitized and need to make high quality fine art reproductions visit for fine art prints or canvas prints

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