To scan or not to scan?
When you take online Copic Marker coloring classes at Vanilla Arts, part of every assignment is to share your work in our online forums. Project feedback is a vital part of the learning method here.
When the time comes to post a project online, you start to feel a little lost. It’s decision time:
Should you photograph your artwork with a camera or should you scan it?
Which method shows the most accurate color and detail?
And which method is the easiest to learn?
We want your work to look it’s best. It gives you something to be proud of but it also helps me and my team of moderators give you accurate advice and awesome troubleshooting tips.
We can’t help if we can’t see the coloring.
But I’ve noticed that it’s often not shyness or a fear of sharing that keeps some students from posting online. Sure, the coloring stuff is new and you’re nervous…but it’s the online parts of online learning where you feel most out of your element.
Some students get so bogged down by the scanner versus camera dilemma, they never share at all.
Luckily, we’ve got Kathy for all things tech related. She’s our resident computer geek here at Vanilla Arts Company and she’s here today to share a Bonus Byte mini lesson on the ol’ scan versus photo debate.
And hey, be sure to read the rest of Kathy’s Computers for Colorers articles. She’s just starting this fabulous series and has more great lessons coming every month.
A picture says a thousand words?
Computers for Colorers- Bonus Byte
I am often asked, “is it better to photograph or scan my finished Copic Marker projects?”
My answer? It depends!
You probably groaned at that, but it’s true.
There are so many factors when it comes to getting a project from the colored page into the computer. Fortunately, there are only two methods:
Camera or Scanner?
Whew, that makes the decision a little easier.
Almost everyone has a cell phone these days, which means instant access to a pretty good camera. Phones are by far the quickest way to get a coloring project into digital form.
Once in the camera you can easily send it to your computer for sharing online but bonus, you can also send it to a printing company to have it printed professionally.
The only other option I know of is a scanner.
And man, do I love my scanner. It takes a little longer and you can’t do it on the road, but scanning is almost easier than the phone! Just place your project face down on the scanning bed, hit the button and wait for a preview of it to appear on the computer screen. You can even save it different formats and sizes.
But which is the best method?
Many of us have both a camera and a scanner.
So which is the best method for capturing all the little details in your coloring projects?
It’s important to remember that the methods aren’t divided by best and not-best.
You might be wondering why the two samples here look so different.
One is a photograph and the other was scanned.
They look very different!
Which is which?
The one on the lower right is the photograph.
We look at the photos on our phone and we are quite happy. You’d never call yourself a professional photographer but you take good photos, right?
Maybe not. When we see the photograph side-by-side with a scanned image, it’s pretty darned clear that the camera does not necessarily give us the best image.
Scanners provide even light and they do not distort the image.
As hard as I tried, there is a slight angle and thus a distortion to my photo.
And the lighting? Wow.
If you place your project photo next to a sheet of white paper, you’ll see your project isn’t even close to white! But if I retake this photograph with a flash it will end up with a bright white blob in the photo. Not good!
So at this point, you’re likely thinking that I scan all of my projects all of the time.
I tend to take more photos.
Why don’t I scan all my projects?
My projects don't always fit on my scanner bed.
I’m in too much of a hurry.
Sometimes the light of the scanner washes out the richness of my colors.
There are certain shades of pale blue, light green, and even pink that scanners can not see.
Some paper textures look dirty.
And honestly, there’s something missing from a scan. I’m not sure why but they’re always a little sterile.
Why don’t I photograph all my projects?
I can’t always get a good shot.
When it’s dark or rainy I can’t get a natural-light photo outside.
The camera often distorts the sides of the photo.
Sometimes I want a high resolution image so that I can print it large.
Scanning usually works better for commercial printing onto bags, novelty items, or for framing.
The bottom line is that you have TWO options. If you don’t like how your image looks, try the other option.
The most important tip: experiment!
There are settings on your phone and within your scanning software.
It’s just a photo. It’s just a scan. You’re allowed to change it!
If you’re worried about messing it up, save a copy and experiment on the copy rather than the original.
Move the buttons, play with the settings, and look at the result. Hit the back button to reset the image if you don’t like it.
When you feel that the digital image and your original are closely matched you’re done!
A note on special effects: For many phones, if you push the edit button, you will see other icons that lead to all kinds of special effects. There is nothing wrong with playing with them. Save the photo when you find something that you really like. But keep in mind that novelty filters are just that, a novelty. They could kill the realism of your project and many make the colors look weird. Novelty settings are designed for fun, they don’t usually work well for artwork.
If you are trying to get a photo ready to upload for critique: Play with the adjustment sliders (like brightness) instead of the novelty settings. Slide them around until the plain paper part of the photo matches the color of the paper you used in real life. Just hold them next to each other to compare. If the paper looks blue on-screen, that likely means everything else in the photo looks bluish too. When you feel that the image and your original are closely matched and the white looks white, you’re done! Save the image and upload it for review.
I hope this “bonus byte” of information is helpful.
But it’s just that, a small bite of information. If you are a photographer, you already understand far more about the different edit settings than I do!
If you really want to learn to manipulate photos and to understand what all the options can do, you may want to look for a local photography class and there are lots of photo editing for beginners videos on YouTube or membership sites like Skillshare and Bluprint. Or simply keep experimenting with all the options within your app or software.
Kathy FS is a Vanilla Arts student who enjoys hand-lettering pointed puns, realistic coloring, and getting up early to sleepwalk the dogs. You can follow her on Instagram here.