How to Scan a Drawing Into a Computer

by David Wayne

When you scan artwork, the goal is to match the colors of the scanned image as closely to the original art as possible, even for monochrome art like pencil drawings. Depending on the importance of the scan, you may want to invest in color-calibration tools for your scanner and monitor. If you're scanning a drawing for the Web, color calibration isn't as important because most people don't have calibrated monitors, but it is important to scan monochromatic images in color because Web browsers don't display grayscale images as well as color images.

Using Scanning Software

Most photo scanners come with software that controls the image resolution, color space, gamma and curves. If you don't have your scanner's installation CD, you can usually download the utility from the manufacturer's website at no charge. Alternatively, Windows 8.1 comes with the Scan app, which includes a basic set of options, such as resolution, file type and color space. If you're using a graphics editor to touch up the scan, you don't need to adjust the gamma, shadows, highlights or any other color settings in the scanner software because it's easier to make these adjustments in graphic-editing software after scanning the full-resolution image into your computer.

Scanning Artwork Into Your Computer

Use a soft cloth to wipe any dust off the glass scanner bed before placing your drawing facedown on the glass. The drawing's orientation in the scanner doesn't matter because you can rotate the image after you scan it. Choose at least 300 pixels from the resolution menu and set the color space to RGB or Color, depending on the software. Choose PNG, JPEG or TIFF from the file-type menu but don't choose GIF because the format has a limited color range. Click “Scan” to scan the image, which can take a few minutes, depending on your chosen image resolution.

Calibrating Your Scanner

If you're only scanning one drawing, you don't need to calibrate your scanner because you can adjust the colors in a graphics editor instead. Most scanners come with a basic calibration sheet that corrects color variation when you run the calibration routine from your scanner's settings menu. Unless you're a professional artist scanning drawings for clients or a gallery, your manufacturer-supplied calibration utility and color profiles work well. However, even if the digital file on your hard drive perfectly represents the colors in your drawing, a poorly calibrated monitor displays them incorrectly and steers you in the wrong direction when you edit the image.

Color-Managed Workflow

A basic monitor calibrator adjusts your screen's colors, gamma and contrast and writes these values to a calibration profile in your Drivers directory. You can manually calibrate your monitor by opening Calibrate Display Colors in Windows and following the on-screen instructions, but this method relies on your eyesight rather than the color sensor in the calibration tool. Ideally, your scanner, monitor and printer reproduce exactly the same colors so that, when printed, your scanned and edited image matches the colors of the original drawing exactly.

About the Author

David Wayne has been writing since 2010, with technology columns appearing in several regional newspapers in Texas. Wayne graduated from the University of Houston in 2005, earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications.

More Articles

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera andreaskrappweis/iStock/Getty Images