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Scanning for a New Life in Print

(December 2011) posted on Tue Dec 13, 2011

How large-format scanners are driving new demand for print services.

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By Michael Antoniak

That seemed to limit the potential of what could be a lucrative new opportunity in fine-art reproduction. “It’s expensive to set up a photo studio for shooting paintings and artwork, and getting it right is really challenging,” he notes. “That kind of high-end work is out of the realm for most small shops.”

Unless they improvise, which is just what Napolitano did. Without the budget to invest in a super-high-end large-format scanner, he figured out how to make the scanner within his means work. Large-format scanning now helps drive the lucrative giclée fine-art printing services the company provides artists in the area and across the nation.

All our scanning is done on an Epson 10000 XL flatbed, with a tabloid-sized 12 x 17-inch scan area. “When I go right to the glass, I can capture work with the color and accuracy that can be tough to achieve with photography,” he maintains.
But it takes time and patience to digitize an oversized original. Napolitano scans the art in sections, allowing for overlap where needed. For large paintings, he builds boxes to support the work while it’s being scanned so there’s no stretch or pull in the image. Once the complete work is scanned, he loads the files into Photoshop.

“The Photomerge feature in Photoshop has certainly made my life easier,” he admits, “and I think it does a much better job than trying to manually assemble the complete image.” There’s been some trial and error to perfecting this approach: “You want to turn all color correction off in the scanner, and only adjust the color, contrast, and sharpness after you’ve finished building the composite in Photoshop,” he advises.

He’s used this approach for scanning originals as large as 4 x 5 feet, for everything from fine-art originals to old Beatles posters. Scan resolution is always based on intended output. “We always scan at a very high resolution, but a scan at 2400 dpi is not always needed unless we’re scanning something very small they want to enlarge,” he notes. The company maintains an archive of all its scans, and provides clients with a CD holding a full resolution TIFF and lower-res JPEG for small prints and use on the Web.