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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

Scanning is just the starting point
“At one time we had two copy cameras, and we’ve had a film scanner since 1992,” says Bob Abbinanti, president of Que Imaging ( in Houston.

“We were shooting a lot of 4 x 5’s and 8 x 10 transparencies,” but thought there had to be a more efficient solution. “About 10 years ago, I looked at large-format scanners and realized they offered a way to get original art into our system in just 10 or 15 minutes,” he says.

Scanning from the original art proved to be the superior alternative. “The ability to capture the texture of the original was a big improvement for us,” Abbinanti notes. “That’s something we always struggled with when trying to properly light a painting for photography.”

The advantage arrived via a Cruse large flatbed scanner. It served Que for a decade and was only recently replaced with the new Cruse Synchron table scanner. He says the new unit delivers an improved color gamut, and handle originals up to 4 x 6-feet, and 12-inches thick.

“We can capture original art right through the glass, without removing the frame, something we never really liked doing,” he says.

An active supporter if Houston’s artistic community, Abbinanti is entrusted with scanning all types of originals, for artists and from private and public collections. The scanner’s 3D texture mode has created digitized records of Tibetan rugs and heirloom American Quilts, even granite countertops.

Often, the scanner is a starting point for a wide-format print project. “Scanning original art opens up the idea of an on-demand canvas. We’ve done a lot of fine-art printing,” he reports. “A big part of the business has been printing decorative art for hospitals. We’ll scan an artist’s original drawing or painting, then produce several copies.”

In a current project for the Houston Art Alliance, Que is digitizing a series of rare etchings from its collection, then printing them full-size as watercolor giclée prints. The originals will be stored in a safe place, while the digital reproductions go on display. On another project, the company scanned restored 16th-century oil paintings for the Catholic archdiocese, then produced fine-art prints on canvas from the files. Here again, the public will only see the digital prints made from those scans.

There’s been commercial applications for the large-format scans, as well. For redesign of a Woodland shopping center outside Houston, the company scanned a series of standard-sized paintings. These were then printed on 3M Controltac vinyl, laminated, and mounted to aluminum panels installed at the site. The largest of the images now measures 12 x 16 feet.

“Once you have a large-format flatbed scanner, and a film scanner, there’s isn’t much you can’t do,” he sums up.