Fine Art Scanning FAQ

Q: How is my artwork scanned? what equipment do you use?
Q: What do I get with my Scan?
Q: At what resolution do you scan artwork?
Q: If you scan my original, can you print it a different size?
Q: What is your turnaround time?
Q: Do you do rush orders?
Q: What makes your scans different from other scans, or a photo?
Q: Are there paints or paintings that don’t reproduce well?
Q: Do you offer any kind of warranty?
Q: How long do you store my files?
Q: What about copyright considerations?
Q: At what bit depth do you scan artwork?
Q: In what color space do you save your art scans?
Q: In what file format do you save your art scans?
Q: If I’m mailing in originals to scan what should I do?
Q: How should I handle proofing for Dakota Art Drop-off Scans or Mail In Scans?


How is my artwork captured, or scanned?

We scan original artwork using our Better Light large format scanning back camera. We have invested many thousands of dollars in the finest fine art digitizing equipment in order to ensure that your artwork is captured perfectly. We are even capable of scanning very large pieces of artwork with our equipment.

Betterlight 8k Digital Scan-back with 4×5 Large Format Camera

The scanning back camera uses a 4×5 large format camera, and specially calibrated equipment to ensure that the camera lens and the artwork are at perfect right angles. We also have special lighting that produces full spectrum light, and cross-polarized panels and lenses, in order to accurately capture the full color spectrum in your artwork without problems commonly associated with scanning or photographing artwork, especially oil paintings, such as spectral highlighting (little white reflections).

Fine Art Scanning-no text-300x820px

With very small detailed drawings and artifacts, we use macro lenses with the scan back to capture the image at super high resolution. Extra charges may be associated with special art scanning that requires custom setup.

Below is a short video of the art scanning process:

What do I get with my Scan?

Each Scan comes with the full resolution .Tiff file of your piece (generally 300ppi – 330ppi at original size), and a pre-formatted reduced size web .jpg ideal for email or social media. You will receive a download link for your files, and a small physical proof so you can see how the color will print.

If you require a DVD of your scans for your records, we can provide one at the time of Scanning for an additional $10 + tax. If you require a replacement DVD after the time of original scanning (for example 6 months, or a year after we’ve scanned the piece) it will be an additional $20 + tax.

At what resolution do you scan the artwork?

We scan images @ 300 ppi or better, at the size of the image. If you want to know how many pixels that will be, multiply the number of inches by 300 on both sides (H x 300 * W x 300) of your artwork or image. However, because our scanner scans each color channel separately, it creates a higher quality pixel than a standard flatbed scanner. Most flatbed scanners digitally increase the output resolution of the scans to reach higher ppis like 1200ppi and up. What all this means is that our 300ppi scan produces a clear, high quality file of your work that will easily allow you to print twice as large as your original. Some flatbed scanners may claim higher ppi but the images they produce may still be lower quality and often do not print as crisply at enlarged sizes.

Oversized images (larger than 36×48) may be scanned at less than 300 ppi. To capture a very large piece, the camera has to be moved back further, reducing the output resolution. However these are still huge files, and will print original size no problem. In many cases they can still be printed larger than original, because for a huge print viewing distance generally balances out the small reduction in clarity.

If you scan my original, can you print it a different size?

Yes. One we have scanned your artwork, it can be printed in various sizes. In general we discourage people from enlarging their artwork too much. Even if the resolution is great, it becomes like looking at a painting through a magnifying glass. You start to see all the little imperfections, dog hairs, close-up brush strokes etc. But it’s very easy to take a scan and make various
smaller sizes. This is very helpful for selling artwork, as many times buyers won’t have room for a large painting in their house or apartment.

The only thing to keep in mind is aspect ratios! This cannot be emphasized enough. When making various smaller sizes of an image, it needs to be reduced proportionally. For example, you cannot take a 24″ x 36″ painting, and make an 8″x10″, unless you crop off two inches. From a 24″ x 36″ painting, you can make an 8″x12″, as both have a 2:3 ratio. An 8″x10″ has a 4:5 ratio.

If you don’t understand this (which is understandable for those of us who don’t like doing math), we have a very handy aspect ratio calculator on our website. Look to the left in the side menu and you’ll see it. It says “aspect ratio calculator”. You can use it to calculate the different sizes at which your image will print. All you need to know is the original size in pixels, cm, or inches, or feet. Then you put in either the length or width of the reduced size you want and it will calculate the other dimension. Give it a try.

What is your turnaround time?

Normally our turnaround time is 1-3 business days depending on our queue at the time. We guarantee a 5 working day turnaround time. Since we encourage most clients to look at proofs before printing new scans, you should plan for two turn-around periods for a Scan+Print order (3-5 days for the scans, and another 3-5days for the prints.)

Do you do rush orders?

We charge $25 for rush orders if our scanning queue allows for a rush job. We’ll only commit to a rush order if we know we can meet your deadline. For large orders of multiple scans, there may be additional rush charges. If you are a first time client, we may not be comfortable doing a rush order. The Fine Art Printing and Scanning process can have a learning curve, and if we have never worked with you before, starting with a last-minute rush order may do both parties a disservice. We cannot offer “Scan while you wait services” and will need your original piece for at least 24 hours for color editing and proofing. Our scans are a very hands on service, and require a trained professional eye to closely match the original piece to the digital file.

However, there is a caveat to all this. Remember the saying, “You can have it right, or you can have it now, but you can’t have it right, now“? All of the work we do requires attention to detail, and the more we try to rush the process, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

If you are up against a deadline and you are ordering prints or scans at the last minute and find a problem, such as an error that we didn’t notice, then we may or may not be able to fix any issues in time for your deadline. We make our very best effort to help you because we like and respect our clients, yet we need to ask for your understanding and cooperation when it comes to “emergency printing and scanning”. We’re not Kinkos, and we’re not the fire department, but we will do our best with the resources we have.

What makes your scans different from other scans, or a photo?

Our system is set up specifically for documenting artwork. Other scanners (flatbed scanners and drum-scanners) are setup to best capture documents, or transparent slides, etc, but this often means that they cannot do justice to your original artworks. You will find that the color is off in many cases, and that the levels and contrast will not match your original very well. Since our system is designed with original art in mind, the scans are much more accurate to the original in most cases. Even the best digital cameras create very small files compared to a scanner. While you can sometimes take photos yourself that look close to the original piece, the resolution is often still too small to make high quality prints from (even the best professional DSLRs often don’t print larger than 20×30)

Our lighting setup is designed with cross-polarization (UV filters on the lens and the lights), which reduces the glare on shiny paintings. Most oil paintings will show very little spectral highlights in the scan, and if any do occur we will do our best to remove them. Fully varnished or resin-coated pieces are most at risk for this, but we can still scan them in many cases (unless they are very large). Watercolors turn out beautifully on our scanner because it does not capture the texture of the paper, so when you reprint your watercolor on a watercolor paper it will be as close to the original as possible.

Here is a comparison of a piece that was photographed professionally with a high-end DSLR (Canon 5d mark iii), and then scanned with our Betterlight Scanner
(Click the image to enlarge)

Canon 5D mark iii Photograph

Betterlight Scan

As you can see, the photo-version has a lot of spectral highlighting and glare, while the scan is pristine and only showcases the colors of the piece. The levels of the photo also do not match the original (they are much too strong so the image loses detail), while the scan is very close to the original. The photo has some distortion from the lens, while the scan does not have lens distortion. The photo has a filesize of approximately 16MB while the scan has a filesize of approximately 125MB (for a 16×20 piece). The photo does show off the metallic pigment more (towards the bottom right) but at the expense of color/resolution/spectral highlighting, etc. While many of these differences are very noticable on-screen, it really becomes a huge issue when its time to make prints. A digital file that has to be up-rezzed or has color and glare issues will not print well.

Detail view of the difference between the photo (left) and Betterlight scan (right)

Detail view of the difference between the photo (left) and Betterlight scan (right)

Here is a more common example of a photographed work compared with one of our Betterlight Scans. The original piece is a very small and extremely detailed colored pencil drawing. Its easy to see that the regular photograph doesn’t pick up any of the detailed line-work, and the contrast is much too strong.

Comparison of the difference between the photo (left) and Betterlight scan (right) Artwork by Mary Jane Easley (www.easleystreetstudios.com)

Are there paints or paintings that don’t reproduce well?

Beware of silver, copper and gold! Some colors will not reproduce well, or at all using the giclee print process. Although giclee printing has a wider gamut than four plate lithography, certain colors can’t be produced with a printer. Things like iridescent colors, duo-chrome, and fluorescent colors are out of the printer’s gamut. Another way to think of it is non-natural colors.

Metallic paints are also problematic and can’t be reproduced, as they represent the reflective properties of a metallic element, as opposed to a color range. Any silver, gold, copper, or metallic car paints won’t reproduce well at all, and should be avoided. However, some options for reproducing metallics, foils, iridescent, fluorescents and such is serigraphy, hand touched giclee, or offset lithography using extra plates for the colors in question. All that being said, we’ve managed to produce a few that looked spectacular, but in general non-natural colors will not print or scan looking like the original – especially gold!

Can you scan iridescent colors?

No. This should be explained in the previous question, but we’re getting this question a lot due to increased availability of iridescent paints, especially acrylics.

First, it’s important to understand what iridescent is; it is an optical phenomenon characterized as the property of surfaces in which hue changes according to the angle from which the surface is viewed.

Iridescence is caused by multiple reflections from multi-layered, semi-transparent surfaces in which phase shift and interference of the reflections modulates the incident light by amplifying or attenuating some frequencies more than others. 1

From a physics standpoint this is rather uncommon behavior, and in man-made objects this is usually only found in paints that are specifically designed for this effect. Therefore, iridescent behavior is the behavior of a special property not found in regular pigment or dye based inks. Also, because the apparent image changes with the angle of observation, iridescence is not fully reproduced by conventional photography.

If we do reproduction work and your image includes iridescent paint, then you will get whatever color the camera sees when the work is perfectly perpendicular to the artwork. We have real samples in the studio of paint chips and paint samples that we’ve scanned and printed that show exactly what an artist can expect with certain types of paint.

Do you offer any kind of warranty?

Yes. First we guarantee you will be satisfied with the quality of the scan, or we will remake it or refund your money in full. We believe in the quality of our work and stand behind it 100%. If for any reason you are not satisfied we will either refund your money or make it right (within 30 days from when you receive the order). Please check over your scans and prints carefully when you receive them, so we can help you as soon as possible if there is a problem.

How long do you store my files?

We promise to keep your files for up to 2 years if there is no printing activity. This is our liability disclaimer (although we make no claim for liability for loss of your files if you lose your copy). The reality is that as of 2013, we have over 6 years of files, and have never discarded or lost any of our scans. We have off-site backups as well, so chances are pretty good that your files are safe with us no matter how long it’s been.

We do discard files after two years that were uploaded by clients if there has been no activity, but we keep files that we have created (our scans).

Clients are advised to keep a copy of their files and treat them as you would other valuable electronic documents, photos or heirlooms. Replacement CDs or DVDs and file recovery after 2 years if you have lost your copy are $20.

What about copyright considerations? Do I keep all the rights to my artwork?

We keep images from your art scans strictly confidential. Bellevue Fine Art Reproduction does not allow any artwork or images to be printed without the artist or copyright holder’s authorization. Artists maintain complete copyright over their own files and images! We make no copyright claims to an artist images and we provide artists their own copy of the high resolution images.

We’re often asked if we require artists to sign a form stating that the work is theirs. In general the answer is no. We generally don’t check, and we can’t really be the copyright police. However, if it’s quite obvious that you don’t have rights to the artwork or image, then we can’t reproduce it and may ask for something in writing.

We do have some copyright release forms for various reasons, and if we’re not sure then
we’ll ask you to sign a liability release form, and you’re on your way.

The exception to this is art collectors who have rare pieces in their collections and
want to have a digital backup and a copy for various reasons. In some cases collectors need high quality art scans to show in catalogs on the Internet, or for portfolios, which may fall under fair use.

In some cases older art work is no longer copyright protected, and the owner is free to do what they want with the artwrok. Collectors also want high quality art scans of valuable artwork for archival and insurance purposes, which is a legitimate use.

At what bit depth do you scan artwork?

Bit Depth: Our professional scans are supplied at 8 bits per RGB colour channel. We edit the files and color proof at 16bit, then change the file to 8bit when we’re finished, except in special cases. In most cases 16bit files become huge and difficult to manage, and in mos cases there is no advantage to having your artwork scans at 16bit. Only in cases where there are large soft gradients, such as a subtle blue sky, is it necessary to keep your artwork or photography at 16bits.

Flatbed scanners operate a little differently, and they call their files 48bit and 24bit (16bits per color channel or 8bits per color channel, across the RGB color channels). A 48bit image does not have a greater dynamic range (maximum shadow to maximum highlight range) than 24bit but more tonal ‘steps’ within this range.

What color space do you save your art scans in?

Colour Space: Our professional art scans are output with ‘Adobe RGB 1998’ colour space. This large colour space is used for professional photographic and fine art Giclee printing. Adobe RGB files can be converted DOWN to the smaller sRGB colour space but if you convert sRGB files UP to Adobe RGB you will still have a file with missing colours! None-the-less we recommmend leaving your fine art scans in the Adobe RGB 1998 color space. We also advise against using Pro Photo, as it describes colors that cannot be viewed or printed.

In what file format do you save your art scans?

File Formats: For professional art scans we supply uncompressed single or multi layer TIF files in Windows format as Macintosh computers will also open these. We can also supply as PSD (PhotoShop) files and other formats but you should be aware that some compression is inherant. We supply our art scans in TIF format because they can handle layers, and TIF files are industry standard and program neutral, and can be opened by any graphic editing or photo editing software, so that artists aren’t locked into Adobe Photoshop.

We also supply lower resolution jpg files with every art scan so that artists have jpg files that are ready to use on websites and share in social media, such as artist’s facebook pages, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress blogs etc.

If I’m mailing in originals to scan what should I do?

If you are mailing in original artwork for scanning, or having a friend drop-off work for you, please complete our Artwork Dropoff Form so we have all the important information about your originals. Also be sure to include all of your contact information with the artwork, so we know who the art belongs to. We will contact you once we have received the work to let you know it is safe!

How should I handle proofing for Dakota Art Drop-off Scans or Mail In Scans?

In most cases, our color-matching is incredibly accurate, and our team does their best to make your proofs/prints match the original as closely as possible. But with some difficult to match pigments, sometimes this process is subjective, and you may be after a different effect than what our proofing results in. If you receive your Mail-in scan & proofs and feel there is any issue with the color, you can put notes on the color-proof and mail it back to us. If you pickup your scan from Dakota Art, you can put notes on the color-proof and leave it along with the original image for us to review. However, for additional proofing on Dakota Art Scans, we highly suggest you make a visit to our studio for additional proofs, since these types of color-issues are always much easier to communicate in-person. This can help us stream-line your color editing for future scans as well, since we will be more familiar with what you are looking to achieve.

If after reviewing your proof and notes, we feel you are correct and we’ve missed something, we’ll fix it for free. If we feel that the additional color corrections being requested are too difficult or require “museum matching”, we will contact you to discuss the job, and we’ll either ask for additional proofing charges or offer you a refund. We always strive to do the best job possible, but color is highly subjective and sometimes requires a compromise.





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