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Individual Post
General, Sketchbook, Uncategorized

A scanner darkly or I need practice scanning my own drawings

Almost all* librarians and archivists know how to operate a scanner.  Scanners have been around for over twenty years now–and it’s no excuse for me.  Somehow, I have not gotten nuanced skills (or patience) with tweaking images in Photoshop.

How do I take out those unattractive shadows cast in the gutters of a book? Rip the book open? Tear the spine?  No way.  I’m still sketching in it.  But, I hear that’s what I have to do to get the images to lie flat on the scanner bed.  See?

A poor scan of one of my sketchbook pages done by me and me alone.

It’s not that I can’t scan–it’s that I don’t have all the tools.  Man, I can scan like the devil.  I scanned this on my HP.  I saved it in .jpeg format and made the setting at around 300 dpi.  I selected/cropped the area I wanted scanned in the preview and, I’ve tagged it using Microsoft Office 2010’s Office Picture Manager. I know that I’ve done all this because I’ve right clicked on the image in Picture Manager and the metadata popped up.  It looks like this in the right hand side task pane:

If you have Office Picture Manager the icon looks like this in Windows 7:

Picture Manager is the program on your PC that you rarely use.  I am guessing that they won’t make a new version of this once Windows 8 comes out. With Picture Manager (like Windows Live Photo Gallery) I can adjust brightness and contrast–and mid-tones.  I can move the scales up or down until I get the right balance.

Mac people don’t have to worry:  they have the fully integrated iPhoto–which is like Paint/Picture Manager/Gallery all rolled into one.

Yet, Picture Manager a great tool–I scale down all my photos I’ve taken off my Cannon with it.  I even use the “auto fix” on there too.  But, I can’t fix the image the way I would with MS Paint–which I use in conjunction with Picture Manager. “Fixing” this scan wouldn’t do the work justice either.  If I went into MS Paint and used the eraser tool to erase the grey areas (that represent the shadows) then I’d have something, but I would be changing the original scan!  See here:

Yuck! This isn’t any better.

What’s MS Paint?  It’s Microsoft image painting program that has been in existence since the beginning of time.  It used to be called Paintbrush for Windows. I don’t think the Windows team will resurrect this for Windows 8, although I really liked this little program for creating pixel art!  The icon looks like this in W7:

Oh dear.  I mentioned Gallery earlier.  Forgot to tell you, that program needs a little more umph.  “Gallery” is short for Windows Live Photo Gallery (running in the Windows 7 environment) and its icon looks like this:

Okay, so you can see from the image that I scanned, I didn’t do a good job.  Maybe my next attempt, I will weigh down the book so that there are less shadows.  Maybe it is time to learn Photoshop.  Maybe it’s time I get at least the basics down–like masking areas so that only the image is exploited.  At this rate, too much contrast or adjusting too much brightness makes reduces the integrity of the piece. Perhaps I’ll scan it at a higher resolution and, reduce some of the noise.  Or maybe I should just break down and get me Photoshop?

*I have yet to meet a librarian or archivist who is a Luddite and can’t operate a scanner.  Basically, if you can figure how convoluted pay copy machines work nowadays, you can use a scanner. Right?

About Tess McCarthy

Tess McCarthy got her MLIS from San Jose State University's School of Library and Information Science and she worked in a variety of information settings. Tess currently leads her own consulting firm in the management of digital and physical library and archives around the world. As a corporate digital image archivist, she mastered Digital Asset Management she developed and led trainings in image cataloging. She's comfortable using pronouns like she, her, they & them. When she's not organizing the world's greatest archives and libraries, she's writing and illustrating. Tess got her teeth cut in archives processing unique collections. From the Center for Sex & Culture's archival materials to the Hoover Institution, she's seen it all. At the Hoover Institution, she focused on processing, arranging, describing and writing the finding aids to several WWI and II collections. As the former archivist-in-residence at San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture, Library/Archives she surveyed and inventoried some of the most lively manuscript collections. Her interests in the information field area are: special libraries/collections, archives; manuscripts, digital archives, digital assets, images, DAM, collection management, old maps, zines, human-computer interaction, reference/user services and, information-seeking behavior.

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