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Scanner selection and setup

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  • Scanner selection and setup

    Hi everyone

    I'm a graduate student who will be scanning in old letters from WWI soldiers as part of a project. The soldier's message is of course the primary concern but the aging of the paper and penmanship creates another aspect to the collection. I'm new to this and would appreciate some pointers.

    I'm using a MacBook Pro with a Canoscan N650U. Instead of downloading Canon's software, I have purchased VueScan and will be working in Photoshop CS2. TIFF images will be archived to DVD and possibly converted to jpeg for web publishing.

    I'm a few dozen pages in and I'm pleased so far. Have started reading RTP and love the site. My N650U is rated at 1200dpi and I wish to scan at half of that. 42 bit color seems overkill for my needs. But this is a $30 scanner. By paying 10X that for a quality scanner, what would I be gaining?

    I've been reading about color correction, white balance and targets. I compare the document to the image on the screen. It's a nice, crisp image but the colors aren't close at all. Is it the laptops monitor that is failing to represent the scanned image or do I need to tweak Vuescan somehow? Many posters advise to upgrade your drivers before you do anything else. I'm not sure how you do that. It appears that VueScan has the "driver" built in.

    Would appreciate some guidance to get me on track. Thanks very much.

    [email protected]

  • #2
    Re: Scanner selection and setup

    Welcome to RetouchPro !

    You are correct, in that 42 bit color could be overkill, as well as 1200 dpi. However, when it comes to color in consumer level scanners, the actual color resolution will normally be a bit lower than represented. However, that still should not matter for scanning letters.

    The intent would be to preserve color information to allow for better restoration in the future. Hence, even 24 bit color is more than adequate.

    You may find that 1200 dpi is also too high. I know you said you would scan at about half of that. Most would agree that 600 dpi should be sufficient for letters. While we may think that low in another 20 years, it is high enough to allow very good interpolation into higher resolutions later in life.

    It appears that the last driver written for your scanner was in 04/2007. If you bought the scanner after that time, then you should already have the latest driver. If not, then go to the Canon support site, download the driver for MAC and install it. It's quite easy. VueScan may have updated software as well, although you don't need a driver from them, just the application. (Drivers are just for hardware) Check their site for any updates to their application.

    The color difference certainly could be due to the laptop LCD not being calibrated. But, the difference is usually not that great; otherwise, you would see big differences in other images as well. The problem is likely with the scanner not being calibrated. Yes, we do calibrate scanners... or should I say unfortunately. While you could simply tweak the output to compensate, it would be less time consuming in the long run to calibrate the scanner.

    To calibrate a scanner, you need two things. One, a "target" which is a piece of film created by someone like Kodak. This provides a "known" and trusted color to work with. Two, is some software that will read the target and create a new "profile" for the scanner based on the differences between what the scanner sees and what it should see. The new profile is then copied to your hard drive and replaces the default profile for the scanner. As the scanner reads colors, they are tweaked slightly based upon the profiles' knowledge of what should get tweaked. The resulting output of a scan is then color corrected on the fly.

    One common package for doing the calibration is X-rite's EZcolor. It also comes with two targets, one reflective and one transparent. It makes the process easy to follow. It is basically a calibration kit for dummies (no offense intended ). The other unfortunate part is that these kits don't come cheap. EZcolor starts at around $400. More professional packages are much more. However, these packages are normally bundled with scanners. You may be able to find a used package on the internet, or from a friend, much cheaper. Again, all you need is the target and the software; you don't need the densitometer that someone may want to keep.

    You can also try sharing a profile. It is not always very reliable due to differences between your scanner and the other persons. However, even though manufacturers spit out 100,000 scanners of a type, manufacturing is much more standard than 10 years ago. So, a problem in one scanner is often found in another. By simply copying someone elses calibrated profile to your MAC, many common problems with color can be resolved.


    • #3
      Re: Scanner selection and setup

      The Canon support site doesn't have driver updates but provides an update to their own software. ScanGear is driver/TWAIN/scanning software rolled into one. I used to open Photoshop, and scan from there. It opens ScanGear by default. This third party software that Canon bundles with their scanners, frustrated me for a long time and then I moved on to VueScan. Don't have the desire to go back. But that still begs the question of how to upgrade my driver and still use VueScan. I would guess that you can't.

      I want to know more about calibrating my scanner but $300 is out of the department's budget. I googled some open source alternatives like "Argyll CMS" and "SCARSE" but I would still need a target and they are pricey too. For now, I am going to troll the net for a profile that someone might have made available.

      Fellow student had suggested that I scan as greyscale (or even BW) since it is only handwriting on a page but the warmth of the presentation is completely lost. I'm probably getting too particular here. Though the colors aren't exact, the scanned image still has warmth and captures what I think is important. I'm just be too much of a perfectionist.

      Thanks TommyO for your help.

      [email protected]


      • #4
        Re: Scanner selection and setup

        you might take a look at both of these sites.


        this is $47.00 plus shipping
        Kodak Q-60 Reflective 5x7 Photo Target (KODIT8R5x7)

        The Kodak Q-60 Reflective 5x7 Photo Target conforms to the ANSI IT8.7/2 standard for transmission materials and, along with the appropriate Target Data File (TDF) can be used with profiling software to build profiles for scanners that can scan reflective 5x7 material.

        good luck


        • #5
          Re: Scanner selection and setup


          Have had some success with setting up a profile and will probably not go to the expense of a target since this is not professional work.

          I appreciate the responses though.

          [email protected]


          • #6
            Re: Scanner selection and setup

            check this out -- there are free downloads two on the page link and a link on the same page to another.

            they are FREE photo targets

            if you unzip and take to a local printer then you might use as a target reference.

            first you must get your monitor to match printed target then print and adjust printer till it matches monitor. load the file in your image editor and compare to printed image and adjust monitor. then do not change settings. Make sure to let monitor as well as printer and scanner warm up so all is stable.

            Then print and adjust printer settings to print what you see on screen.

            After you get monitor and printer calibrated to match using visual method. Save your settings.

            Then scan in target and adjust scanner software till the target image scanned matches monitor. save settings.


            if you take your time and save settings this should work for you.

            Always remember to let your system and devices warm up good.
            another thing to help is a UPS to make sure you have a stable power source as there are power fluctuations.

            Good Luck.


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