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3 tips to achieve accurately sized scans

Added on Thursday 18th of June 2009 12:26 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


I’m a young professional and have always used digital photos or stock art for my designs. I’ve used a scanner but not for too much more than scanning an image to send as an email attachment. Now I have a stack of about fifty photos that I need to scan and use in a catalog that I’m designing and I was wondering if you have any tips on how to get the best scan.


You bring up an interesting point—in today’s digital world, many folks might find themselves using their scanner less frequently. Whether you’re a young professional who hasn’t ventured into high quality scanning or you’ve simply forgot the basics, we have the tips you need to capture high quality scans that are sized just right for your job.

The general rule of thumb is that you should scan your photos at the correct size and resolution for their intended use. But how do you know what size and resolution your images need to be? Here a few helpful tips to figure this out:


Tip #1 Determine the final size

If you plan to use a photo at its actual size, determining the final size isn't hard. You simply need to scan the photo at 100 percent. If you want to use the photo at a different size, however, it’s best to scale your image when you scan it, using your scanner's software to accomplish this. This allows the scanner to pick up just the right amount of information from the original photo, rather than leaving it to your image-editing software to interpolate.


If you intend to place your image in a page layout application, such as Adobe InDesign, you can create a placeholder frame the size you need the image to be on the page and then record its width and height in the Control panel, Info panel or Transform panel. This is the size you need to scan your image.

To determine the size increase as a percentage, create a new Photoshop document at the photo’s original size. Then, choose File > Print With Preview. In the Scaled Print Size pane of the Print dialog box, enter the final width or height for the image. The resulting value in the Scale text box is the percent at which you need to scan the photo.


Tip #2: Calculate the resolution

Once you determine your image’s final size, you need to figure out the proper resolution at which to scan the photo. This all depends on how you intend to use the image. If it's to remain digital, the resolution isn’t so critical. If you intend to print your image, use the chart shown in Table A as a reference.


Table A:

Common resolution requirements

General use

Required resolution

Newspaper editorial

150 ppi - 200 ppi

Magazine or commercially printed publication

225 ppi - 300 ppi


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