Tips for scanning waterocolor?

Hi, I was wondering if anyone had any tips for scanning in my hand painted watercolors.
I’m using VueScan, latest version but not the professional one. I just have a non-fancy home scanner - HP Photosmart C3100.
Some of the issues I am having is that it is not picking up some of the lighter colors, and there seems to be an overall slight blue cast. The blueish tint is especially noticeable (to me) in the magentas/reds/oranges.
I could adjust the colors in photoshop, but It’d be much easier if it just scanned the way I want it :wink:

Maybe I just need a better scanner to get a truer image, but wanted to see if anyone had some tips before I ran out and spend money on this!

With hand painted art, especially art you might be thinking about reproducing for sale, I’d look around for a high end art repro/print shop that has someone with a scanback camera. A lot of times they are still listed as “giclee” printers. They’ll also put in color/gray bars in the shot so the reproduction is perfect. (They also use archival inks and papers in their printers in case you are going down that road.

Alternatively, set up a copystand with a good SLR and some daylight light bulbs.

Art scans funny on flatbeds. If you don’t get reflections off the paint itself, sometimes the machine reads all the little white spaces where the tooth of the paper shows, simply because the light is only coming at it from one angle.

Side note, you can make a cheap copy stand using just a tripod and two clip on lights from your local hardware store, plus some Photo Daylight light bulbs. You want to be able to adjust your lighting to remove any glare. You don’t need fancy flashes. Just set your stop appropriately. A decent SLR these days is probably less than a good quality scanner. LOL.


Great thanks! I just dug in my closet and found a Kodak Easyshare Z1012 ls. Not sure if this is an appropriate camera, but I did a test shot just here in my “office” and the color came out good and the format saves as a jpeg at 450ppi, which works fine for me.
The end goal is to sell these on stock graphics websites.

For the best quality I would get it professionally scanned, but the cost of that may be more than what you’ll make via stock sales.

If you’ve got a batch of watercolors to shoot, you could rent the gear. Copy stand, 2 softbox strobes with preview, a high end camera that lets you shoot in RAW, and a lens with higher quality glass, like Canon L series lenses. And ask them if you can rent color bars.

Shoot with the color bars, and do the color correction in RAW and you’ll have more accuracy and control.

Stock art?
RF or RM?

Advice I give photographers/artists on the stock sites:
Don’t hide behind an alias. While you might post those images taken with a lower quality camera or scanner, there are people out there like me who, if the art is right, will pay for a higher quality scan-back image of your work to get the resolution and color where it needs to be for maybe something a little larger than a notebook cover. Not saying it will happen, but it might. Just for giggles you may want to explore resources in your area for such a scan regardless of whether you intend to use them. Not only as a just-in-case, it’ll also give you some idea of the cost vs buying a new scanner/camera/equipment rental. Batching is always a lower cost too. Only one setup fee.

For Watercolor the best reproduction I’ve used is old school film and natural light. If you use studio light it can often make wash edges look harsher. It’s also a lot cheaper than going to a professional studio where work can be really expensive.

  1. Put the watercolor flat on the floor/board. Make sure it’s flat (watercolor paper…). You can use a pane of glass but then you have to be worried about reflections (or tape).
  2. Use early morning or afternoon light (for warm temperature) coming from the top or bottom of the art (do both - there could be a minor gradation - easier to fix (in general) vertically than across the picture plane).
  3. Use an arm or stand to shoot directly down onto the piece at 90• angle.
  4. Shoot each piece about 6 times, bracketing your exposures.

When I was in college we made a stand for this. It cost about $20 in materials (2x4’s and nails). The only thing that’s important is to make sure you get the angles right so when you shoot the frame is as close to square as possible in order to avoid distortion.

I will be offering both Royalty Free for personal use and the option to purchase the commercial license.

Does this only work in sunny weather?
I just looked at pre-made arms online, they are not very expensive! Would this method still work with a digital camera, or is there something specific about film cameras that makes this method work?

A camera is a camera. With digital you only have to worry about resolution and whether or not you can make it RAW at the outset. Don’t shoot to jpg format ever!
And as noted, if you aren’t familiar with your camera, do bracket the photos so you have options without having to set up again.

As for using glass, a piece of non-glare plexi that you can get at any frame shop works. Opt for the cheap clear stuff though, not the OP3. OP3 has a yellow cast to it due to UV inhibitors. Barely noticeable but there nonetheless.

I’ve never had a problem with harsh cast using daylight lamps in the cheap fixtures. A window works too!

Actually it’s best on slightly overcast days = natural diffused lighting.

And yes any camera is fine but if using film, take extra shots. Film is cheap compared to restarting. The only thing to be “concerned” about is getting the angles at 90• and flat so you get the best reproduction.

©2019 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook