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How To Scan Handmade Greeting Cards

Scan The Image

Honestly, a certain amount of how to scan an images you will have to figure out on your own for your particular scanner, but here's what I do. I have am using HP 7310 All-In-One Inkejet Printer. Its a few years old now and I don't believe you can buy them anymore but the process should be similar. It has a few features that come in handy for me. The first is that it can scan to a memory card. That means I place the card on the scanner, press the scan button and the image gets saved to a jpg on the memory card I keep in the printer. This makes it very convenient for me because I can scan it after I am done making it without having to be at the computer. I can also copy it and write down the products. The other feature I like is its networked. That means I can read the memory card from any other computer in the house. If that's too high tech, you can always remove the memory card from the printer and put in any computer.

Some things I don't like is if put the image in the corner like you are supposed to do, I don't always get a full edge because it is deciding automatically where the content is and trimming it. It can also be difficult to line up a card with raised features. If it put in the middle it is difficult to get a straight scan.

The best solution would be for me to control the scan from a computer where you can do a preview scan and then select the image myself, but that takes time and various versions of the anti-virus programs haven't quite understood out of the box that its ok to let the scanner and computer talk to each other over the network.

Instead I find it easier to deal with the imperfect images I get. The first step in doing that is to get a good image editing program.

Get A Good Image Editing Program

I use two programs, depending on what I want to do and both are free for home use. The first is Irfanview. It's free for home use and has a good selection of the tools you need to fix an image. The second is GIMP 2. This stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This is on par with the expensive Adobe Photoshop program in terms of features, although maybe not in terms of ease of use. You can even use photoshop brush files with it. Its open source and free though.

When do you use which one? One of the best wasy to describe the difference between the two is with IrfanView, you have an image but just need to make a few simple corrections to it. For most people this may be all you really need. With GIMP, you can do almost anything including starting from nothing and making an animated image, but it take more work to figure out how to do it. With that I mind, let me say I tend to use GIMP more recently but am going to cover how to make corrections here using IrfanView because I think its more in line with the typical reader's computer skills.

My Card Image Was Crooked

Load the image into IrfanView. Now go the main menu on the top of the window and select Image then Custom/Fine Rotation. A dialog box will appear asking for an angle between -360.0 and 360.0 degrees. If you understand angles and what positive and negative mean from math class, you know how to guess what value will straighten the card. You won't always guess well but you can undo and rotate it as many times as you want until you get the right amount of correction. I use the cropping tool's box to the judge how straight I have the image.

If you are wondering what temperature (degrees) has to do with rotation, we are talking about basic geometry and math not temperature. There are 360 degrees in a circle. Imagine it this way: if you were to draw 180 evenly spaced lines from one edge of the circle, through the center of the center of the circle and to the next edge, each of those pieces is a degree. Another way to think of it like an analog circular clock, but imagine there are 360 seconds in each minute - on that clock each tick of the second hand is a degree.

How do positive and negative value work? In math, you usually put positive values on the right of zero and negative values on the left and this how you get direction from plus and minus. When you rotate in the positive direction the entire image is tilted to the right, or clockwise. When you rotate in the negative direction, the image is tilted counter clockwise or left. So if you have an image that was slightly tilted to the right, you would first try rotating it -1.0 degrees. If that isn't enough add more and try -1.5 degrees or -2.0 degrees. If it was too much, undo (Edit, then Undo) the change and try a smaller value like -0.5. (Mathematically speaking, that last statement is totally wrong because -0.5 is actually greater than -1.0 so don't do your kid's elementary school homework wrong based on what I said - I'm taking about the magnitude of the rotation being more or less rotation.) Generally speaking, you should only need to rotate the image a few degrees to get it straight again if you tried to put down straight and you can use trial and error to find the correct value.

If you want it perfect, you can measure the height difference to use as the opposite value and you know the card length which is the hypotenuse of the triangle so then its just a simple matter of dividing those and using the inverse sine function to get the exact angle to rotate it. Trial and error with small values like +1.0 or -0.5 are much easier to do though.

The Colors Are Wrong

Use the image menu and select "Auto Adjust Colors". It's pretty good and fixing most things. If you want to do it by hand, use "Color corrections" and will get a bunch of slider you can play with it and it will show you the before and after. Each situation is different so the best thing is try them and see what happens. I find a little gamma correction is all that's usually needed. If you apply a lot of gamma correction you might need to adjust the contrast or saturation as well.

Saving The Images

For the web, a lot of times its better to make a smaller image file that will load faster than to just post the full size version from the scanner or your 10MP camera. If you are at home on an unlimited broadband connection, you might not care but if you are trying to view the page at hotel, airport or on a wireless device where you are paying for every byte downloaded you will. The bigger the image, the longer it takes to download on a slower connection.

IrfanView has a RIOT plug-in that lets you do this easily. If you download the plug-in you can use File->Save As Web Image and you will get a nice dialog that lets you adjust the quality and tells you the size of the resulting file. Generally you will want to stick to the jpg format for cards with lots of colors. You can lower quality to 85% and set Chroma subsampling to get a reasonable quality web image that doesn't take forever to load. It's a good way for beginners to adjust their image. I actually have a fixed size and quality setting for the versions of card image I create that I apply in GIMP after adding text or other watermarks over image.

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Last modified 05/18/12
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