Scanning Do’s and Don’ts - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

Today’s scanning software helps make the scanning process easier than it was just a few years ago, but here are some tried-and-true guidelines to follow for the best results from your hardware:


  • Work with the largest possible original. The larger the original, the better-quality image you’re likely to get. (Sure, you can scan a postage stamp, but use a higher dpi setting so that you have enough pixels to enlarge the image later.)

  • Clean your scanner glass with the right material. Never spray glass cleaner directly on the glass: Too much liquid on the glass can leak under the surface, causing condensation later. Instead, use a soft photographer’s lens cloth or a monitor wipe moistened with alcohol, which evaporates quickly. I clean my scanner glass at least once weekly.

  • Add as much memory to your PC as you can afford. The more memory you add, the easier and faster your PC can handle larger scans. Remember that some of those scanned images might end up being 50MB (or even more). Also, any image editor performs much better with additional memory. If you’re using Photoshop regularly, for example, have a minimum of 4GB. Memory is cheap.

  • Keep your scanner drivers up to date. As with other hardware devices, check your scanner manufacturer’s website often for updates to your scanning software and for Windows drivers.


  • Overwrite your original scan. If you’re experimenting with a scanned image — for example, if you’re applying filters or changing the color balance for an artistic effect — keep the original as is. (Instead, create a copy of the file to work with within File Explorer.) After you apply changes in an image editor and save those changes, you usually can’t backtrack to the quality of the original image.

  • Place heavy objects on your scanner’s glass. Believe it or not, there are horror stories of people trying to scan bricks and rocks — usually trying to capture a particular color or pattern for an e-mail attachment or a web graphic. Besides the possibility of a cracked or a broken scanner glass, rough or pointed objects can cause scratches that show up in your images.

    Paper clips and staples are Public Enemy #1 for your scanner. Remove them before you place your original!

  • Use outdated or specialized image formats. For example, PC owners should avoid Microsoft Paint (MSP) images. (These little-known and less-recognized formats are known by a single collective acronym WIF, which stands for weird image format.) By using one of the major image formats (TIFF, JPEG, or BMP), you give others a better chance to load and work with your scanned images.