Monday, March 27, 2006

Help needed: Settings in scanning & saving artworks for archival

I posted this question over at The Drawing Club mailing list. Maybe you could help too:
I'm curious to know what settings you use in scanning & saving your artworks for archival purposes. Currently, I'm saving them in TIFF format (600dpi). I end up with 2 files, 'cos I would save one TIFF version for PC, and one for Mac. Wonder if that's an overkill... anyway, I'd really like to know how others archive their works.

I started scanning my works after I discovered the pages from my earlier pieces (about 10 years ago, all on paper) were turning yellow, and the colours from paints were no longer as vibrant (same issues that any art museum would face).

What didn't seem to deteriorate as fast was the inks -- works outlined with Indian Ink, to be exact. The black lines were still very sharp, which contrasted with the yellowing paper.

Investing in humidifiers is out of the question. I used an acrylic fixative to seal the works in. That helped to some extent but Father Time and Mother Nature still manages to catch up.

Digitising the works is a longer-term solution (though I recognise it has its own set of issues, like what if the software/ hardware or operating system isn't available anymore).

So I want to make sure I scan and save my art work appropriately. Also, I'm harbouring hopes of producing a Larger-Than-Life image in the future. Last thing I need is to blissfully assume that I've digitised my works correctly, only to find that when I need the digitised copies they aren't in the optimal formats. By that time, the originals might not be around.



  1. Usually for digital printing, the minimum acceptable DPI is 72 at actual size. The best is 100 dpi where you can check out the actual print quality onscreen at photoshop. What you see is most probably what you get.

    300dpi at actual size is way overkill and will earn you a nice long string of curses from the print operator whose computer you are slowly killing off.

    So, eg if example you have an A4 you scanned in at 300 dpi, you can print at A1 size at 100 dpi. (Photoshop: unclick "Resample Image" and change the resolution to see how large you can print at.)

    Also alot depends on the plotters the printing house would be using to print your works. Different brands of plotters spray the ink dots finer or coarser, or print duller or brighter colours. That's a whole field of study in itself in the print line.

    I heard of one NYP lecturer who went to experiment with different plotters in order to get the best colour and print quality for his abstract art exhibition.

    Still, nothing beats vectors for scalability. ;)

  2. Thanks for practical advice! You're right about 300dpi being more than sufficient. But I'll stick to 300dpi since it's for my archival purposes. Still beats scanning at 600dpi and waiting like crazy. I'll stick to 300dpi, and saving in PSD (Photoshop) as well as TIFF. Thanks again.


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