How to scan artwork for sale
I can paint flowers in watercolor until the sun stops shining; it’s what I love. I’ve sold many of these paintings as digital prints in my online store, and I get such high reviews because of the artwork’s quality. If you have many paintings you need to digitalize, scanning your artwork correctly is key to ensuring the final prints are high quality.
This post will look at the best way to scan artwork for sale, how to clean it up, and the best practices I use daily.
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Yesterday I watched a video of a shop review on Etsy selling Wedding invites. They look beautiful with watercolor accents and hand-drawn elements.
The shop owner was doing so well, making over $500k per year and then some. It looked terrific, and any Etsy shop owner would be thrilled to be in the same boat. Especially as the shop sells only digital items, this is profit for the most part.
Whether it’s Wedding invites or Wall art – it’s important to scan your artwork the correct way.
The easiest way to scan artwork for sale
How to scan artwork step by step
- Place the original painting face down on the flatbed of your scanner.
- Open your scanner on the desktop of your computer.
- Select the area you wish to scan; this usually shows with a dotted line, so select the whole image to scan.
- Select tiff, or you can choose jpg if you prefer to keep the files smaller.
- Select the quality you want – a higher resolution is better, i.e., 300 or 600 dpi.
- Don’t select any other color alterations. You want to do this later in your editing program.
- I don’t select anything else on my scanner.
- Once your file is scanned, it may be saved on your desktop or in your downloads.
Keeping your artwork the same size as your own scanner is far simpler. A flatbed scanner usually comes in A4 or 8×10 inches; keeping your work to this size makes the entire process much more straightforward. You can make your print sizes bigger in photoshop. Still, the scan quality is key to the color matching photoshop will do later.
For large artwork, there are specialist art scanner companies you can find locally or even a large type of scanner specifically for large paintings.
How to clean up your artwork to get better-quality prints?
Once you are ready to scan your artwork, remove all marks where possible. Pencil markings are cumbersome to remove later if you have many of them, so keep your artwork tidy and clean.
Place your cleaned-up artwork on the scanner bed and import the scan into your documents or desktop.
What file type should you save your scan as?
I always scan it in as a tiff file, but you can use jpg also. Your scan should have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi; convert this to CMYK. If you leave your scan at RGB, screens use this color mode. We need to convert it to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black), which is the color format of most printers. See below.
*not everyone will use CMYK. This is for professional printers; you might find that the printer you are working with is only RGB. If you need clarification, check with your local online printer firm, and they will clearly say what file format they use. You will find many prints in RGB for convenience.
Why do we need to scan your artwork?
If you look on Etsy, you will see several products selling artwork or artwork selections, as Etsy is a great place to sell digital products.
You may fancy yourself as a wedding or party invite seller and want to sell your original artwork like myself. Instead of selling the actual physical painting, you can sell these as digital artwork files. You can resell them repeatedly and extend their usage to other products, such as print-on-demand.
The buyer downloads the files right within Etsy and takes them to the print store to be printed. They can even print them at home for a cheaper option.
Suppose you scan in a copy of your digital paintings. In that case, nothing is stopping you from selling the original work at an art show, for example. You retain the digital copy and usage rights.
Best scanners for scanning artwork
I use this simple scanner I purchased from amazon. But any good quality scanner will also work, and some printers have a larger flatbed included, which may also work for you. Unless you are a professional artist, it’s not worth investing in a large format scanner until you know you can afford it.
- Advanced Z-Lid accepts books and other thick media for scanning.
- Entire unit runs off USB power.
- Documents can be immediately uploaded to cloud services like OneDrive or Dropbox.
Your scanner should be able to scan in the size of your paintings and have a scanning resolution of at least 300pdi, preferably 600dpi or more. This ensures good image quality every time and is perfect for selling digital images of your artwork.
A larger file size with a higher resolution enables you to sell multiple sized prints.
This is because the scanned copy contains many tiny squares that combine to create the scanned image. So at 600Dpi, it translates to 600 dots per square inch.
As with watercolor paintings, these have lots of tiny alterations to each ‘square’ and may contain hundreds of tones and hues, and you will want to capture those in your scan.
Suppose you are planning to only use your scan online – for example, as a background for a pin image. In that case, this is not necessary, and you should scan in at 72dpi as this keeps the image small and will load faster on the screen.
Do I need to clean up my artwork before scanning it?
Removing any pencil lines you may have left during the painting is a good idea. Clean off any marks with a rubber.
I usually ensure the painting has no creases, as this will also scan in the copy. But I have in the past cleaned up coffee stains and food bits.
The joys of working with coffee and paintbrush pots.
Do you clean up your artwork in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe illustrator?
Suppose your artwork is watercolor, acrylic paintings, or mixed media. In that case, you will want to retain that painted feel to the image.
For this reason, I always clean up my work in photoshop. You can also use free alternative versions of photoshop, such as Photopea.
Photoshop is raster based; it creates pixels – whereas illustrator is vector based and is smooth with slight color variation.
Illustrator is better if you are scanning in artwork that you want to keep as flat smooth pixels. This is because while photoshop keeps the pixels you have scanned, Adobe Illustrator is vector based and is smooth, showing no variations.
But artists’ preferences can differ.
But what if I can’t afford photoshop? Are there any cheaper alternatives?
If you are planning to scan lots of paintings and wish to save money, sign up for a free month’s trial of photoshop and batch work your paintings.
Once you get into this process, it can be done relatively quickly.
If you already have a canva.com account, you will need the pro version – and here, you can remove the background in one click. It will be less accurate than photoshop, of course, but it may suit if you want to remove the background for a badge or sticker item. For larger artworks, it’s best to outsource the scanning to a 3rd party. You can find lots of printers that all provide a scanning service.
How do I clean up my scan in photoshop?
The first thing you want to do is convert your painting into CMYK, as I said before. (please note that I leave mine in RGB because many of my buyers only require RGB and no complaints so far)
Some scanners scan in as CMYK, but if not, you can convert it into Photoshop. See notes above regarding color selection.
Next, you will want to remove the background.
As this post is not a Photoshop tutorial and it’s such a huge program, I will only cover the basics and leave you with a video you can watch later.
- Remove the background using the magic eraser tool. Set the tolerance to 15 as you don’t want to pick up too much but don’t need any white edges left behind.
- If you remove too much background and some of the painting, try painting this back in using the erase-to-history brush.
Another way to remove the background is simply using the eraser tool and carefully cutting out the background using your mouse. It’s quite fiddly and takes time. But as a beginner, it’s always good to find several ways of achieving the same action in photoshop.
Finally, I have used it many times to make the artwork dark and remove the background.
- Create 2 more identical layers of your painting
- On the top layer, increase the contrast so that the white is very white and the painting is very dark. (Don’t worry, this is to ensure you select the background you want to remove)
- Once you have a very dark image of your painting, using the magic wand tool, select the white background and then click the middle layer, and press delete.
- This removes the white background from your middle image using the pixels selected from your exaggerated image on top.
Exporting your cleaned-up painting with no background from photoshop.
Now you will need to export your painting (with the background removed) as a png file. This has no background and can be placed, repeated, and made larger or smaller on your prints or products.
Can I use a photo of my painting and sell it?
Yes – certainly.
You will need a good quality digital camera (I’m no expert with the iPhone, but it could work if your art is manageable).
Place your artwork in natural light with no shadows, of course. This might mean hanging it or placing it on a table below the window.
Carefully select the highest quality photo on your camera or phone and take a photo.
You can use free tools online to brighten the image and change the contrast to get the look you want. Try SnapSeed
The downside is that the image is a fixed ratio – so it will be more challenging to create different-sized prints for sale. You could try the background remover on canva.com and achieve something wonderful to sell.
Remember, the aim here is to create a painting or png with little or no loss of quality. Scanning your original artwork means you will consistently achieve a very high resolution. It only needs to be completed once for use on all kinds of products online.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Now that you have scanned your beautiful artwork, it’s time to make something with it. Many painters paint winter pictures and sell or post Christmas cards, but if you want to sell prints of your art – you will need to know how to get started.
p.s. Recently there is a movement for selling Public Domain art. You can find out where to find free prints to sell here.