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Peripheral Power: How To Use Your Scanner To Enlarge Images

December 29, 2020

This is one of those posts where you have to admit to being a dope so you can pass along a tip that might help others.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Gotta grit my teeth… OK, here goes!blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Many years ago I spent considerable time and effort thinking up humorous greeting card designs and submitting them to American Greetings and other card companies.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

At some point I thought: instead of submitting just one idea per page, I could save postage by squeezing three designs onto a page.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

So that’s what I did. I put the front of each card on the left, and the inside greeting on the right. I used plain white copy paper, 8.5″ x 11″, so each B&W sketch was about 3″ high.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Here’s what a typical page looked like:

 

Christmas card designs caveman with big furry stocking dog drinking eggnog out of toilet gangster with snow gun

I didn’t have much luck, but I saved all the sketches hoping I might be able to use them someday.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Fast forward to the present, where every artist and his sister seems to have an online store, myself included.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Every so often I’d come across my old card ideas and think: These are great!! (I’m a big fan of my own work.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Then I’d think: I should scan these in and color ’em and upload them to my online store where they’ll all be big sellers!! (My electrician tells me to think positive.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Then I’d smack my forehead and think: Ya dope! Why’d ya draw ’em so small?? They’re only 3″ high, and the average greeting card is 5″ x 7″.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Now you might be thinking: Couldn’t you scan them in
and then use an image-editing program like Photoshop or Pixelmator to enlarge them? Yes, I could– but doing so would thicken all the lines and give the drawings a very dense look.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

So the forehead-smacking went on for years, until one night, several weeks ago, I’m lying in bed and I thought: what if I scanned them in at a much higher resolution?– say 600 or 1200 dpi, instead of the usual 300 dpi?– would that possibly enlarge them at the same time?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

So next morning I’m anxious to give it a try. Before I do, however, I decide to do a quick search. I bring up Google and type: “Can you enlarge an image with a scanner?”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

My top search result was a Q&A forum entry from 2006 (!!). The page title was: Scanning hard copy old photos HOW TO GET THEM LARGER.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The question: “I have some very small old photos– how can I get them to scan larger?”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Here’s the first part of the answer:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I use Epson’s line of scanners… I have the option of performing the scan in ‘professional mode’ as opposed to the fully-automatic process, and there exists an option to define a custom target size (my emphasis)blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I sat there blinking. I have an Epson scanner myself that I bought back in 2015. You don’t suppose…blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I launched the scanner app, and tucked away in the Settings window I see a section I’d never noticed before: Target Size.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

=> head-slap, head-slap, head-slap!! x 100blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

To cut a long and embarrassing story short: I set Scale = 250% and scanned the above page at 300 dpi.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Instead of getting an 8.5″ x 11″ image (2550 x 3509 pixels), I got a 21.25″ x 29.25″ image (6375 x 8774 pixels).blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Instead of 3″ high, my little B&W sketches were now about 7.5″ high– and looked perfect.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

So that’s my tip: if you use a scanner for line drawings, photos, or any other hard-copy image, check your scanner settings. If you’ve got a Target Size option, you can enlarge your images as you scan them.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

OK, maybe you don’t have a scanner– but chances are you have some kind of device plugged into your computer. Ask Google a few questions about it. You might discover it can do some tricks you didn’t know about.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Here’s how those three Christmas card designs turned out after I finished them in Pixelmator. You can find them all in my online store, including several possible inside greetings for each card.

Christmas card design caveman holding up very large furry stocking smart always hang up biggest one you've got

Christmas card design dog drinking from toilet ladles cup yum yum eggnog is good this year isn't itblank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Christmas card design mobster in red double-breasted suit with snow gun youse dreaming of White Christmas are ya's Louie here will take care of it

blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, editorial, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Kelly Stoner freelance digital marketer

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2020 9:06 PM

    Just a question – if you had scanned them at a higher resolution instead of a larger target size, would you have got the same results?

    Like

    • January 1, 2021 4:39 PM

      Hi, Margy. Thanks so much for asking that question, and a kick in the pants for me for not answering it as part of the post! 😕💦

      To answer the question, I scanned the same line drawing (on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper) at 300dpi, 600dpi, and 1200dpi, with Scale = 100%. ( => I did NOT use the scanner’s Target Size feature for any of the scans).

      Results: the physical size of the resulting digital images (TIFF files) did NOT change. All three scans produced digital images that were 8.5″ x 11″ = same size as the hard copy original.

      What DID change was the “pixel dimensions” = the image resolution.

      The scan at 300dpi produced a digital image that was 3509 x 2550 pixels.

      The scan at 600dpi produced a digital image that was 7019 x 5100 pixels (double the 300dpi image).

      The scan at 1200dpi produced a digital image that was 14039 x 10200 pixels (quadruple the 300dpi image).

      In plain English: bumping up the scanner’s image resolution setting produces a sharper and sharper image (since you’re cramming in more and more pixels), but it does NOT change the image’s physical dimensions (in this case, 8.5″ x 11″), which remains the same as the hard copy original.

      Whew!! Thanks again for asking the question, Margy. These little victories (= new bits of information) are important, and so is documenting them. Hope all this will do someone else some good!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. spookster01 permalink
    January 2, 2021 4:42 PM

    Don’t feel bad Mark, I just learned something new by reading your article… there are so many facets to software that they seem overwhelming sometimes. Thanks for the tip, now all I have to do is remember it at my age! Happy New Year by the way.
    John

    Like

    • January 3, 2021 11:50 AM

      Ha! Thanks for the consolation and the pep talk, John. Overwhelming is right. Just knowing what’s out there and available re design- and illustration software is a huge challenge. Trying to learn it (or think about learning it!)… well… the mind grows numb! Fortunately, you and I, with our massive intellects and exceptional personal courage, will overcome all obstacles in 2021– that goes without saying!! Uh… doesn’t it?? Happy New Year, amigo! 😊

      Like

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