On Mushrooms & Scanning

This post is dedicated to:

A. An acrylic painting for the annual Fungus Fair, sponsored by Fungus Federation Santa Cruz. Every year they select a local (Santa Cruz) artist to create the artwork for the shirts/posters, and this year they picked me! This particular piece features three species of Hygrocybe (waxcap) mushroom basking in the soft glow of the California moon among some redwood needles. (Can you tell I’m missing Cali?).

This painting is a good candidate for comparing scanners because it’s a dark painting in shiny Liquitex Heavy Body acrylic, which is very reflective, and presents quite a scanning problem.

B. A review of three scanners that I use, and three vastly different price ranges.

Without further adieu, the scanners:

1. The Magic Wand by VuPoint Solutions: I purchased this scanner because it will fit into my backpack and come with me everywhere. This, combined with my laptop, makes my office completely portable. The long, skinny, wand-shaped scanner has small rollers on the bottom which allow you to roll the scanner over the surface that you are trying to scan. So you can scan something that is about 11″ wide and pretty much infintely long.

Pros: Small (only about 12″ x 1″) and very portable. I take it everywhere, including on a week-long ski trip to Lake Tahoe. It operates much like a digital camera (you plug it into your computer and upload images via a cable). Can scan at 300 or 600 DPI. GREAT for scanning sketches in a bound notebook.
Cons: Runs on 2 AA batteries. The charge does not last long. I hate buying batteries. Also unsuitable for scanning large pieces or anything other than a perfectly smooth surface. Scans are often slightly distorted. The distortion is not usually noticeable unless compared to a scan of the same piece from another scanner, but this makes it unsuitable for scanning finished artworks for inclusion in my portfolio. The distortion makes it unsuitable for stitching together multiple scans in Photoshop. It’s also a little quirky – sometimes I scan things and they never appear on the SD card.

Price: ~$60 on eBay. Micro SD card not included, but can be purchased for around $5 including shipping.

Summary: Excellent for scanning sketches while on the go. I travel a lot, and I use it all the time to send clients my ideas. I often use it for logo work: scanning my sketches and then tracing them in Illustrator. It’s important to have another scanner available for scanning final works of art for portfolio or publishing.

These are some of the UNRETOUCHED* things that I have scanned with it.:

*I usually end up touching them up in Photoshop before I send them to anyone. The first image appears streaked with gray because it’s on tracing paper. Not ideal. I didn’t bother scanning the painting with it because frankly it wouldn’t be able to roll over the texture.

2. The Epson Expressions 10000XL: A large flatbed scanner. The scanning area is about 13″ x 17″. Sweet!

Pros: HUGE scanning area. Seems to do a great job with images that are not painted with dark, shiny acrylic.
Cons: Insanely expensive, and I don’t really think it’s worth it. A $3,000 scanner should scan your art AND give you a backrub. I’ve had HUGE issues scanning my mushroom painting, and this scanner did NOT solve them. My paintbrushes, like all other paintbrushes, create small ridges in the paint, and the light from this scanner (and probably every other flatbed out there) reflects off of these ridges. This causes strange little reflections ALL OVER the scanned image. You can see every brushstroke. Nothing I do in Photoshop can remove them, or do the painting any kind of justice at all. Also, you’ll notice that the shadows beneath the pine needles are coming out gray, and lighter than the blue backdrop. Those were painted in Liquitex mars black. WTF? You have to click on the image and look closely to see all of the brushstrokes that I am trying to hard to get rid of.

Price: $2,999 from Epson.com

Summary: Buy a car instead.

3. Cruse CS285 ST Fine Art Scanner: Self-proclaimed to be the finest fine art scanner in the world. Available at Lizza Studios in Tunkhannock, PA, and apparently a few other places around the world. The scanner is contained in it’s own dark room (well, it’s about the size of a room) where the artwork is placed on a HUGE (5′ x 7′?) platform which slowly travels beneath some lights which are positioned on either side of some kind of a sensor which records the image. You can see a diagram here. Can scan massive art. I don’t even know what the limits are. While I was at Lizza Studios, the owner was scanning fancy pieces of wood to be duplicated as artificial wood flooring or something like that.

Pros: This solved my every scanning problem and blew my mind. I also got to poke around behind the scenes at a high-end art reproduction studio and talk to nice people about things that I like. The reproduction of my painting was outstanding. In terms of scanning quality, I can’t find anything to complain about.
Cons: The average person would have to wait about a week for this guy to scan one piece of artwork. (Although I should mention that I was stressed about a deadline so they let me come in ASAP and scanned it in about an hour. During this hour I wandered around the studio and struggled to discern the art reproductions from the originals which were placed nearby.) I paid $206 (including tax) for this SINGLE scan. Yes, you read that right. Yes, it was worth it. I don’t want to talk about this part anymore.

Price: $206 for the scan. I’ve heard that the scanner costs somewhere around a million dollars, but apparently I am not in their marketing demographic.
Summary: Epic. Massaged my back and saved my life. Not something I will spend money on everyday, but definitely worth it this time.

Oh, and this is the final mushroom piece, including my Photoshop tweaking.

Lastly, I would like to mention that while I was having my painting scanned at Lizza Studios, the owner told me that he his moving his business to Kingston, PA, because the truck traffic resulting from the recent influx of natural gas production was causing his building to shake, and screwing up his scans 😦 Stay tuned for more posts about natural gas drilling, the incompetence of the DEP, and more!



  1. Pingback: The Growth of Industrial Art | The Life Artistic

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