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Scanning for a Web Site or Email

You can get a decent flatbed scanner for under US$ 100. Check out these merchants.
If you want one that will read text, make sure it comes with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software.

For a web site or email, it rarely pays to scan at anything higher than 300 (even 200) dpi (dots per inch; I am no sure what the metric equivalent is, if there is one).

Every scanner and software package does things differently. Fool around (oh, I mean experiment) to see what it can and cannot do.

If you are going to scan a lot (and this goes for any computing job) it will pay to learn the keyboard shortcuts that replace a series of mouse clicks. The underlined letter (for example File) is the short cut. Usually an action within a program requires you to hold down the ALT key.

In Windows 95/98, for example, holding down ALT and pressing the sequence I-P-F brings up an Insert Picture window. Go to the file where you have your pictures, click on the picture's name and it will be put into your working file. Windows 98 remembers which file you are using and brings it up for the next picture in the same session.

Back to your scanner program. All will have tools that let you sharpen the focus, lighten or darken the contrast, balance the color, crop or resize the picture, etc. Play around and get to know them. If you have altered and re-altered a picture several times, you have probably lost enough quality that you should scan it again.

You will find that certain combinations work best. For pictures I post on, the "sharpen" utility needs to be hit twice and I reduce contrast by 30%. (Some dark pictures you see were done before I learned this trick and I haven't gotten around to changing them.)

That's just a rule of thumb, though. Every picture has to be treated separately.

You can scan transparencies (slides) only on some scanners, which tend to be expensive (though that will probably change). Otherwise prints do well. So do beads scanned directly. No, they are not going to be the quality that Robert Liu gets for Ornament, but sometimes quality had to be sacrificed for speed, immediacy and the low cost of publishing.

Once you have the scan, crop it to leave only a small margin. Keep the picture relatively small, remembering that many people still have 14" monitors. Name it. Keep in mind:

1. Names should be no more than 8 characters long. Longer names are permitted in newer programs, but a 9 character name takes up twice the memory of an 8 character one (8 characters = 512 bits).

2. Most programmers put HTML tags in capital letters <P></P>, text in normal up-and-down style and graphics in lower-case letters: bead-a.jpg. Some scanning programs (like mine) assign the name Bead-a.jpg, which comes out in my HTML script as beads-a.jpg but in my FTP program as BEADS-A.JPG.

This works fine on my hard drive, but will not work on the Internet, and the picture will not appear on the page. I manually change Bead-a.jpg to bead-a.jpg in Windows Explorer.

3. Make the name something that will let you retrieve the right graphic when you need to do so.

4. If you are going to send the graphic to someone, don't use common words like beads.jpg or necklace.jpg. Better to incorporate your name or initials into the filename.

Italics were used here only for convenience; they are not used for file names.

Now save your graphic. This is a critical step.

Saving Scans and the Compression of Images.

I assume that most pictures you are working with will be in color. If it is a line drawing (like a map or a cartoon) save it as a TIFF file (.tif extension). Even book publishers will accept these on disc.

But for color use JPEG (.jpg extension, pronounced jay-peg; Joint Photographic Experts Group). This standard is designed for compressing color or gray-scale images. The related standard for moving pictures is MPEG.

When you save your scan (usually after naming it) you should get a window called "compress" or "quality." You do lose a small bit of quality, but JPEG takes advantage of the limitations of the human eye. For example, a small color shift is much less noticeable than small changes in brightness.

You do not want to use the GIFF (.gif) protocol for two reasons: 1.) It cannot be compressed nearly as much and 2.) The people behind it are trying to get everyone who uses it to buy their $5000 license (as of late 1999). On the face of it, this is ridiculous and it will probably never happen, but be aware of the situation.

Why all the fuss about compressing the image?

1.) It makes a huge difference on a web site. If there is much more than 30K (graphics and text) on a given page, it will download slowly. The average surfer gives the average page 8 seconds to download. Make it much longer than that, and they are gone.

    If you have large, luscious graphics that you know visitors will wait
     for patiently, then make a small "thumbnail" on your main page
    and link it to the full graphic on a separate page.

2.) Large graphics take up more storage space on your hard drive and on your web site. Depending upon how full these are, that is valuable real estate.

3.) Sending large graphics to someone else in an email results in:

    a.) Their ISP rejecting it and it never arrives or

    b.) Tying up online time at the receiver's end and making

    them wait a long time and

    c.) Filling up their hard drive.


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