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Scanning your imagination.

Scanners (used in desktop publishing), and digitizers (used in video), have been used successfully by artists, particularly graphic designers, for some time. This month we'll focus on scanners and next time, digitizers. First things first: What is a scanner and what does it do?

A scanner is an input device that transfers printed works to the computer. It bounces a beam of light off the surface of the original image, reads the intensity of each light reflection and sends that information to the computer where software can interpret the data and convert it into a usable format. Since most of you would be using a scanner for art images, the format would be an artwork ready for manipulation by your software. Scanners work in much the same way as a supermarket scanner reads and translates the UPC symbols on products. Do you have a scantron at school that reads answer sheets on objective sections of tests? The idea is the same: converting those #2 pencil marks to grade information.

Scanners let you capture, enhance and transfer images from printed media (books, magazines, newspapers, photographs, etc.) and import them directly into software such as desktop publishing or paint program. Once there, the image can be altered and manipulated to suit your needs.

There are several types of scanners and the price range reflects the number of features. A flatbed scanner is a desktop scanner that will scan a full page (8 1/2" x 11") in a similar way that a copy machine works. The cost is prohibitive at $1200 to over $3000. A hand-held scanner is much smaller. It works by rolling the scanner over the surface of the image. The size of the scanning surface is limited to four to five inches, but it is an affordable option at $250 -$500. The results are very good and it is easy to use although you need a bit of practice with speed of scan and alignment. Hand-held color scanners arc more expensive than black-and-white ($200-$300) but you may find the extra cost is worth it if you have the money in your budget. Remember, you can always add color to an image with your software, although if you don't have a color printer, this may be a moot point. Incidentally, although many scanners read both text and graphics, there are scanners designed to read text only; these are referred to as OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scanners.

Scanners connect to your computer via a cable and/or a type of interface, depending on the brand of computer. The hardware translates the relative brightness and location of each point into digital data, which the accompanying software uses to reconstruct a gray-scale image on screen. Adjustable hardware and software settings control the graphics size, resolution, brightness and contrast. Typical editing tools include flip, rotation, resizing and colorization functions. You can save the image in a variety of graphic formats and import it to a compatible paint, draw or desktop publishing program for further enhancement and printing.

As far as graphics are concerned, most artists use the scanner to input graphs, illustrations, maps, charts and photographs. Usually, most manipulation is by way of cropping and resizing. Some newspapers receive Associated Press Photographs directly into a computer where they can be cropped or resized for a particular layout. What can be scanned? Drawings, doodles, photos ... anything you can imagine. At first, keep it simple. Select a black-and-white drawing that can be scanned in one pass of a hand-held scanner. By practicing with something relatively simple, you can get the feel of the scanner and learn the controls. Once you and your students feel confident there are no limits.

Now What?

Once an image is on screen there are many possibilities. Students can take a drawing or a photograph, scan it to the computer, and manipulate it with their favorite paint program. If students need ideas, have them take out a photo album, or look through magazines to see if any photos are inspirational. Once scanned to the computer screen, your paint program will be your tool, you can use any variety of options to get some very dramatic results.

Working with Original Artworks

* Have students start by scanning a drawing done in a previous class. Once the image is on the screen, flip it, rotate it, cut and paste it and add color or text to it.

* If students have done cartoons or illustrations, encourage them to take their work a step further. Once students have created a character, they can scan it into the computer and create multiples of that character and enhance them. They can create a character that moves, changes expression and/or tells a story. Scanning and copying an image can make creating a comic strip or illustrating a story an easy project.

* Using a sketch done in traditional media, scan the work to the computer and work out texture and color on the computer and use the result as a model for a work done in traditional media.

* Use a company or corporation's logo as a basis for a personal logo.

Working with Photographs

* Have students scan images from the newspaper and see how easy it can be to manipulate images, remove a person from a photo or alter a building or sign.

* Have students scan an advertisement focusing in on an object (car, candy, fruit, clothing) and create a new background for these objects. For example, scan a car, change the color and customize it; try some textured backgrounds. Not feeling particularly creative? Simply alter the normal colors of an object: make a banana blue or a dog violet and orange! (Sometimes it's fun just to play around.)

Is all this capturing and manipulation of any benefit? Yes. Besides being able to work with traditional media in a new way, students can observe and study the way artists utilize line, space, shape and color. Imagine scanning in artworks studied during the course of the year and being able to trace the artist's lines to study the composition, movement. use of space and so on. This can be done with student works as well. The possibilities are endless.

Helpful Hints

* Scanning is easy if hardware and software are in sync. If you are still a novice with computers, check with someone who has used a scanner to make sure you get the equipment you need and that it's compatible with your computer.

* Scanning takes up a great deal of memory. While you can reduce the size of the image once it's on screen, the original scan can take a great deal of space. Make sure you have enough memory in your computer to handle the scanned image. The DPI (dots per inch) controls determine the degree of detail; the higher the resolution, the larger the graphics will appear on screen and the more memory will be used.

When using a hand-held scanner you may have to make two or more passes over large images. An easy way to avoid alignment problems is to try to keep all images small enough (4"-5") to be scanned in one pass; the limit may seem small, but it's not impossible. Make sure the rollers at the bottom of the scanner roll smoothly. If you are scanning something from a magazine or book. place something of equal thickness lust below the original so the scanner doesn't fall off the page as you approach the bottom; if you're scanning a single page, tape or fasten it to a desk or table so that it doesn't move while scanning. Practice keeping a steady hand while scanning (use a guide rule if your scanner doesn't have one) and practice your scanning speed. Inconsistent speed can cause distortions in an image. A higher resolution requires a slower scan; make sure you give yourself adequate overlap when scanning.

Scanners I've Used

Before you buy a scanner, check your school or district; they may already have a scanner, especially if any work is done with desktop publishing. Scanners are used for newsletters, school newspapers, literary magazines and even yearbooks. Before you buy, be sure to ask around. The Apple Scanner, a flatbed scanner from Apple, costs $1500-$1800. Flatbeds are easy to use and if you shop around you may find one from other manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, Agfa, Compugraphic or Microtek, that sell for less. Lightening Scan 400: a hand-held scanner from Thunderware is available for Apple IIgs, Mac or IBM. At under $500 list price, this scanner and other hand-helds are well worth the price. Lightening Scan comes with rule guides and software. Others to consider include Quickie, a hand-held from Vitesse listing at $299, and the Logitech scanners.

Debbie Greh is Assistant Director. Communication Arts Program, St. John's University, Jamaica New York.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:using computer scanners in arts education
Author:Greh, Debbie
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1992
Words:1466
Previous Article:Shelters.
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