Quick Fix: Change scanner utility settings to avoid magazine moire patterns

Although most content today is available and produced digitally, there are tons of creative work that can be reused from previously published material. If part of your work involves scanning magazines, one of the issues you might encounter are the patterns produced when scanning colored magazines.

Filipina rapper Chill from the now shuttered Pulp Magazine (Issue #5 March, 2000)
Page scanned using a Canon 600F LiDE with default settings in Simple Mode. Note the vertical lines visible on the image.

There are plenty of Adobe Photoshop and digital editing tutorials outlining steps to remove moire patterns and noise from scanned documents using filters. However, when you are on a schedule or prefer to retain the original data of a scanned document without having to edit the image, then you can use the scanner manufacturer's scanner utility to produce a usable and high-resolution image for publishing online.

For this example, I used my somewhat aged but excellent Canon 600F LiDe scanner and the bundled CanoScan Toolbox ver. 5.0. Some of the settings you can change to produce a good image for reproduction without sacrificing speed are the following:

1. Scan at a high-resolution. Although the scan may eventually be used for a website or blog, scanning at a high resolution lets you edit, crop, and resize the image in photo-editing software without losing any quality. Out of habit, I scan at an output resolution of 300dpi. After all these years, I still prefer using TIFF but since most of my work ends up online or inside a database or image repository, I use JPEG more often for scanning speed and file size especially when very little photo editing is required (such as the examples shown here). TIFF is still great for archiving although it can fill up your external hard drive quickly even with today's 2TB portable drives.

2. Use the scanner driver utility if possible. Many designers and professional scan directly from Corel Photo-Paint or Adobe Photoshop because they have the time and skills to make minute embellishments to the image. If you're going to resize the image for your website or blog, but require a great scan try using the scanner's included software.

The hardware manufacturers of a scanner (standalone or Multi-Function) are aware of both the optimal settings (which they use as defaults) and the weaknesses of their product. They include advanced settings in their scanner utility so you can tweak the settings yourself to make up for any faults of the scanner (such as overly vivid images or intensely dark tones).

Note: Although Canon, Brother, HP, and other scanner manufacturers leave out proprietary software they bundled with their scanner (such as Adobe Photoshop Express or ArcSoft products), their own utility or driver should still be downloadable from their support page. Canon, for example, still provides the Canon CanoScan Toolbox for the LiDE 600F even today.

3. Clean your target document if possible. The 14 year-old Pulp Magazine issue I was scanning had been in a box for at least a decade along with old Time and Newsweek magazines from the 90s. Since the magazine was printed on high-quality rigid paper, it was easy blowing off the dust with a compressed can of air. You can also use a soft, lint-free cloth to remove other debris from the paper's surface.

3. Try the Advanced Mode. The default settings in Simple Mode on the Canon ScanGear utility produced a magazine scan with the moire patterns shown above, but the Advanced Mode in the Canon ScanGear provided the settings I needed to get a great image of Chill in her sexy, deadly outfit. To produce the usable image below, I disabled UnSharp Mask and enabled Auto Tone and Descreen. I made sure all other settings, including Reduce Dust and Scratches, were left disabled to avoid a "soft" image.

The image below was resized for this article but no other changes were made to the scan.


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