This covers only flatbed scanners, not drum scanners or 35mm slide scanners other than to indicate that they exist

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Book review of a good book on how to expand your horizons with your flatbed scanner.

If you are about to buy a flatbed color scanner, or already own one, then this book will certainly tell you 1001 things about flatbed scanners that you will never find in any instruction book.

Skip the Introduction and Chapter 1 and go straight to Chapters 2 and 3 which provide a quickie peek at the technology involved. The "Technical Considerations" of Chapter 3 provide initial warnings for the complex world of dpi versus lpi. As usual, the book is written for people needing to print with an imagesetter. Only occasional remarks cover the situation of laser printers, and nothing about wide format or other inkjet printers. The authors do an excellent job producing examples to show dramatically the relationship between halftone screen frequency and overall quality (p. 12).

In the example "scanning in grayscale or converting from color" (p. 13) this seems to have been written before Photoshop was available in version 5.0.2 because nowadays there is hardly a question, it is usually much better to start in color and then go to grayscale afterwards, and to go via channel mixing, not directly to grayscale (see review of Margulis's book). Anyone who has advanced to the point that they recognize they need help (in the form of buying the book,"Start with a Scan)" should also be absolutely sure that they obtain a copy of how to work images in Photoshop in black and white. Why black and white when you are working in color? Because the book on black-and-white has no counterpart in color and because if you learn how to handle black-and-white then you have a head start with color.

Chapter 4, "Editing Scanned Images," is a tough assignment for the authors because there are entire 300 page books that struggle with the same questions that this book has only 10 pages for, but 10 pages is a start for people who perhaps have not yet advanced to the 300-page version. Also, every book offers at least something that is not present in the other books because each author brings their own unique experience to the explanation. It would help to have references to subjects that are only mentioned yet not covered, such as calibration. I can see where the initials ICC might scare away most of the targeted audience of this book, but sooner or later any graphics design person will have to face color management profiles.

Start with a Scan book
Start with a Scan book

Back to "Start with a Scan,"... the authors impart quite a lot of information in 5 pages that takes entire chapters in other books. Again, "Start with a Scan" is truly a book for starters and initial intermediate level.

The section on p. 19, "Scans used as a Visual Reference," actually is about the first time I have seen this trick mentioned in print, probably because many digital graphics people discover the trick on their own. For example, if you plan to print only black and white the "true" colors are not as important as is the final image in grayscale. Thus you can change the colors to look best in black and white without worrying about the color balance in color mode.

Section on silhouetting is a good introduction. I find that you sometimes have to alter the object or the background color or contrast to allow the Photoshop tools to pick up the differences. It would have helped if you learned in Chapter 4 that silhouetting was also covered again, in more detail, in Chapter 11, pp 110-111.

Chapter 5, Working with Printed Clip Art as well as Chapter 6 are more in the realm of graphics design than managing a flatbed scanner. Thus the book truly follows its title, "START with a Scan." In effect the subtitle is the real subject of the book, "Guide to Transforming Scanned Photos and Objects into High Quality Art." Chapter 7 returns the reader to the meat of flatbed scanning, using the scanner as a creative digital input tool.

Chapter 7, Creating Textures and Backgrounds will escort you above and beyond the mundane uses of a flatbed scanner. Now you can do fun things and use the scanner as a form of digital camera.

Chapter 8, Working with Scanned Photographs, suddenly takes you back to Adobe Photoshop and thus follows Chapter 4. Chapters 9 and 10 take you back to graphics design, and thus follows Chapter 5.

Chapter 11 in turn takes you back to Chapter 7; these are my two favorite chapters, and they could easily have followed one another instead of being separated by Chapters 8 through 11. Chapter 11 is "Scanning Real Objects," in other words, scanning 3-D objects.

Halfway through Chapter 11 the authors depart from scanning objects to manipulating the scans in Photoshop or turning the scans into montages. A new chapter should have been initiated.

Chapter 12 starts out with 3-D multimedia and then jumps through a variety of unrelated topics. They obviously want to leave no stone unturned, but most readers will skip the final pages and opt for an entire book that covers those topics in more detail.

The final section, "Resources" (p. 133) is fine up to the point where it lists only three scanner companies, Eastman Kodak, LaCie, and Microtek. What about Umax and Linotype-Hell (Heidelberg and LinoColor)? Eastman Kodak is about the last company that I would associate with a good scanner. No scanner software seems to be listed, and zilch on how to store or handle your scans after you have them. This is why we have entire sections on RAID, DVD-RAM, CD-R and other storage devices.

Pros: the technical illustrations look nice (if you need illustrations to guide you through a product or process, check out the best illustrations anywhere, by Agfa). Peachpit Press has made the effort to provide good paper and allow color illustrations on most pages (not merely restricted to a lone color signature in the middle of the book). Actually there are more illustrations than there is text in almost all chapters. I like any book that explains how to scan 3-D objects, since this is what I enjoy experimenting with.

Cons: page 7 suggests that a Kodak Photo CD gives "quality rivaling the drum scanner." That is utter nonsense. The Kodak CD system was made for Bubba and Barbie Doll Doe in Lowendsville, Idaho. Even Kodak admits that in the Official Kodak Photo CD Book (also Peachpit Press). To find out what the Kodak system will really do to any slide unfortunate enough to go through this system, read the book (or take a peek at my review).

summary: if you have never scanned anything before in your life, or if you just started and want to go deeper, this is a good book to buy. Peachpit Press obviously checks out their prospective books before they publish them, so in general you can count on good books from this publisher. If, however, you are looking for a book to take you towards the high end of scanning technology, you need to keep looking, though you still should seriously consider buying this book to tide you through your search.

My personal considerations: it is hard to find a book that offers experience at the high end even the high portion of midrange, much less the full high-end. Admittedly, most of the readers of this book will have a Microtek or Umax scanner, less likely a LinoColor with LinoColor Elite software. There are probably not many owners of Creo scanners or the impressive high-end Fuji C-550 Lanovia, Heidelberg Topaz, or ScanView Scanmate pro scanners who will be buying this book. At least a peek at the high-end of flatbed scanning is introduced on my web site www.flatbed-scanner-review.org.

Additional observations: nowadays, when people can have access to sophisticated software such as Silver Fast, the imaging of files can happen within the scanner software, before the image even reaches Photoshop.

Silver Fast is a scanner software and still works together with Photoshop, yet saves many stops in Adobe Photoshop. Overall, the controls and interface of Silver Fast is superior, indeed good enough that it is worthwhile buying Silver Fast even if you already have other scanner software and already have Photoshop.

Actually elsewhere there is now dual-mode software (from RIP companies) that takes a scan and prepares it for a wide format printer without passing through all the other stages. Straight from scanner to RIP into the wide format printer.

 
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