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What Should I Know About Scanner Calibration?

Scanner calibration is essential for accurate digital reproductions. It ensures colors and details match the original document or image. Regular calibration maintains consistency, especially for professional work where precision is key. Without it, scans may appear distorted or discolored. Are you getting the truest copies of your important documents? Discover how proper calibration can make a significant difference.
Nychole Price
Nychole Price

Scanner calibration ensures that your scanned image will display correctly on screen and in print. Signs that show you may need to perform a scanner calibration include, but aren't limited to, black or dark gray streaks or lines, poor color recognition and quality, white lines or streaks and/or grayish or hazy discoloration. These flaws will show up on screen, as well as on the printed copy. Calibrating your scanner will increase its life span, saving you money in the long run.

Scanner calibration involves the use of a scanner profiling chart and color management profiling software. Most manufacturers include these in the package when you purchase your scanner. If not, you can purchase these at any computer supply store, or online. This chart and software program verifies and corrects the colors that the scanner sees versus what is actually on the document. Install the software program according to the installation guide that comes with the package.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Before beginning the scanner calibration program, you should clean the glass on the scanner bed with a lint-free cloth and water. Never use glass cleaner, or an alcohol based cleaner, as it will remove the protective coating on the scanner bed. Place the profile sheet face down on your scanner bed and turn off the color management and correction tools. Scan the document as normal.

Launch the scanner profiling software and select the file that matches the chart that you scanned. Pull up the scanned image and crop out the areas that you want to analyze and correct. Make the necessary adjustments to match the original colors on the document. Print out the image and compare it with the original document. You may need to calibrate your scanner a second time to achieve optimum results, especially if you haven't calibrated it before, or it was long overdue.

Scanner calibration should be performed, on average, every 1000 scans. This is approximately every two to three months for the average user. If you are scanning more than 1000 sheets every three months, then you should calibrate your scanner more frequently.

If you are able to match the onscreen image's color and quality with the original document, but the print still looks bad, you may need to calibrate your printer. It is recommended to calibrate your monitor, scanner and printer simultaneously to keep them working at their optimum capacity. It will be well worth the time to keep your electronic equipment operating efficiently.

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Discussion Comments


@David09 - I think that calibration management involves three outputs, if you will. These outputs consist of the image that the scanner creates, the image that your monitor displays and the image as it appears in print.

Your monitor may need to be calibrated as well as the scanner. You can buy software that will help you synchronize your monitor with what you would expect to see in print and in video, just as you can with the scanner.

In my opinion you would need to calibrate both the monitor and the scanner if you want perfect fidelity, if you will, with the printed image.


The color chart concept reminds me of what we used to do in video and television. They had comparable color bars that were used to calibrate the video signal so that it would reproduce colors accurately and richly. I think scanner calibration is the same concept.

I’ve never performed scanner color calibration, but I don’t use the scanner often. I certainly don’t think I’ve done 1,000 scans like the article talks about.

Also, I rarely print out the color scans. Just about everything that I do these days is digital.

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