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Even if you’re not a digital artist or grahic designer – say you’re working in pastels, watercolors on paper, oils on canvas or any other “traditional” medium – at some point you are going to want to digitize your artwork.
Whether you want a high quality reproduction for your portfolio, to post on the internet so you can sell your originals online, or even to make your own beautiful archival art prints (please see my article on the best printers for art prints), you will need a scanner.
And, as the old saying goes, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Regardless of your budget or needs, there are really great scanners available now, which will capture the full detail, color, depth – even the feeling and energy – of your original creations.
But how does one do it “right”?
How can you find the best scanner for scanning paintings, the best scanner for scanning watercolors, the best scanner for scanning pastels, oil pencils, pen and ink, charcoal, or any other medium – especially among the seemingly hundreds and hundreds of choices?
I’ve put together this buyers guide of the very best scanners for artwork and artists of all types.
I draw upon my own experience and the experience, reports and feedback of lots of my friends and other artists, to find a great scanner choice in any price range – from the best budget scanner to the best high-end scanner and everything in between.
Regardless of how you create your art, these scanners will capture it, and will also offer simplicity, ease of use, handy features, reliability and great value.
So let’s look at the 6 best scanners for artwork that are available in 2021.
|Editor's rating||Image||Art Scanner||Price|
BEST ENTRY LEVEL SCANNER
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY
BEST LARGE AFFORDABLE SCANNER (A3)
☆ BEST SCANNER FOR EASE OF USE
☆ BEST SCANNER FOR IMAGE QUALITY
☆ BEST LARGE FORMAT SCANNER
The Epson Perfection V39 is my choice for the best entry-level scanner for artists, and as a first scanner or a backup it offers an almost absurdly good value!
No, you are not going to get the ultimate image quality from a scanner that retails for this low price, and the build quality is not quite as substantial as other models on this list of best scanners for artwork and artists, but for the money this is, nonetheless, a remarkable unit.
The Epson Perfection V39 has similar resolution and color depth specifications as the more expensive scanners below, and while it does not have the same advanced mechanical and digital technology and advancements as they do, and ultimately does not offer the same depth, detail, color fidelity or subtlety, I find the scanned images surprisingly good and attractive.
But it’s not just me. Many artists and photographers wax poetically about the resolution and detail and, maybe even more often, the beauty of the colors the Epson V-39 captures.
It is also an extremely easy scanner to use, has a removable lid for working with thick pieces, oversized artwork and books, and has lots of automatic features for scanning directly to the internet for posting or for archival purposes.
While not the ideal choice for the most discerning artist and graphic designer, the Epson Perfection V39 Flatbed Scanner offers an almost unbelievable amount of performance – and satisfaction – for the money.
The Epson Perfection V600 Color Flatbed Scanner is my choice for best step-up scanner for artwork and artists, offering significantly improved image quality over entry-level scanners for not that much more money.
With all of the features and enhancements you might expect from an Epson photo scanner, this is really a great budget scanner for any photographer – even a professional.
But I include it on my list of best scanners for artists because the images it pulls from my original artwork are truly beautiful.
The V600 offers excellent specifications for the price – a full 6400 x 9600 dots per inch resolution and 48 bit color depth. But, as is so often the case, these numbers – impressive as they are – don’t do it justice.
I have used this scanner in many different situations, and can attribute to the fidelity it offers to the original source material, with accurate colors and shading, lots of detail and a nice sense of balance and flow.
But when you look on the screen you see something beyond all that – the scanned image just comes alive, really representing whatever made the original artwork so special.
More expensive scanners may offer slightly better specifications on paper, but they just don’t always get it.
The Epson Perfection V600 does, and for the price that’s pretty amazing
The Plustek OpticSlim A3 Flatbed Scanner is my choice for the best affordable large format scanner for artwork and artists.
Plustek is maybe not as well known a brand name as others on our list of 6 best color scanners for artwork and artists, but the innovative Taiwanese company has been around for almost 35 years now, offering a wide variety of scanning, imaging and other products.
The Plustek OS 1180 Flatbed Color Scanner is a great example of the kind of value they offer.
A full A3 scanner, it accepts artwork or documents up to 11.7 by 17 inches – a large format scanning solution for a very low price!
This Plustek OpticSlim does not offer the high resolution of other choices in our scanner buyer’s guide, but its 1,200 x 1,200 DPI is sufficient for accurate and attractive working copies, nice display images for computer screens and internet use, and for creating a decent quality portfolio or archive of your work.
And, if you are scanning larger pieces, you might well find that this Plustek scanner offers even better results than trying to stitch together sections scanned from smaller, higher priced scanners.
With plenty of automatic image manipulation software built in, as well as a simple user interface, the Plustek OS flatbed color scanner is a great choice for both PC and Mac users, and a great bargain to boot!
The Canon CanoScan 9000F Color Image Scanner is my choice for best art scanner for ease of use, and offers the best automatic image quality.
The CanoScan 9000F is maybe the most beloved scanner on our list among actual users – artists, graphic designers, photographers and others – with incredibly high ratings on various retail sites.
I suspect that this is because, in my experience, it is the easiest high-quality scanner to use and to get a really superb image from.
With its automatic image optimization algorithms and innovative software, the Canon 9000-F adjusts itself to yield the very best quality image – and, unlike many other scanners – the image does look better and closer to the original.
And the Canon’s 7 EZ buttons make it super easy to use.
But this is not just a great scanner for a beginner or technophobe.
The quality of this Canon CanoScan flatbed scanner’s material parts and construction, the advanced technology and the remarkable specs – 9,600 x 9,600 DPI (dots per inch) resolution and 48 bit color depth – make the scanned images a significant step up from the lower priced scanners on our list of best scanners for artwork and artists, and even better than many more expensive units.
Highly recommended, then, to even discerning artists.
The Epson Perfection V850 photo scanner is my choice for best art scanner for image quality.
Even compared to the more expensive 12000XL-GA below, the Perfection V850 has truly superior image quality. Incredible resolution, deep color range and fine gray scale depth, in combination with the V850’s dual lens scanning mechanism, create beautiful images – good enough for your professional portfolio, internet images and even fine art prints.
I find that the images pulled from the Epson Perfection V850 to really catch the eye – they have real energy, three-dimensionality and detail which transfers brilliantly to a computer screen for working and editing or for an online store / portfolio.
And with a really good printer – like the Epson Stylus Photo R2880 Wide-Format Color Inkjet Printer – and archival art paper – like Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige Gloss Paper – I feel that the Epson Perfection V850 allows for a printed image which is an excellent and fully satisfying representation of my original work, and I would be proud to offer such prints for sale.
The only drawback is that the Epson Perfection V850 flatbed scanner will only scan images up to 8.5 x 11.7 inches – pretty standard for a desktop flatbed scanner, but if you need to scan larger artwork with this scanner you must do it a section at a time and use software to stitch the pieces together.
But for me the image is the most important thing, and the Epson Perfection V850 offers the very best and most satisfying image of any scanner here.
The Epson Expression 12000XL-GA Flatbed Scanner is my choice for best large format scanner, as well as best professional art scanner for the really discerning artist and graphic designer.
The 12000XL will scan images up to 12. 2″ X 17. 2″ (slightly larger than A3), so there is no need to scan larger artwork in sections and use Photoshop or other (sometimes not entirely effective) software to stitch sections into a whole.
While the specified resolution is actually less than some of the lower priced scanners, you should remember that a number of technologies and innovations come together with extraordinary Dmax capability (the scanner’s ability to capture detail in shadows and highlights) and excellent mechanical stability and accuracy to produce truly beautiful scans which come very close to even the most detailed or subtle original artwork.
If you intend to sell fine art prints of your originals, if you want to put together the highest quality portfolio or if you simply want the very best reproduction of your work, this fairly expensive scanner will feel like a tremendous bargain, and one of the best investments you have ever made.
Improve your art skills and learn how to make money as an artist. Check out my courses about Making Money as an Artist, Color & Light, Color Palettes, Perspective & Composition, Instagram and more!
A scanner can be a peculiarly personal piece of equipment – it is, after all, tasked with the awesome responsibility of not just scanning, but truly representing, your artwork.
If a scanner doesn’t really get it – if it doesn’t capture the beauty, energy or other particular qualities of your creations, it can be profoundly disappointing.
That is why I wanted to offer this guide to selecting the best equipment for scanning artwork, a guide that reflects the experience of real – and really picky – artists, so that you can rest assured that each and every one of the best scanners for artwork on the list will satisfy even the most protective parents, and will really do your children proud!
Sure, some scanners are not quite as good as others – you can’t expect a hundred dollar scanner to perform as well as a thousand dollar one – but each model I’ve included can be considered the best performer for the money.
So buy with confidence.
Whatever your budget, you can select any one of these scanners and you’ll have a great performer and a truly useful tool on your desktop, and you will see your artwork – just as you originally envisioned it – on your screen.
Believe me – I understand just how thrilling that can be!
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