Specks of Dirt in Your Scanned Image

If you scan your own artwork in preparation for making giclee prints (or enabling prints-on-demand on a website), you probably already take care to adjust the colors with Photoshop to ensure the digital and printed images are as identical to the original as possible.  But there’s one more step you should take with that scan: remove dirt specks.

Of course you carefully cleaned the scanner bed before you laid your artwork face down on it, but there were undoubtedly specks you couldn’t see.  Furthermore, the artwork itself probably attracted specks of dust during the time you worked on it.  Some of them may even be embedded in the medium.  When you scan at resolutions upward of 400 or 600 dpi, it’s very easy to see these specks by zooming in on the scanned image in Photoshop.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 5.50.42 PM

Specks? What specks? Not zoomed in much.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 5.52.09 PM


Fortunately it’s very easy to remove them, too!  And you should–you want a giclee print to reproduce your artwork in all its glory, not the specks of dust and dirt.

After you have done any straightening, cropping and color-adjusting in Photoshop, zoom in, way, way in, and look for those little black specks.  Select the “Healing Brush” tool and set its diameter to just barely big enough to encompass a speck.  Click on the speck, and voila, it’s gone.  Photoshop uses the color information around the speck to interpolate the color that should be there instead.  You want to use as small of a “brush” as possible to avoid detail loss.  When I’m zoomed way in, my “brush” is often only 4-6 px in diameter.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 6.06.37 PM

Closeup of a big dirt speck with some small ones near it

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 6.07.50 PM

Poof, no more specks! Thank you, Photoshop Healing Brush!







The “Healing Brush” is the same tool that photo restorers use a lot to clean up old photo prints.  Many newer scanners have a “dust removal” setting that can be turned on during the scanning process, but I don’t trust them; suppose you have fine dots or very delicate details in your artwork–you don’t want the scanner software to remove them!

I hope this helps you produce better prints of your artwork.

3 thoughts on “Specks of Dirt in Your Scanned Image

  1. Thanks for the information. I have tried 3 different photo shops to scan my work (I don’t have a scanner) & gotten different looking scans from each place. I haven’t been tweeking them w/photo shop before I enter cpsa competitions (no acceptance yet). If I may ask, do you have any other suggestions about preparing scans (I’ve already sent 2 in to ET10! but now I’m thinking ahead for the international show)? Do you think folks have their work professionally photographed rather than scanned? Thanks very much, Susie

    • Hi Suzie, every scanner is a little different, as is every camera setup. That’s why digital image-manipulation software like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Gimp are absolutely necessary to “post-process” your digital image to match your original artwork as closely as possible. It helps to have a good-quality monitor to view on, too, because they also vary a lot. (Next time you’re at Costco or Sam’s Club, walk through the TV section where all the TVs are playing the same show, and notice how much variance there is in their color and sharpness!) Every scan I’ve made–whether on my own all-in-one’s scanner or by a service–has needed some color and contrast adjustment to look right, because the whiteness and brightness of the scanner’s light washes the colors out a bit. Working from a photo rather than a scan still requires adjustment.

      When you take your work to a photo shop for scanning, be sure they understand that you need a very high-quality scan of your original artwork because you’re planning to use it for entering shows and making prints. If the shop offers image adjustment services, fantastic! It will cost you, though. And likewise if you decide to have your artwork professionally photographed instead. Either way, someone with some Photoshop skills will be involved.

      For the amount of money you’ll end up spending on having your artwork professionally scanned or photographed and the resulting digital image adjusted, in the long run it’s cheaper to buy a scanner (or an all-in-one printer that has a scanner) and learn how to use some image-manipulation software. Gimp is free and is available for both PC and Mac. Photoshop Elements is $99, also available for both PC and Mac. There are a lot of online resources for learning how to use the features of these apps.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Pingback: Full-page article in Ann Kullberg’s Colored Pencil Magazine | Denise J. Howard's Art Blog

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