Guides/Scanning Cover Art
How to Make High Quality Scans of Music Artwork
This guide is divided into two parts: one on scanning and one on digitally processing scans. The first part is mostly complete, but the digital processing part needs refining with current techniques from the community. It should still be helpful in its current form to anyone wanting to scan CD and vinyl artwork for inclusion in MusicBrainz' Cover Art sections.
Digitizing artwork can be simple and easy, but it can also be slow and tedious if you plan to remove as many imperfections as possible. This guide explains in detail how you get the best quality scans without spending too much time with diminishing returns. It’s unreasonable to expect everyone to spend hours removing every speck of dust or share gigantic files, so automation is used where possible and lossy compression where it makes sense. I hope you can use this guide as a reference whether you are scanning LP covers, CD fronts, booklets, or discs.
The basic workflow for scanning is to:
- Straighten text
- Color correct
- Clean up
- Create JPG
Not necessarily in that exact order. You may not need to do all these steps, or you may need to do more.
Notes on this guide:
- With respect to your time, we try to condense as much relevant information as possible into step-by-step sections without being too wordy. Currently, there are several sections that could use step-by-step guides that don’t have them, but more are planned with instructions in the future.
- This guide is not limited to free software since we try to recommend the best possible tools, free or not.
- Focus on Windows compatible software, but Mac and Linux alternatives are mentioned where appropriate.
A step-by-step approach is used in lieu of oversimplification to avoid confusion for beginners. Discussion and feedback thread available here:
Part One: Digitizing
Converting a cover to a digital image is best done with a flatbed scanner (preferred) or a camera setup. Paper-fed scanners should be avoided.
The size of the scanner is important to consider if you want to capture LP covers in one pass. The most common scanner size is called A4 and combines the largest side of two standard dimensions, A4 and Letter. The next size up uses the largest sides from the A3 and tabloid standards. If you want to scan record covers, a 12″×17″ scanner will work better than an 11.69″×17″ scanner but still usually leaves off part of an edge (LP covers are 12.375″ squares).