How to Calibrate Your Scanner for More Accurate Scans

Save editing time by matching your scans to your printer or monitor

Without proper calibration, your computer monitor, printer, and scanner define and display the same colors differently. It's common for colors to shift to other colors between two pieces of equipment. Many users calibrate their monitor to their printer properly, so these devices agree on color definitions. It's also important that your monitor and scanner are in agreement, so the colors in images you scan don't shift when you see the images on the screen.

Here's a look at how to calibrate your scanner to achieve the best color results.

These instructions apply generally to scanner color calibration. Specific scanner models may come with color-calibration materials, software, and instructions.

IT8 color target reference sheet
Wikipedia

How to Calibrate Your Scanner

For scanner color calibration, you'll need a color reference sample. Your scanner may have come with one specific to its model. If not, use an IT8 target, which contains specific color patches with a reference file that saves the exact values.

When you scan the IT8 target, the software measures the color patches, discerning differences between set color values and the actual values.

  1. Prepare a color reference sheet or IT8 target with known colors.

    IT8 scanner targets and reference files can be purchased from companies that specialize in color management, such as Kodak and FujiFilm. These cost around $40, but you can find less-expensive ones if you shop around.

  2. Scan the color reference sheet or IT8 target with all color-management and color-correction features turned off.

    Scan an IT8 target
    Flickr
  3. Clean up the scan as well as you can by removing dust, scratches, and other blemishes.

  4. Launch the scanner profiling software (or imaging software, if you plan to calibrate visually) and load the target image or chart.

  5. Define the area to be analyzed.

  6. Make visual adjustments or allow the profiling software to make adjustments for you.

  7. Your future scans should be color accurate (or at least much improved).

    This process isn't foolproof and often requires more than one attempt. Recalibrate the scanner at least every six months to compensate for changes to the scanner and monitor over time.

How to Calibrate Your Scanner Visually

With visual calibration, you compare the colors from your scanner to those on your monitor manually, making adjustments as you go to get the best possible match. The acronym SCAR (Scan, Compare, Adjust, Repeat) describes this process.

How to Color Calibrate with ICC Profiles

An ICC profile is a small data file specific to each device. It contains critical information on how that device produces color. You can often rely on the printer's specific ICC profiles for color management. Find ICC profiles on printer and scanner manufacturer websites. Once downloaded, right-click the file and select Install Profile.