Scanner Art

Some of us may have fond memories of photocopying parts of our anatomy in the office in days gone by (do people still do that?), but the fun and games don’t end there, as the humble domestic scanner is an important piece of art equipment these days.

You’ll often see scanned textures used in children’s book illustrations to give added texture and depth and create a ‘collage’ effect – for example in the Charlie and Lola books (in fact if you have any suitable books which use the technique,  playing ‘spot the scanned in texture’  is a game that you can play alongside this activity) but even without the additional digital manipulation often involved in mixed media illustrations, images captured by a scanner can be great fun to experiment with.

Now I realise that not everyone will have a scanner (though I hasten to add that mine is a very inexpensive one which cost all of about £25.00, and does the job perfectly well) but for those of you who do own one, this activity is cheap and mess free, and very ‘green’  at least in the sense that there is little waste and everything used can be re-used again and again. Waiting to see your image appear as it is scanned is exciting and magical for kids (OK for me too) and it’s an excellent way of introducing children to digital art.


So here are a few tips for creating scanner art with children:

  • It is easier to get children to create their ‘compositions’ on a piece of stiff plexiglass or plastic sheet which can then be lifted straight onto the scanner bed. This way if there are several children they can work at the same time.
  • Remember that whatever you place on the scanner must be face down, since that is the side that will be scanned. So if you are  creating a word or letter, you have to remember to reverse it so that it is in mirror writing. It’s easy to make a mistake and forget, as I did!


  • There are lots of things you can scan, the only criteria being that whatever you are using should be reasonably flat and not too heavy.  Plant material works well, but so do all kinds of household objects.  We tried using petals, leaves, paperclips, elastic bands, buttons, fabric, pencil shavings, feathers, matchsticks and doileys. You can use these to create pictures, patterns or abstract designs.
  • If you want your finished artwork to have a coloured or dark background, place a piece of the appropriate coloured paper on top of the composition before scanning, but make sure you do it carefully so that you don’t disturb your artwork.
  • After scanning, you can print out the artwork and then use it as a basis for further artwork if you wish.

There’s lots of potential here, so I suspect I’ll be using my scanner a lot more from now on….

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24 Responses to “Scanner Art”
  1. Emily says:

    Ooh, this looks fantastic. The images are so clear, and mess-free is always good!

    Emily x

  2. Blue Kiln beads says:

    What a great idea, my children are really into using the computer at the moment so we may have to give this a go.


  3. Anna says:

    beautiful! what a fun, fresh idea. thanks for linking it up today

  4. That is a great idea!! Looks FUNtastic :))

  5. Love this idea! We will need to make some soon! I remember photocopying and photograms!!!

  6. What a great idea to get them to use plastic sheet. We try and take photographs of their work.

  7. Your creations are so bright and beautiful! I don’t think I could replicate, but may have to give it a try! It looks like it would be fun! I featured these on It’s Playtime this week — did a theme on art without paint – so I had to include these gems!

  8. jude says:

    Thanks everyone for the lovely comments – I really appreciate them!

  9. What a great idea Jude – I’d never have of this. Thanks for sharing it with the Play Academy.

  10. This is so great! I love scanner art! These turned out really beautifully.

  11. These are so bright and beautiful. I love it! What a great way to preserve what they have done.

  12. michelle says:

    very clever!!

  13. deepa says:

    it’s very beautiful, attrective and easy to make for children!!!!!love it.

  14. Beautiful. I wanted to let you know that I featured this scanner art in a post about button crafts.
    🙂 Rachel

  15. Great article! I posted an article about other ways to use a scanner to make art, but I might have to go back and add on these ideas too! Here’s the link to my post if anyone’s interested!

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