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 – 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 doilies. 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….