Impromptu iPhone book scanner

I rediscovered a 40-page comic I live-drew a couple years ago with some friends. I wanted to give them digital copies, so I decided to make a quick scan of the whole thing. Minor detail: don’t own a scanner. So, smartphone camera (lighter than DSLR). But this would also involve batch image editing all 40 pages to make them presentable, so the pages would have to line up in the frame from image to image β€” difficult if I were to hold the camera up with hands bound to shake and err.Β Primary attitude: want this done quick.

I rigged up a book scanner using stacks of books and a long ruler. This allowed me to turn the pages (drawn only one one side of the paper) and keep the book in the same place throughout the process. Scanning and batch editing in Photoshop only took about 30 minutes.

I had to move my light source so the bookstack on the right wouldn’t cast such a dark shadow.

Worked a charm!


    1. Robin Camille Post author

      Thanks, Aaron! Aside from phenomenally expensive library scanning setups, there are also camera mounts you can build or buy. Here’s an Instructable for making a DIY scanner out of Plexiglass and tubing for $20. I’ve also seen some manufactured pointed-down camera mounts, although I can’t seem to find any online β€” probably using the wrong keywords :/

  1. Aaron Helton

    Oh, thanks! I hadn’t seen that one yet, and it looks pretty easy to make. I also found lots of good info, including links to some good software, here: It seems like, while the iPhone is probably perfectly capable of acting in this capacity, many of us also have point and shoot cameras gathering dust somewhere in our house, and they usually take better pictures overall. What kind of quality did you get out of the iPhone?

    1. Robin Camille Post author

      Not great, but passable for a black & white comic I just wanted to send to friends. I ran all the images through a Photoshop action list to downsize, desaturate, and sharpen the files. Here’s an example of one image: I believe the iPhone tries to increase contrast when confronted with a minimal color palette like a comic page, and that overcorrection meant it was tough to get a flat background. It was probably also a lighting failure on my part, as the iPhone camera is very good.

      I bet your P&S would be better though, if it’s >5 Mpx. I took a look at your most recent blog post about personal library digitization β€” fascinating! I’ll be interested to see how your “pilot study” goes.

      And thanks for the link to DIY Book Scanner. I know a local Fab Lab who would love to build one πŸ™‚

      1. Aaron Helton

        My P&S is a 12 Mpx 35 mm Fuji πŸ™‚ So I think as far as resolution goes I’m set. I grabbed a tiny tripod and a sheet of clear acrylic from Amazon and will try out a rig based on the Instructable you linked. So far the biggest challenge is getting things placed so that there is no/minimal reflection on the acrylic sheet I’m using to press the pages into place. Once I figure out these details, I’ll hopefully pick up speed. Incidentally, I have a post planned for today or tomorrow on the preliminary results.

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