Scanning Blueprints and Other Large Paper Sizes

Architects and engineers, as well as other specialists in the built environment rely on large format drawings to accurately convey all the critical information related to a construction project.

With CAD (computer assisted drafting) and other software solutions the drawing side has become streamlined and relatively hassle free. There is no more need for drafting tables and technical pens, but there is still a need for many large format drawings.

Some large format drawing that date from old projects might also only be available on paper. But in a digital age it will be much better to have these drawings in a format that can be stored and backed up securely, along with all the other critical information associated with the digital side of a business.

Scanning these large documents can make the process around sharing and updating them much easier. When it comes to scanning blueprints, cad drawings or old architectural sketches, there are a few options available. You don’t even need to be an architect or engineer to appreciate the value of large format scanning. If you need to scan newspapers, maps or posters these tips can help you as well.

Large format scanners

The best solution to scan large documents, whether you want to archive them digitally or share them more easily, is to use a large format scanner. The best tool for the job will give you the best results. Some plotters (or large format architectural printers) have built in scanning options available. You can either invest in a large format scanner, or outsource the work to company that specializes in this type of scanning.

If you are lucky enough to be able to scan using a large format yourself, there are a few basic steps that can make the process a breeze. First select the documents and inspect them. Are there any torn edges or corners that could miss feed, or fold? Are they dusty or dirty and will they need cleaning before you can scan them?  A clean neat document or blueprint will scan much more easily.

If the documents were rolled up in storage flatten them out. Then you can also organize the documents according to themes or quality to make the administrative side run smoothly. The documents that have not stood the test of time as well, and may be more fragile will take more time and care to scan. This can also help you plan the amount of time you will need to scan all your documents.

Most large format scanners work with feed rolls, so when you start scanning the document, align the corners and edges. Feed the document and then the scanner will do the rest. Remember to set up the software to save the file in the appropriate format, whether it is pdf, jpg or tiff.

Outsource the job

If all of this sounds like too much of a hassle, you can also outsource the scanning. There are many companies that will handle the entire process for you (for a fee of course).

The advantage here is that you don’t need to reassign or hire staff to do the scanning. These companies have many years of experience with different types of documents and you don’t have to worry about setting up software. The quality will be consistent and you can agree on the type, files, and storage solutions with the company from the start.

Depending on your budget, this is a hassle free way to get your documents scanned and ensure that you have a good consistent quality. The quality of the scan can determine the accuracy of the drawing.  A low quality scan can be very difficult to overcome if you need an accurate reference to work from when drawing a new project.


If no of the options we mentioned related to scanning seem viable to you, you could employ the last resort of many offices. Employ an intern to redraw the old documents for you. Then you can store them in a digital format and print them again as well.

Whether this will be worth your time and money depends on the intern or draughtsman you employ. Whether you need the drawing to be highly editable or just need a good reference will also play a role in how you balance time vs money.

Camera Hack

If you just need to have a digital copy of a blueprint and you are not too worried about the precise quality you can photograph the document. There are several solutions to doing this, by using the correct lens on a DSLR camera and building a rig that holds the camera steady above the flattened document you can get reasonable images from blueprints.

This is a solution if you need to quickly share a jpg of the blueprints, or need a basic reference of the original document. The accuracy will vary with the camera, set up and lenses that you use. But if you are in a fix and need a low cost solution and have a good camera at hand, this can work well.

Last Words

Scanning blueprints does not have to be a hassle, if you use the right type of scanner, or choose the right people to handle it for you, you will easily be able to have all your information stored digitally in no time. Finding specifications on that project you did in the previous century will be as easy as typing the file name.

If you can determine what your needs in terms of your blueprints, the way you scan them will also be easy to choose. Do you need highly accurate references to use in CAD as underlays? Do you need to be able to edit historical posters and photographs, or do you just need a basic archival reference?

Each of these options will need a slightly different solution, either high quality scans handled by an expert, or quicker faster scans that you can do in-house. But no matter what your specific needs, there is a solution than can help you get the job done.

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