Scanning Large Documents

When you need to scan standard documents it usually not too much of a problem. You can trust the document feeder or your flatbed scanner to handle it without any issues. It is when you have to scan massive thick documents, or books or oversized pages that things can become a little more challenging.

Luckily you don’t have to pull your hair out in frustration when you are faced with strange sizes and formats that you need to get into the digital realm. In this piece we will cover some of the challenges around large format scanning and give you some tips about how you can handle those difficult scanning jobs.

What is a large document?

Before we tell you how to scan large documents, we need to be sure that we are on the same page when we talk about large documents. In the context of scanning, a large document can have different meanings and your approach to each will also differ.

A large document can mean a document with a large number of pages, ranging in the hundreds. The pages themselves can be as standard size, but the sheer number can make scanning very difficult.

Large documents can also refer to paper size, some pages might just be slightly oversized or just in a different format than standard US or international paper sizes. This will either make it difficult to fit on your flatbed scanner, or confuse the scanner when it needs to automatically read the paper size.

Large documents can also be large paper, like architects drawings, or long banners, or larger certificates and photos that need to be handled carefully. These will also need a larger format scanner. A standard flatbed desktop scanner might have some trouble with these.

Over to scanning

Now that you are sure about the type of oversized document you are dealing with, we can get to the challenge of getting this document into your required digital format. As with many things in life, the right tool for the job can make it a breeze.

If you try to use something designed for smaller projects and try to make it handle a ton of paper, you might not come out on the other side as a happy worker.  So let’s take a look at what will work depending on the documents you need to scan.

Scanning a large number of pages

When you need to scan a large number of pages, an automatic document feeder will be your best friend. Check your scanner to see how many pages the feeder can handle at a time. You can also check your scanner’s user guide. If your scanner does not have a document feeder, you will need to scan the pages individually. In that case, you should probably ask around for someone who can help you with a scanner that has a document feeder.

Before you just stuff the pages into the feeder, prepare the pages a little. It will save you the hassle of trying to dig a paperclip out of the machine later on. So fan the pages, remove any staples, paperclips, post it notes, or love letters from the stack. If a page doesn’t feed well make a separate copy of it. A damaged page can delay the whole exercise, so go through the pages and make a copy that will feed well with the rest.

Now that you have done the paperwork, you can go over to the software side of things. Check your scanner’s associated software, some might have options for saving a large number of documents as a single pdf right from the start. Make sure your settings are correct for the job you are doing. Saving time by feeding the document only works if they are in the right format after the scanning process.

The last step is to feed the documents and press scan on the machine or via your software, and then simply save it where you need it to be.

Scanning large documents that don’t fit the feeder or flatbed

When you need to scan an oversized document and you don’t have the money, time or a friend with a large format scanner, what do you do? You can scan a large format document with a smaller scanner in different sections.

Then you will need to stitch it back together once it has been scanned by using a software application. Of course the ideal is to use a large format scanner, or to get a smaller scanning wand, but if neither is available you still have options.

If you have large documents, like architectural drawings and maps, the lip and alignment of a standard small scanner can be a bit of a hindrance. But with a few modifications you can use this type of scanner to scan these types of images.

If you have a standard desktop scanner, first remove the lid. Most of these can easily be released. The idea is to get as close to a flush surface when you scan, so you can also remove the plastic bevel or lip. Keep in mind that you will not be able to align documents to it anymore.

When you take this apart, be sure to check where the alignment of the scanning plate is, so you can add your own new alignment with photographic paper.  Once you have the scanner in a position that it can lie flush face down, and then you can proceed to scan the document.

Mark out a grid for yourself with a clear point of where you will start. Scan each section and ensure there is a small overlap so you can stitch the images in your software. This hack can work if you don’t mind taking apart a desktop scanner, but the best option (if you can afford it) is to either have it photographed or scanned by someone who specializes in large format scanning.

Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to approach those difficult scanning jobs.

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