Kinkos can't do it for me.
August 4, 2011 9:43 PM   Subscribe

What kind of printing service do I need to digitally remove writing on matting around a photo?

Trying to fix a sentimental gift for someone. At an event, people were invited to write messages on the matting around a photo. There is something inappropriate written that has to be removed. The matting is approximately 1.5 feet by 2 feet. I went to Kinkos - they can't do it because the matting is too thick and they do not have a flatbed scanner that is big enough. I went to a banner printing place - they would have to scan the matting individually, digitally remove the inappropriate part, and photoshop it all back together. Does anyone know what type of large flatbed scanner or process I should be asking for? Does anyone know how I can achieve what I need?

The thing I need removed is something that was written on top of another original comment. I want to retain the original comment underneath and remove what was written over it. Hence, I can't just white out the offensive bit and photocopy the whole thing.

posted by grak88 to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
Just have the banner place scan it. Once it is digitized there are about a thousand people here that would help you remove the inappropriateness so you could have it reprinted.
posted by sanka at 9:56 PM on August 4, 2011

Your best bet would be to find a commercial press. The kind that produces materials for local and regional businesses...annual reports, catalogs, sales brochures, etc. These guys will have the equipment necessary and talent to give you what you want.

You need to ask for a high-resolution scan and photographic retouching. And, then, a large-format print.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:01 AM on August 5, 2011

You'd have to scan it in pieces and put it together, which is a huge pain because every piece would have to be lined up perfectly when you put it back together.

I've had better luck with getting a professional photographer to take a photo of something that large at the highest resolution his camera can generate. Granted, you won't get to 300 ppi that way, but it should be adequate resolution for a display. From there, you can get him to retouch the photo (or do that part yourself) and then take his file and have it printed (maybe at a local sign company if you need it right away, but I typically find better pricing online).
posted by MegoSteve at 8:23 AM on August 5, 2011

Hi- photographer here. This exact thing happened to me with a wedding client a while ago. The guests signed the engagement photo in lieu of a standard 'guest book'. Well, a couple of the younger cousins of the groom got hold of the sharpies and nearly ruined the keepsake the bride and groom were planning on hanging on the living room wall. What I did was photograph the mat board with my digital camera, since I did not have access to a large flatbed scanner. Lighting is very simple- two lights at 45 degree angles to the artwork at equal distances (you can google how to photograph artwork, it's really easy). Any decent DSLR will work, provided it has at least 12 megapixels. Get it in the computer, and now the fun really begins! Photoshopping around all the different loops, swirls and angles will be a challenge, but it can be done, and it will take some time. Good luck! If you have any more questions, feel free to email me.
posted by thelensman at 8:37 AM on August 5, 2011

Former prepress guy here who agrees with the lensman, above.

When you shoot something and then scan it, you'll probably lose some detail. BUT the pen lines making up the desireable signatures are probably coarse enough that no one would notice or care about the lost resolution (as opposed to how obvious it would be if you shot the original image on a copy-stand and reprinted it).

One thought: how is this framed? Is there any chance that you could either grind/buff off the unwanted writing, or just handle the affected part of the matting and overlay it or piece it in?

Kinko's isn't as good as choice here as a real service bureau or good prepress shop. They're Do It Right, but the charges could be hair-raiing (which is why i ask about a patch or overlay).
posted by wenestvedt at 9:45 AM on August 5, 2011

Find a local high-end photo service provider -- they will likely have a large-format scanner. The scan isn't going to be cheap, though (when I did this it was about $50). The Photoshop work isn't going to be cheap, either, but what you need done is pretty straightforward for a novice and you might be able to find a volunteer.

Photographing the image is another, cheaper option, but I imagine the professional scan will be significantly higher quality. If the photo is in color, you might get a color shift or similar issues.
posted by neckro23 at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2011

Wow, thanks everyone. The photo is framed and the inappropriate bit on the matting can't be concealed with cropping. The offensive bit on the matting is actually very close to where the photo is. I didn't think of photographing the matting. Brilliant.
posted by grak88 at 9:56 AM on August 5, 2011

Yeah, all depends on how nice you want the end result to be. If you don't mind losing some detail, photographing it will work. But I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least one place in a city of any size that doesn't offer wide-format scanning.

We charge about $50 for a high quality 600dpi, straightened and cropped C-size scan (18x24). A good quality scan isn't exactly cheap, but you'll wind up with a massively detailed image (in the neighborhood of ~400 MB) that you can work wonders with.

If there is a blueprint copying service in town that caters to architectural/engineering firms (not a Kinkos or UPS Store), they will surely have a good quality color scanner that can do this for you.

You might also look into copier dealers who sell wide-format (blueprint-sized) equipment; many such dealers, like me, offer wide-format scanning, copying, and printing as a supplemental service, since they already have the equipment in their showroom. Xerox has quit the wide-format game, but Ricoh/Savin, Konica-Minolta, Kyocera-Mita, KIP, and Canon dealers may be worth checking out.

I do this sort of thing as my job, and honestly, if you want the finished product to look great, I would consider photographing the work as a last resort. There have been times when we have had to do this, usually because the object simply cannot be run through our scanner, and it really is hard to get good results. (i.e., dead-on straight with no parallax, proper color, good neutral lighting, and so on).

If the final product is going to be printed on canvas or textured watercolor paper, you can hide a lot of fudging and lossiness in the heavy texture of the paper; conversely, high-quality photo paper is pretty unforgiving.
posted by xedrik at 9:09 PM on August 5, 2011

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