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Adobe Photoshop: Acquiring images

A guide to using Adobe Photoshop along with background information on imaging terms.

Page Contents


Scanning Images


There are several ways you can go about getting images into Photoshop:

  • Create an image from scratch by choosing File>New in Photoshop
  • Open an image file that already exists on your computer by choosing File > Open.
  • Download an image from a website to your computer. You can usually do this by right-clicking on the image in your browser and choosing "Save Image As..."  However, you need to be aware of copyright restrictions on any images you may which to use.  For links to freely reusable materials, see
  • Acquire an image from a digital camera either by downloading it with a cable or by using a media card reader.  To use a media card reader, remove the media card from the camera, insert the card into the card reader, and plug the card reader cable into the computer (typically into a USB or firewire port).  You can then drag the image files to the computer desktop.
  • Scan an image using a slide scanner (for negatives or slides) or flatbed scanner (for prints). A procedure for a typical flatbed scanner is shown below.

Scanning Images

This section describes the procedures for scanning images into Photoshop using a standard flatbed scanner.
Other flatbed scanner software may looking slightly different from this example, but the concepts are the same.

Note: The flatbed scanner is used to scan prints or paper originals. The Division also has a slide scanner for scanning slides. The procedure for scanning slides is similar to that for the flatbed scanner.

A flatbed scanner can be used for scanning images as well as text. To scan images, follow these steps:


Make sure the scanner is running, then start Adobe Photoshop. Place a print image-side down on the left side of the scanner.


Choose File>Import>Scanner. This causes the TWAIN scan dialog box to appear.


In the TWAIN dialog box, Click Preview. The image will then appear in the left side of the dialog box. 


Click and drag with the mouse to specify the area that you want to scan. This creates a black rectangle around the area to be scanned. You may wish to scan the entire original (as shown below), or just click and drag over part of the image to crop it.




Set  "Image Mode." For most purposes, choose 24-bit color.



Set the resolution. In choosing a scanning resolution, keep these issues in mind:

  • Images on the Web are displayed at about 100 pixels per inch [ppi], depending on the settings of the computer display. So if you scan the image at about 100 ppi, it will display on the Web at about the same size as the original.

  • If you are going to crop your image or if your original is small, scan at a higher resolution to make the image appear larger.

  • If you are going to want to print your image, you may want to scan at a higher resolution, possibly in the range of 200 to 400 ppi.

  • A higher resolution means a larger file size. This gives you a better image to work with. You can "sample down" later in Photoshop if you need to decrease the resolution. 

The other settings in the scan dialog box can normally be left at the defaults. If you think you will need to make adjustments to things such as the contrast or brightness, it is better to do these in Photoshop rather than in the scanning dialog box.


Click "Scan." The image will appear in an untitled Photoshop window.


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