Tips & Tricks: Scanning #1

Scott recently uploaded a scan of Pixies Doolittle to the AlbumArtExchange gallery and noted that the color of his CD cover is very different from the others already posted. That inspired me to write the first article in our Tips & Tricks category.

A Tale of Two Covers

Let’s begin by taking a look at two of the Doolittle covers:


This cover just happens to be one that I scanned myself. It uses metallic inks and that can make it difficult to scan because it is highly reflective. However, I think that I did a good job of matching the color.


Here is Scott’s cover. As you can see, the color is very different from the first example. It is much darker and has a greater amount of contrast. This could lead someone to assume that one of the scans is more accurate than the other. However, that is not the case here.

Other than scanning errors, are several reasons why scans of what appear to be the same album cover may appear to be quite different.

  1. The covers could be from different printings. CDs and vinyl records are first produced in limited quanties. The record labels then produce additional copies as needed. The first printing is almost always done with more care and precision than subsequent printings. The graphic designer may do a press check to ensure that the colors are reproduced as intended. So, the first run of CDs and records are almost always the best to scan.
  2. The covers could be many years apart in age. If you do have a first run cover, it is probably years older than the ones currently being sold. It could have faded due to exposure to sunlight. It could have metallic inks that have oxidized. And there is always normal wear and tear.
  3. The print quality could be different. Years ago, covers of domestic albums were printed in the United States. The British also had their own printing facilities. Today, most CDs are mass produced in China and other counties where costs are very low.
  4. The cover could have been produced by a record club such as Columbia House or BMG. These covers are almost always of inferior print quality. That is how they can afford to sell 10 CDs for only a penny.

So, what’s going on with these two scans? First, we need to know a little bit more about the CDs to which the covers belong.

I purchased my Doolittle CD over 20 years ago, when it was first released. I didn’t scan it until very recently. That means that the cover could have faded or oxidized. It could look very different than it did the day I brought it home. I just don’t know.

Scott just purchased his Doolittle CD from He scanned it just hours after it arrived. Of course, it could have been sitting in a warehouse for months or even years. Again, there’s no way for us to really know — and we’re not going to contact the manufacturer!

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