How to Convert Color Transparencies to Digital

Updated February 21, 2017

Converting colour transparencies to a digital format enables you to easily reproduce transparencies and edit the appearances of the images contained on them. Capturing the image can be difficult, however. Simply placing a transparency onto a scanner and pressing "Scan" is unlikely to give you an exact reproduction of the image. Without proper preparation, the light from the scanner creates distortions to the image, resulting in dull blurred scans with improper colour reproduction. With the proper preparation, though, you can capture the image to a digital format. After it is captured, you can then adjust the image to create a precise representation that is ready for any use to which you wish to put it.

Plug a flatbed scanner into an open USB port on your computer. Turn the computer on and wait for the operating system to boot to the desktop.

Wait for the operating system to detect the scanner. If the system does not automatically detect the new hardware, download the scanner's driver from the support section of the manufacturer's website. Run the driver-set-up program to install the driver for the new equipment.

Open the scanner lid and place the colour transparency onto the glass bed of the scanner. Cover the transparency with a sheet of white paper and then close the lid of the scanner.

Load a graphics application that is capable of scanning documents. Open the file menu of the program and choose to import an image using the scanner as the source. Select "Color" as the document type and choose a resolution. (The higher the resolution, the more detailed the scan, but also the larger the file size.) Select "Scan" and wait as the program scans the transparency into your graphics workspace, giving the image a white background.

Make any adjustments to the document you deem necessary -- alter the contrast, brightness or colours to make the image as similar to the original as possible. Save the document to your hard drive in a file format of your choice. (JPEG and GIF are commonly used formats for the storage of digital images.) Access the new digital image as you would any other.


Use an air-duster spray can prior to scanning to remove air particles from the bed of the scanner and the transparency sheet.


Extensive editing of scanned images may be necessary to produce results that approach the original image.

Things You'll Need

  • PC
  • Flatbed scanner
  • White paper
  • Graphics application
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About the Author

Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.