Artist Review: Epson Expression 11000XL A3 Scanner

This review is written by Stephanie Bower.

I use a scanner nearly every day for work, as I’m professional architectural illustrator and also an avid Urban Sketcher. I mostly scan pencil sketches drawn on translucent vellum and watercolor illustrations painted on textured watercolor paper. Most of my work is large format 11” x 17”, so I need a large, flat bed scanner, and I need to provide my clients with high quality, high resolution (300-600dpi) scanned images. I also scan my travel sketches, many of which are in sketchbooks. While I am no technical expert (and forgive my lack of knowledge regarding technical jargon), but this is the fourth scanner I’ve owned and used so I can at least talk a little about my experience.


About a year ago, I upgraded my computer to a new Apple desktop, which forced me to also upgrade my scanner to a new model—the Epson 11000XL was the only large format scanner that offered the drivers I could use with my new computer using OS X that also allowed me to scan directly into Photoshop. Scanning into Photoshop was something that was really important to me — for time savings and image quality.

With my previous scanners (all of which were purchased as used on eBay and worked great), I could scan directly into Photoshop using Twain drivers. This saved me a lot of time as the scanned image imports automatically as a Photoshop .psd file, and then I could quickly manipulate the images in Photoshop as well as save them as archival high resolution Photoshop files. The alternative was to use the Image Capture software, but then I’d have to go through the extra step of pulling a TIF or jpeg into Photoshop and making a psd file—these extra steps would be more trouble and basically, time is money. But this brand new scanner was a whopping price, nearly as expensive as my new computer, and it was tough to decide if my desire to scan directly into Photoshop was worth the expense.

Below is a screen grab showing the various windows open when I use Epson Scan directly into Photoshop. You can see I scan in Profession Mode, usually at 300-600dpi. I like to use the Unsharp Mask feature for sharper images, but all the other settings are pretty much the reset default. The image looks pretty good! The colors are quite accurate, although amped up a bit on my screen.


300dpi scan from Photoshop without edits

Conclusion

After using this scanner a lot for the past year, I can offer some pros and cons based on my experience and use.

Pros—Easy, good color, high resolution

+ Right out of the box, I could plug it in and it was easy to set up and use. Amazon delivered in in only one or two days.
+ Epson offered good telephone support—I did have to call several times with questions. I also had to download the driver again when my computer updated to El Capitan OS 10.11.2.
+ I can indeed scan through Photoshop using Epson Scan, with images importing directly as .psd files. I downloaded the drivers from the Epson website for free.
+ The color and quality of the scans seem to be pretty good with the native, default settings. There are lots of adjustments you can make to the image including Auto Exposure, Histogram Adjustment, Tone Correction, Image Adjustment (sliding bars that let you change Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, and Color Balance) and Color Balance, but I’ve been pretty happy with the default settings. I do like to use the Unsharp Mask feature, as it seems to make my linework a little darker and crisper.
It seems like most scanners and monitors tend to amp up the color a bit when compared to the watercolor original, and I have never taken the time to try and adjust that…I think I’ve just gotten use to seeing the brighter colors on my screen. I do sometimes desaturate and brighten the images in Photoshop, also adjusting using Levels.
+ The design of the scanner is pretty sleek with a nice matte gray color.
+ The top lifts up for scanning thicker things like books, although the scanning light casts a shadow at the book’s gutter.
+ There really is no comparable, relatively affordable large format, high resolution scanner out there other than this one. I hope it doesn’t go into extinction.

Cons—LOUD, big and heavy, expensive

- It is LOUD, much louder than my previous Epson scanners. Really? In my small, one person office, I almost sent it back, as the whine it makes is really intolerable. I have to turn the machine off immediately after using it or it drives me nuts. (Listen)
Eventually, the noise level will go down when it drops into a sleep mode, but my older scanners didn’t do this at all. It’s also loud as it makes the actual scan, but at least that is brief and not as annoying as the whine. (listen)
- The other thing that really drives me nuts is that I have to reopen the Epson Scan program every time I want to do another scan. My older machines let me do multiple scans without the program closing, but this new one actually requires more time and effort
to do multiple scans. I have tried updating the driver, and still it isn’t fixed. Really dumb for a new, pricey machine. If someone out there knows a solution to this, let me know. Apparently, you CAN scan multiples using Image Capture, but again,
there is that Photoshop thing I want to do. So ironically, the time I gained by scanning directly into Photoshop is lost by having to always reopen the program to do each scan.
- This thing is BIG (roughly 17” x 28”, 6” high) and HEAVY (Amazon says the item weight is about 29 pounds) so have a nice, big desk top waiting.
- And of course, it is not cheap… but then the large format scanners have always been about this price when purchased new. I was spoiled by buying slightly older ones for much less on eBay!
- I do get a slight shadow on one side of the scan when I’m scanning translucent material. If the paper is opaque, this shadow doesn’t show up.

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