How to Make a Homemade Negative Scanner

Make digital copies of your negatives.
negative image by Marek Kosmal from

Negative scanners can be a pricey investment, especially if you only have a few negatives to scan. Making your own negative scanner gives you the ability to create digital copies of negatives for a very small amount of money. This negative scanning technique works with any size or type of film.

Clean the bed of the scanner and negatives with the static free towel. Any debris or dust on the scanner or negative will be present in the scanned negative.

Plug the scanner into the computer and turn it on. Open the top of the scanner and leave it open

Put the negative face-down on the scanner. Position the negative so that it is completely scanned as a JPG file. Some scanners automatically choose the file type by the position of the item on the scanner. Other scanners will ask you to choose a file type as it is scanning.

Place two to five sheets of computer paper on top of the negative. The amount of paper used will depend on the darkness of the negative and how bright you want it scanned in. The more paper used, the less light is scanned through the negative. Do not use card stock paper. This type of paper is to thick to allow the light through.

Screw the low wattage bulb into the lamp and turn it on. Position the lamp above the negative. The bulb of the lamp needs to be at least 1 one inch from the paper to avoid burning the negative. Lamps with shades are the favored choice for this project because shades help control the light. The distance can be altered to provide a better scan. Using a lamp with a dimmer switch is also useful, so you can adjust the light without moving the lamp.

Scan the negative into the computer at 2400 DPI. The preview option on most scanning software will allow you to see the negative as it will look on the computer. Use this option to adjust the light or add and remove paper to find the right balance for the negative. Save the file onto your computer. Once the negative is saved it can be edited in any photo editing software.

Things You'll Need

  • Static free towel
  • Flat bed computer scanner
  • Lamp
  • Low wattage light bulb
  • White printer paper


  • Using a bright lamp with six to 10 sheets of paper leaves a misty or grainy effect on the scanned image that some photographers enjoy.


  • Do not look at the scanner as it scans. The light can cause damage to your eyes