If you have ever tried to scan 8x10 film on a flatbed scanner, you know about Newton rings — strange artifacts consisting of multi colored blobs with concentric rings. These scan-ruining artifacts are caused when two glossy surfaces making direct contact. In this case, the scanner’s glass, and the glossy film.
I scan my film on an Epson V700, which came with film holders for 4x5, medium format, and 35mm film, but the only provision that was included for 8x10 film was a thin plastic area guide that shows you were to place the film on the glass. The area guide does nothing to eliminate the nasty Newton rings.
Many years ago I read that another photographer created a custom scanning mask for 8x10 film. The mask works by suspending the film over the top of the glass, but not letting it touch the glass.
I needed to find a material that was easy to cut, and wouldn’t harm the glass on my scanner. I did what any self-respecting photographer would do — I drove to my local Target store. I was confident that I could find something to repurpose for my needs.
While wandering the pet food aisle, I found a rubber pet food placemat. It was the perfect thickness, and would be easy to cut. I purchased the mat, then went home and cut it with an X-Acto knife.
Precision is key because the mat needs to allow a small area near the back of the scanner for calibration. If the film or anything else strays into this area, it will negatively affect your scan. You’ll know it when you see it. This explains the notch shown on the right side, which represents the very back of the scanner.
To attach your film, simply lay it over the opening, and tape the edges. 6 small pieces of tape will get the job done —2 on each of the smaller sides, and one each in the middle of each long side. Take care to pull the film somewhat taunt, but not so tight that the rubber material distorts and it changes the shape of the mat. It helps if you mount the film to the mask while it is situation on top of a light box. This will allow you to better see the edges.
I have been using this same mask for 5 years now, and it works like a champ. Included below is a template you can download that will help you create your own mask. You’ll find a zip file that expands into a photoshop document with guides set to show you the exact dimensions. You can print it on a large sheet of paper, and use it as a guide for cutting your own mat. I checked Target’s website and I don’t see the exact same mat that I used, but the current one may be very similar. Just look for a rubber mat that is about the thickness of an average coin. It’ll take you some time to cut out the mat, but once you have it, you’ll be set!