Scanning CDs with CCD/LED scanners

So, back on my recommended scanners post, I made a note that CCD sensor scanners that use LED lighting – which at this point is basically all of them – have an issue with scanning CDs. It looks like this:

A CD scanned with a CCD/LED scanner has an annoying complex rainbow pattern on the shiny metal surfaces.

This is, frankly, quite awful. It’s hard to read anything with the light pattern that appears, and it doesn’t look anything like the classic highlight that you see when holding a CD under a single light source, or on a CCFL-lit scanner. But I’ve finally found a solution!

One of the releases I picked up recently had its CDs in little translucent plastic sleeves. If I scanned the CD through the sleeve, rather than directly on the scanner bed, the rainbow pattern completely disappeared! It turned out that the frosted sleeve diffused the light enough to give a clean scan. Unfortunately, the sleeves that came with that release were too wrinkled to get good results, so I had to go look for alternate materials.

When scanned through tracing paper, there are no rainbows on the shiny metal surfaces of the CD, but the paper grain is visible.

Tracing paper was the first thing I tried – it’s cheap and readily available, but the texture is too strong.

CD scanned through a diffusion filter has no rainbow reflection or added texture. The shiny metal surfaces of the CD turn into an even, flat, pale grey.

But I found something kind of neat – you can get thin sheets of diffusing plastic intended for film and photography lighting quite readily. I picked up a Rosco Diffusion Kit to get a variety, and their 3027 Tough 1/2 White Diffusion turned out to fit the bill perfectly: It diffused away the light reflection, while leaving text clear and without adding any noticeable texture. (There’s a slight bit of “noise” added, but you have to look real close.)

To give this newly found film a real challenge, I decided to make a new scan of the hardest-to-scan CD I own, from 雪幻ティルナノーグ by Yonder Voice. It has a complex image printed directly on the reflective CD surface. Here’s the results, also showing what CCD+CCFL and CIS scanners look like for good measure:


14 responses to “Scanning CDs with CCD/LED scanners”

  1. […] you’re scanning CD discs, A scanner with CCD sensor and LED lighting creates a very noticable pattern. It’s possible to work around it, but you won’t see the issue at all if you pick up a […]

  2. dave

    Do you still recommend this particular filter (Rosco 3027) for cd label scanning, or have you found something better? Wanted to ask before I order the 3027, which can be bought individually. I’m also using the Epson v33. Thank you.

    1. I haven’t found anything better yet; there’s not really all that many sources of thin sheets of light-scattering translucent plastic available :) One of my friends has gotten the same filter and has also used it with good results. The only thing I’d advise to be careful of is that it’s fairly easy to scratch the rough surface of the 3027 filter, which will leave visible marks or opaque spots in scans.

      1. dave

        Thanks for the quick reply, and warning about the scratches. I’m going to pick up a sheet today. It’s 20×24, so I’ll have spare sheets after I cut it down, in case I scratch it.

  3. dave

    You’re right, it’s actually prone to damage easily, scratches and dents when being handled, picks up fingerprints. I thought it would have a much longer life span.

  4. Would the Rosco Diffusion Kit scratch the scanner glass since it features rough surfaces?
    And also, would something like this work instead of the diffusion kit?

    1. There’s no worries about scratching the scanner glass with the diffusion filter, the glass is much harder than the surface of the filter (in fact, it’s very easy to scratch the surface of the filter by dragging the CD or a fingernail over it)

      I don’t think the item you linked would work – it looks like a clear plastic, while you need a material with a “frosted” appearance that diffuses light that passes through.

  5. Daniel

    Hello, not sure if you still read this comments section, but I myself have been looking for the right scanner for scanning CD’s. Only I’m trying to get the right look without using the diffusion paper. My Epson Perfection v370 just didn’t cut it because of the LED light source issue. So I purchased a used Epson Perfection v200 which came out before Epson switched from CCFL to LED. So it does use CCFL. But this is the result:

    Although that’s definitely better than my CCD+LED, there’s still too many greens and reds. I found scans on this website that are pretty much what I’m looking for:

    I asked the owner of the site what scanner they used to achieve those results and she told me she didn’t have it anymore but it was a Canon Printer/Scanner combo. I was kind of surprised because it looks pretty good. It may have used CIS but some are also CCD. I wish I could find out. Any idea if CIS achieves results close to that on the shiny CD’s like your R.E.M. one you used in the example?

    1. Yes – for CDs that only have text printed directly over the shiny surface, you can get good results using a CIS type scanner, like the Michael Jackson link you have provided.

      As you can see, the image still will have some darker and lighter areas on the disk. But it doesn’t have annoying colours.

      The problem with the CIS type scanners is shown in my picture here: – if there’s a full colour image printed on the shiny surface of a CD, then the dark and light areas are visible through the image in a distracting way.

  6. I own a printer-scanner combo (Canon MG2455) and used it for 4 years. The results were ok, but i wanted something more. The image quality is very good, especially the color temperature but it is a CIS and a not so good CIS sensor (low contrast, a sort of “mist” effect on scans)
    So i browsed the internet, researched a bit and found about CCD scanners. Found the Epson V600. But it was very expensive, even SH. So i opted for a V370, at about half the price, sealed. All good until i scanned the first CD. Those LED lines ruined everything. I thought getting the V600 was going to fix that, until i found out ALL recent scanners use LED. Found this article, started searching for CCFL and i finally got one…. now i have 3 totally different scanners :))))))

    1. Welcome to the multiple scanner club, heh! My current scanners are a Canon LiDE 120, Epson Perfection V330, and Epson Perfection 1250.

      One thing to be aware of with the CCFL scanners is that they’re all really old nowadays, and the CCFL lamps dim and discolour as they age. You can still use them, but they’ll often need substantial colour correction.

      I use a scanner calibration card from to get the colours on all my scanners to match nowadays.

  7. Hi! Just stumbled across your blog post and it has proven really helpful as I have taken up archiving as a hobby. I’d just like to mention that if you somehow do not have access to buy diffusion filters like the Rosco one mentioned here, you can get a diffusion sheet by dismantling a broken laptop screen which is what I have been using and has provided good results. The sheet will have two sides: one shiny and one frosted. Lay the frosted side on the glass and you should be good to go.

    1. That’s a good hint! I should give it a try; I have several old/broken laptop LCD screens hanging around. If this ends up being more scratch-resistant than the Rosco filters, it could be a real winner.

  8. This thread has been an incredible find. Thank you OP (and all in the comment thread) for the great information and detail.
    My specific struggle is the recorded side of the disc. I sell a lot of physical media online and need to show potential buyers a true representation of the playing surface, scratches, etc.
    I have tried every bit of little plastic around the house.
    The diffusing paper seems like the answer. The only concern is, I scan about 50 CDs a day. I think I would need something more durable.
    I’m about to take apart an old laptop. Wish me luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.