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Scanning Guidelines

Welcome the RetroCollect scanning guidelines. We thank you for your generosity towards helping our database become even more valuable for everyone. While we provide a nutshell version below, we highly recommend reading these guidelines from start to finish - especially if this is your first time scanning video games. Following this guide will not only result in the highest quality scans, but also less headaches for everyone involved.

Scanning in a nutshell

  • PNG format
  • 300 dpi
  • 24-bit color depth
  • Rotate, crop and save in your scanning application
  • No post-processing
  • Proper filenames and zipping
  • Documentation of each game's version

What can I scan?

We are always looking for new or improved scans for our database, and every game you can possibly think of is welcome. You can even contribute scans for games that are not yet in our database. We can use scans of the front and back of the box and manual, of the cartridge/disc front and of any additionally included items like posters or maps. While we have plans to also support the spines of game boxes, we currently cannot accept those.


Choosing the right scanner

There are two kinds of scanner technologies out there. The smaller, cheaper scanners usually use Contact Image Sensor (CIS) technology. This is the inferior solution and does not offer scanning with a depth of field beyond a few milimeters. The superior choice of scanners is based on Charge Coupled Device (CCD) technology, something we wouldd very much recommend. These can create sharp scans even if the item's surface is a little bumpy. A good entry level CCD choice that we can recommend are scanners from the Epson Perfection series.

Avoiding blurry scans

CIS based scanners especially are prone to blurry scans if the item is not lying perfectly flat on the scan bed. To avoid getting blurry scans, you can often put a weight on top of the item you want to scan, helping to hold it down on the scanner bed, or press it down with your hands. This can greatly improve scan quality for damaged boxes.

Aligning you scan

Unfortunately most scanners out there are built for scanning paper documents. As such, you may struggle to perfectly align the game for a great scan. The best plan of action here is to test whether aligning your scan to the edge of the scan bed results in a complete scan without anything missing, and whether you get an even/straight picture. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if it is clearly angled you will need to scan again. Practice with your scanner until you get the hang of it.

Cleaning your scan bed

If there is any dust or dirt on the scanning bed, it will be visible in anything you scan. As we would rather not have dirty video game scans populating the database for obvious reasons (we are a sparkly clean site!), please make sure you clean the scanner's bed/glass properly before use. The underside of the scanner lid which closes on top of the scanning bed is also worth cleaning. As for choosing the proper cleaning tools, we suggest following the instructions in your scanner's manual or use a dry microfiber cloth.

Optimal scanning settings


Please make sure you scan and save at exactly 300dpi. If you already have scans at 600dpi you can submit these too, but if you are scanning now, please stick to 300dpi.

Color depth

The right color depth for our database is 24-bit. This is more than enough for presentation on computer screens.

File type

Our preferred file type is 24-bit PNG as it is lossless and we don't need the transparency offered by 32-bit PNG. Please try to use the highest compression offered when saving the PNG (quality will not suffer from this). If you feel like it, you can also use a tool like OptiPNG to minimize file size without quality loss. If your scanning software absolutely does not support saving as PNG, submitting JPGs is also acceptable. In that case, please read the following notes:

Please save directly to the JPEG/JPG format in your scanner’s own scanning application. Should you have the option to specify what quality you can save your JPEG as, please aim for 95 (should your scale of quality be 1 to 100). Should you not have a scale to choose from, please go for the second best option available, or just contact us to work out an ideal solution.

Do not under any circumstances post-process the already saved JPEG. This means editing in Photoshop, cropping in MS Paint and so forth. In extreme cases where you have to use the likes of Photoshop, please use the TWAIN interface of your program to scan with directly and do not save before you have finished post-processing. As a rule of thumb we believe that the less post-processing, the better.


Avoid scanning games inside their plastic case

If you are not scanning a cardboard game, please make sure you take the paper inlay/cover out of the game's case before scanning. As the case itself (e.g. a clamshell or jewel case) is not part of the game's cover, it should not be visible on the scan.

Choosing the right scan area

It is important that you correctly choose the area to scan. This specifically includes doing separate scans for the front and back. If you have a game where the front and back are part of the same sheet of paper, do not scan the whole cover as one image. Set the scan area to crop the front cover first, scan that and then scan the back cover separately. Please do not include any part of the box spine in your scans.

Rotating your scan

Once again it is recommended that you do not rotate the picture after saving. If you can, rotate in your scanning application before you save to the correct orientation. Correct means the way the box would be displayed on a shelf, with the title readable.

Properly cropping your scan

As mentioned before we would prefer no post-processing to be applied to the scans. To prevent a loss of quality, please use your application’s scan area selection tool for correctly cropping game media, instead of cropping the already saved image in a graphics editor.

Good cropping is essential. We all love video games and here at RetroCollect we want to make sure they look fantastic - this means ensuring that there is next to no whitespace or empty spacing around any scan. Avoiding whitespace is easy with your scanning application's crop tool, however, we do not want you to go overboard with those cropping margins. Too much of a crop on a single side could leave Sonic the Hedgehog being named Onic - something we all know is wrong. So be careful, yet precise in your cropping to eliminate whitespace without eliminating essential image data. You will find that the better you align your scan, the less you need to worry about whitespace to begin with.

To illustrate the problem of cropping noted above, please take a look at the following video which illustrates the right way to do it.

Video tutorial

Naming your scans

Now that you have a selection of scans, we need to make sure they are organised and arranged. Please create a folder for each individual game you scan which will contain all your scans for this game. To ensure these scans display in the game database, they also need to be named correctly. The correct naming for individual media is as follows:

  • Front cover: front.png
  • Back cover: back.png
  • Cartridge: cart.png
  • Disc: disc.png
  • Manual front cover: manualf.png
  • Manual back cover: manualb.png
  • Poster: poster.png

By following this naming requirement, your folders may look something like this:

  • /scans/
  • /scans/Super Mario Bros NES/
  • /scans/Super Mario Bros NES/front.png
  • /scans/Super Mario Bros NES/back.png
  • /scans/Sonic the Hedgehog SMS/
  • /scans/Sonic the Hedgehog SMS/front.png
  • /scans/Sonic the Hedgehog SMS/back.png
  • /scans/Sonic the Hedgehog SMS/manualf.png

Contributing these scans and uploading them

We have several options available to you depending on the amount of scans you are producing. But first of all, we need to get them ready to upload.

Zipping them up

As we like to keep things simple, receiving scans in a single zip file per game is a how we prefer to work. Once you have your folders of scans correctly set up (see above), please zip up the contents of each individual folder and name the output zip file Please make sure the zip does not contain a folder with the files, but the files directly. For example, as seen above, a zip file of Super Mario Bros NES would contain front.png and back.png and would be called something like

Should you have a large collection of zip files carefully prepared, you can of course zip these zip files into a single big zip archive again.

Uploading scans for individual games

If you only want to contribute a few scans here and there of a few games, your best bet is to upload them somewhere we can easily access them (For example: Mediafire, Dropbox). Once done, please share the download link with us in the corresponding forum thread. We will then handle the actual upload to our database for you.

Uploading large amounts of scans

If you have a large number of scans you want to contribute, we will be able to grant you access to our private scan upload tool. Please get in touch with us if you have a large number of scans available and want access to this.


Additionally to the scan itself, we will need information about the game you have scanned. This is so that we can tell which version/variant of a game you have scanned, allowing us to correctly identify it and link it up with our database entries.

Usually, what we need is the country the game was released in and the product number of your game, e.g. the SLES/SLUS number or the Nintendo/Sega product code. These numbers can often be found on the box spines, box flaps or on the back. If there is no number visible or you think the number is not enough to identify your version (e.g. in the case of 3-/5- screw variants of NES carts), please give any details you may have that you believe will be helpful. If you really want to impress, put a text file with a list of the game numbers into the combined zip file you share with us.

Thank you

We appreciate the time taken to read these guidelines and look forward to any scans you might provide. Please do not hesitate to get in touch should you have any problems.

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