I often brainstorm research ideas on my whiteboard. I then run out of space and want to store and print the contents of the whiteboard. In general I have a system of taking a photo of the whiteboard with my phone, which is synchronised to dropbox, which then creates a copy on my computer. Now I can print the image, on my computer, but it is not optimised for printing. It is possible to open it up in photoshop and manually make it black and white, and try to optimise the contrast and so on.

However, I'd ideally like it to be a one click process for printing a whiteboard image. The whole point is that the process shouldn't disrupt the brainstorming process.

How can I efficiently print digital photos of a whiteboard that are optimised for printing?

Naturally, the procedure might vary under different computing or phone operating systems. An ideal solution would be (a) extremely efficient, (b) minimise printing toner usage, (c) maximise readability. Useful automated steps would include: (a) optional conversion to black and white; (b) arrangement of image into a size and layout designed for printed paper, (c) optimising contrast so that the whiteboard is white and only markings print. Some form of auto-cropping might also be useful.

UPDATE: A few options I've discovered since posting:

Given that using whiteboards is fundamental to teaching and research, I hope people don't mind that I have used this site for asking the question.

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    "I hope people don't mind that I have used this site for asking the question" - Tools are on topic so don't worry about that. I'm interested to see the answers.
    – earthling
    Oct 1 '13 at 5:03
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is a "boat-programming" type question that's really about photography
    – 410 gone
    Oct 1 '13 at 5:41
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    @EnergyNumbers I found a similar question on photography.stackexchange.com however the answers tend to focus more on the art of photography. I was thinking that academics would have more similar goals to me (i.e., efficiency) than photographers (i.e., quality). Oct 1 '13 at 5:46
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    If you can convince someone to spend money, you can get whiteboards printing built in. My office has(had?) a few with multiple writing surfaces (switched by rolling the surface left/right) and a built in scanner/thermal printer. You'd write on them like a normal white board; and could just press the print button when done to get a hard copy output; it would roll the screen under a scanner built into one of the side edges and make a printout as it went. Oct 1 '13 at 15:10

For this I use TurboScan on my iPhone. It's designed for scanning and there are many similar apps.

It takes 3 photos and combines them to get one with good contrast and resolution. It optimizes for readability. It automatically detects the edge of the whiteboard and crops there; you can easily adjust the crop to be smaller if desired. You can easily adjust contrast.

Here is a photo of what's on my whiteboard right now. This was taken in extremely poor lighting conditions (dim, with lots of glare). Also, TurboScan outputs a PDF, so you can zoom nicely without it becoming pixelated, but SE would only allow me to upload a JPEG, so what's below is lower quality. Right-click and open in a new window to see it better. enter image description here


Optimizing a photo of a whiteboard is similar to optimizing a scan of a page. On Linux, I use scantailor -- it usually does a great job for what I want. It's not automatic, but it's way faster than trying to tweak curves in Photoshop.


How much money are you willing to spend? If the answer is around $400 $900*, you can get a whiteboard capture system like this:

MimioCapture System

You would have to change your workflow to make sure your computer was up and capturing, but you use regular whiteboard markers (albeit inside the electronic case).

*educational pricing, I think, although you may have to buy additional software; I couldn't tell from the product's website

*It looks like the pricing is much more steep for a standalone system. I am not 100% positive, but it looks like the $400 system does need other expensive components. Darn. This one seems to be completely standalond:eBeam Edge

  • I have not seen that MimioCapture system before; it's clever. One place where I worked had a whiteboard with two screens. When you were finished with one screen, you pressed a button and it automatically printed the screen while moving over to the next screen (it took just a few seconds). I understand that some companies also use whiteboards that are linked wirelessly to the laptops or tablets, so that attendees can also interact with the whiteboard — marks that they make on the tablet appear instantly on the whiteboard, and vice versa. I guess it depends on your budget. Oct 1 '13 at 12:21

It would not be too difficult to set up for an "almost" one-click operation. With a little bit of Unix shell scripting you could set up a process on the print server which could do the job. E.g. you could email a photo from your phone to a special email address on the print server (to make things simple on the phone side). On the server the process could look like this:

saving attached photo upon receiving email -> processing it with e.g. ImageMagick to optimize for printing -> send to printer


It seems the scantailor can also be used for batch processing, haven't tried it myself, though.


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