The below is achieved by moving the paper when scanning. How can I replicate it?

this is the effect I want to achieve

  • 1
    I think it looks very nice this way! The answers are good, but in my opinion your work has some true randomness to it which is hard to fabricate. I believe the trick is to do a lot and then pick the best.
    – Wolff
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 19:49

3 Answers 3


For a way to mimic this using vectors in Illustrator, this would be how I'd pursue it...

  • Set Type (no need to convert to outlines. In fact it may be better if you don't)
  • Select the type with the Selection Tool (v)
  • Choose Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh
  • Set a number of rows and columns that seems appropriate (you can always change this later so just "best guess" here)
    enter image description here
  • Now, using the Direct Selection Tool (a) (white arrow), Select and move the mesh points to create "stretches' within the type. If needed, you can use the Gradient Mesh Tool (u) to add more mesh lines.
    enter image description here
    Just focus on the vertical stretching to start.
  • When you've got the stretching as you'd like, select and move groups of mesh points horizontally to create the "wobble", again, adding more mesh divisions if needed.
    enter image description here
  • Then you can address things like color fades and diffusion via an Opacity Mask (click for more info on that)
  • Because this is still Live Type, you can go back and choose Object > Envelope Distort > Edit Contents to change the type at any time
    enter image description here

I'm not stating this is perfect, but it is far more controllable and completely vector. Unlike a scan that's been tugged a bit while being scanned. It all comes down to your desired end goal.


EDIT: Another receipe is added to the end. It covers also the paper movement or scanning speed jumps

Method 1, constant speed difference only and left-right jitter.

You can distort a stretched, but otherwise perfect image in Photoshop with a displacement map. Stretching simulates the speed difference.

You need your stretched image and another image with exactly same pixel dimensions. I have an example, where both images are layered to one Photoshop image to see them together

The green (actually black on white, but colored and without the white only for this demo) is the stretched image and under it there is a bunch of thick black freehand strokes for the jittery distortion.

enter image description here

The distortion map should be smooth. Here a white background is inserted,layers are merged and blurred with gaussian Blur. Then the displacement map is saved as PSD.

enter image description here

The blurring should leave very little full black and full white.

Next the stretched image is distorted. Goto Filter > Distort > Displace. Select the maximum displacements (=10 here) and the displacement map file:

enter image description here

Method 2 Speed difference jumps and left-right jitter with Waves-filter

Have your perfect image in one layer:

enter image description here

Make a rectangular paper-wide selection and stretch it. Overlaps are not good, so squeeze the area below or under before you stretch an area higher. Speed differences to both directions are possible. Here the bottom half of the middle line is stretched and a slice in the middle of the bottom line is squeezed:

enter image description here

The selection is the just moved bottom part which is moved up to close the gap.

Then rotate the image 90 degrees. Apply the Waves filter to make the left-right jitter:

enter image description here

The waves filter is one of the distortions. In my old Photoshop it makes only vertical displacements. That was covered by rotating the image. Possible jitter patterns can be very complex with the filter. If you want a fully manageable jitter pattern, use a displacement map.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time, that is really helpful I will definitely be experimenting with this :) Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 10:12
  • @JoshMcCarthy the answer is extended
    – user82991
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 10:51

Try putting an index mark (-) on the back of the paper you wish to scan. Position the index mark on either side of the baseline of the line of type you want to distort.

Begin the scan. When the scanner bar light gets to the index mark, pull the paper by hand to 'follow' the light with the index mark as a positioning guide. It's easy, you'll see the light through the paper back.

Try a few experiments with the positioning, one with the index just before the light bar, one on the middle of the scanner light beam, and another test scan with the index aligned just after the scan beam. One will have the optimal effect you strive for.

Stop dragging the paper when the bottom of the text line reaches where you wanted to end the effect. (That made sense when I wrote it!)

Here's an attempt at clarifying the instructions with a diagram.

flatbed scanner cross-sectional diagram

The slight imperfections come from the imperfect motions of the hand-dragging. Every scan will be different. Pick the best one for your application.

  • I didn't really understand all of it but I kind of get the jist of it Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 20:30
  • Stan when I do mine they always end up really pointy and jagged :/ Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 14:35

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