Background High throughput gene expression data from spotted cDNA microarrays are collected by scanning the signal intensities of the corresponding spots by dedicated fluorescence scanners. The major scanner settings for increasing the spot intensities are the laser power and the voltage of the photomultiplier tube (PMT). It is required that the expression ratios are independent of these settings. We have investigated the relationships between PMT voltage, spot intensities, and expression ratios for different scanners, in order to define an optimal scanning procedure. Results All scanners showed a limited intensity range from 200 to 50 000 (mean spot intensity), for which the expression ratios were independent of PMT voltage. This usable intensity range was considerably less than the maximum detection range of the PMTs. The use of spot and background intensities outside this range led to errors in the ratios. The errors at high intensities were caused by saturation of pixel intensities within the spots. An algorithm was developed to correct the intensities of these spots, and, hence, extend the upper limit of the usable intensity range. Conclusions It is suggested that the PMT voltage should be increased to avoid intensities of the weakest spots below the usable range, allowing the brightest spots to reach the level of saturation. Subsequently, a second set of images should be acquired with a lower PMT setting such that no pixels are in saturation. Reliable data for spots with saturation in the first set of images can easily be extracted from the second set of images by the use of our algorithm. This procedure would lead to an increase in the accuracy of the data and in the number of data points achieved in each experiment compared to traditional procedures.