This tutorial was made specifically for grayscale Manga. If you’re working on a webtoon, colored manga, or manwha, this advice will most likely be inapplicable. I’ll make a tutorial for those types of series later.
Additionally, we’re assuming you are using Photoshop to do this. You can also use something like Krita, and I might make a tutorial for that later. Until then, potatoshop it.
PSD Conversion & Automation
So you’ve just received a folder of raws from the leader, and you need to start cleaning it. Your raws will most likely be in either PNG or JPG format, and should already be properly named. Now would be a good time to look through the chapter and spot any “double page spreads”. You should also look out for any color pages, because we have to handle them a little differently.
Now, you could manually open up every page in photoshop to export out a PSD, but it would be far more efficient for you to learn how to automate everything. There’s quite a few steps from here on out, so i’ll go through it with bullet points.
- Open up photoshop.
- Find the menu at the top of Photoshop, find “window”, and make sure there is a checkmark next to “Actions”. If there isn’t a checkmark, click it.
- Your Actions Window may already have some actions inside of it, and you’ll probably never use any of them. Regardless, go to the bottom of the Actions Window and click on the little “folder icon”. Rename this set to “Scanlation”, or whatever name you want to remember it by.
- Your new “Scanlation” Action Set should now be highlighted, so the next step is to create your brand new Action. To do this, click on the little “piece of paper” right next to the “folder icon” you clicked on in step 3. Name this “Prepare PSD”, and click “Record” to create your new Action.
- Every step you perform from here on out will create a new entry in your action. So your next step is to open any file from your raw folder (preferably one that is black&white).
- This next step is a “Quality of Life” enhancement for later. Usually when you open up a file, you will have a locked “background” layer in you Layers Window. You should “double-click” that “background” layer, and rename it to “Raw”. Then with the layer still selected, click the lock symbol at the top of the Layers Window.
- At the bottom of the Layers Window, there should be a two-tone circle, which is “New Adjustment/Fill Layer”. Click on that circle, then click on “Levels…”. You don’t need to do anything else with this special layer for now, so let’s move on.
- At the bottom of the Layers Window, create a new Folder (click the folder icon at the bottom!). Double click the new folder’s name, and rename it “Cleans”.
- With the “Cleans” folder still selected, we’ll now create a new Layer (Click the paper icon right next to the folder icon!). Double click the new layer’s name, and rename it to “Whites”.
- Right-click the “Whites” layer, and at the very top of the list, click on “Blending Options”. You should now have the “Blending Options” window open for the “Whites” layer.
- Click on “Color Overlay” in the list on the left-hand side of the window. From there, click on the rectangle directly next to “Blend Mode”. Use the window to set the color to be “absolute white”. All values for RGB should be (255,255,255). Click “OK” to bring focus back to the “blending options” window. Finally, click “OK” on the “blending options” window to finalize the Style. Your Layers window should update to display your new Layer Style.
- We’re going to repeat steps 9-11, but now we’re going to do it for a layer called “Blacks”. Make a new layer, call it “Blacks”, open up the “Blending Options”, make a new “Color Overlay”, and set it to “absolute black” RGB(0,0,0).
- The next step is to make sure that our PSD is set to “grayscale mode”. At the top menu of the photoshop window, find “Image”, find “Mode”, then check what mode it is in. Most raws will open up as “8bit RGB” by default. In that list, choose “Grayscale” instead. You should receive a pop-up now, asking if you want to merge layers. Select Do Not Merge, otherwise everything we just did would be pointless!
- The last step is to go to “File”, then “Save”+[S] …”]. This will bring up a Save Dialog, so we can export our PSD. We shouldn’t have to change any of the defaults here, so just click “Save”.
- You should now close the document. Either go to “File->Close”, press [Ctrl]+[W], or click on the little “x” next to the filename above the workspace.
- Find your actions window, and assuming you did every step in order without any mistakes, it should look something like the screenshot below. At this point, you should click the “Black Square” at the bottom of the Actions Window that is directly to the left of the “Red Circle” (record button). This stops the recording of your current action.
Hooray, you are now the proud owner of your very first macro! You can use this newfound knowledge to make any kind of macro that you want to. You can also double-click any of the entries inside of the Action itself to execute/edit them, or click the “trash can” at the bottom of the actions window to delete them. You can even drag them around or duplicate them!
- Set/Action + Settings/Options
Most raw providers aren’t perfect; The pages can often be slightly, or very, misaligned. Even worse is when they don’t bother to unbind their pages or scan each page individually, so you end up with curved pages and shadows in the corners of where the binding should be.
But how do we figure out if a page is misaligned if it’s not super obvious? The answer to that, is “Guides”. Use guides everywhere, and they shall lead you to the holy land.
Method 1 – Crop Tool
Method 2 – Warp Transform Tool
it’s p cool bro don’t knock it
All About Leveling
We already created a leveling layer in the PSD preparation portion of the tutorial. Head to that layer, and i’ll tell you how to properly level. The first step is to double click on the black graph icon, which will bring up the “leveling window”. This may look a little intimidating at first, but it’s actually really simple.
The most prominent feature of this window is the black & white graph, with the three arrows underneath it. Moving these three arrows will clamp the colors of the image to those constraints. Try moving the black one around if you’re confused.
The image i’m working on already has the “whites” leveled, so we don’t need to worry about the white arrow on the far right. However, there’s a large amount of space on the left-hand side of the graph, so we should move the black arrow over. If you move it to directly on the “inside” of the large mountain, you will have to do the least amount of work, but you also lose some detail. It’s typically the best option to move it only to the “tip” of the mountain, and then manually adjust individual sections of the page later on.
So, our page should now look something like below:
If you zoom in really closely to any spot that looks black, you might be able to see little specks everywhere. If so, the simplest option is to go back to your levels layer and move the “black arrow” farther right until they disappear.
There is another option, which is to create 2 more “Level” layers for “dodge” and “burn”. Then use the layer masks and blah blah.
Also we may need to do gutter touchup because sometimes the raw providers are terrible at their jobs. The gutter is the portion of the page on the left/right side that doesn’t have panels on it, where the 2 pages meet when looking at the pages in the book. Normally you can’t see the gutter when you are looking at the pages in a book, since it’s curved inwards.
If the raw provider was too dumb to put black paper behind the page before they scanned it, you might have page bleed-through on the raws. Fixing it is a massive pain in the ass, because you’ll need to use both pages simultaneously to fix both pages.
Copy paste, flip horizontal, reduce opacity, amazing 10/10 techniques
For series where we’re doing SFX redraws, it’s often helpful to have the cleaner “remove” the SFX for the redrawer. Simply trace the SFX with your brush using the “Whites” layer. If the background behind the SFX is black, then use the “Blacks” layer.
It’s so simple that even you can do it!
Just use the “Whites” layer to make bubbles white-ish yo. If a bubble isn’t fully white, just leave it for the redrawer to do. Obviously if the bubble is fully black, you should use the “Blacks” layer.
I can’t guarantee these tutorials are accurate, or even encouraging good techniques. There are tons of ways to do everything, and every one has benefits/detriments, and it’s up to you on which one you choose to use. Until this tutorial is finished, feel free to use one of these until then.