Beginners Guide to cleaning a Manga page using photoshop (CS5)


Firstly I would like to say that I’m also a beginner in cleaning so the methods that I’m suggesting are not conclusive nor necessarily the best. There are many ways to clean manga, and also different variation depending on the quality of the raws. Ultimately it’s up to the cleaner’s decision and judgment to determine what to do and when to consider it cleaned.

There are many other similar types of cleaning guides or tutorial around if you search on the net but many of them deters potential readers because they are so long. I will try my best to make it as short as possible. And lastly, I appreciate constructive comments to help me improve (like e.g. anywhere you think needs picture or a video) or to ask me any questions. That’s that, and I wish you luck in cleaning and playing around with the tools and it’s settings in accordance with the manga raw.


(skip this part if you are already familiar with the various basic tools, if not, open a new project and play with all of them)

*refer to the picture below (click on it) if you can’t find any tool, it should be labeled in the picture.

  • CTRL+ALT+N: new project
  • CTRL+SHIFT+N: new layer
  • CTRL+(+)/CTRL+(-): zoom in/out
  • SHIFT+Click/ALT+Click: plus/minus from a selection (you will see a small +/- sign beside the tool)
  • CTRL+Z/CTRL+ALT+Z: undo, but only goes back once, back and forth from the last change to the current one/ step backwards any times
  • Rectangular Marquee Tool (M): rectangular selection tool
  • Lasso Tool (L): free form selection tool
  • Magnetic Lasso Tool (L): under Lasso Tool, free form, single click to define shape, double click or go back to original point to end selection
  • Magic Wand Tool (W): under Quick Selection Tool, click on a spot and the whole area of similar shade will be selected
  • Spot Healing Brush Tool (J): ideal for redrawing but it’s random so it doesn’t always work
  • Brush Tool (B): manage the size and brush type and it can be used to replace pencil and paint bucket tool
  • Clone Stamp Tool (S): another random tool used for redrawing; ALT+Click to select a base point, then use it like a stamp to fill up a space
  • Paint Bucket Tool (G): under gradient tool.
  • Smudge Tool: under Blur Tool.
  • Dodge Tool (O): used to lighten a spot. Set range: highlights, exposure: 5-25% (exposure and size subjective to the scan and area to be cleaned)
  • Burn Tool (O): under Dodge Tool. Set range: shadows; refer to Dodge Tool for exposure and size
  • Pen Tool (P): click to get an anchor point, hold down to CTRL and click on another point then drag it to change the curvature of the line
  • Line Tool (U): under rectangle tool, best used to redraw the panel borders, set to weight: 3px, Anti-alias selected (at the top)

Checking Process

  1. Always make sure you are selecting the correct layer (in blue)
  2. After uncertain changes that you have made, undo repeatedly to check between the current and the previous change to decide which is better
  3. Also, try zooming in and out to observe the differences made

Starting the Project

1. Open the scans you want to work on using photoshop

2. Check to see that you are using Essentials workspace

3. Go to Image-> Mode -> Grayscale. Or Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate. Ignore this step if it’s a coloured page

4. Go to Image-> Image Size and set the size to a standard for all pages. Just set the 1st width to perhaps 800 pixels and the rest of the values will follow accordingly.

5. Go to Adjustments-> Levels (2nd icon)

> Move the white marker (the one on the right) to the left until it reaches the bottom of the last peak

> Move the black marker (the one on the left) to the right until it reaches the bottom of the 1st peak

> Move the grey marker (the one in the middle) a little to the right (best to perform checking process for this step to avoid over levelling, where the picture ends up looking too grainy) – play around moving the markers to get a feel of how extreme levelling looks like^^

> Alternatively use the eyedropper in the levels itself, using the black eyedropper to select an area that’s supposed to be black but isn’t, and the same goes for the middle and white eyedropper.

6. Select the level and the scan layers (ALT+CLICK) and right click -> merge layers

7. If the scan is not straight, go to Ruler Tool (I) under eyedropper tool and draw a straight line on the scan with it, then select straighten on top (or go to Image -> Image Rotation -> Arbitrary… )

8. Select the merged layer and CTRL+J to duplicate it. Lock one of the 2 similar layer and work on the other one.


–> Fill an area: select brush tool, mode: normal, brush size : large enough to fill the whole selected area, flow and opacity: 100%, colour: white/black. Click once or twice to colour the selected area. (Alternatively, you can use paint bucket tool; make sure that Anti-alias and Contiguous is selected)

~ To select the border, choose either way:

= Using a combination of magic wand, rectangular tool and lasso, select the whole border to fill colour white (avoid selecting edges close to a drawing)

= Create a new layer and name it borders. Under this layer, CTRL+R to get the ruler (CtRL+R again to get rid of it) and pull off from the rulers to get guides (blue lines) (pull from the top for horizontal guides, and from the left for vertical guides); match these guides to the borders of all the panels (preferably all the guides to be within the panel border) . For diagonal lines, set 2 guides at it’s end point. Then select line tool, SHIFT+Click to go along all the borders of the panels (for diagonal lines, don’t click SHIFT). Once the whole border is selected, fill it with white. Now set the opacity (under layers window) to about 80% to see if the border is covering any drawing. Erase away these parts of the border (use easer tool or use lasso tool to select then delete away) and then set the opacity back to 100%.

~ Use magic wand to select the speech bubbles, and the lasso tool to select within this border all the words that’s not selected, then fill it with the correct colour (white or black).

= If the speech bubble overlaps with the drawing, manually use white brush (size approximately 2 or 3) and colour over the words, leaving the existing drawing alone and redraw to fill the space

~ For a faster but more risky method, refer to 2nd method in removing noise.

–> Redraw:

=> If there is a pattern, use clone stamp tool

=> If there is no pattern, try using spot healing brush tool. Alternate the mode between Normal, Replace, Multiply and the size to try and fill the spaces (remember it doesn’t have to be perfect as the typesetter can fill it with text)

=> If all else fails, manually draw the lines using either/or:

= Smudge tool: drag from existing point and extend it, making sure the size is appropriate. 

= Pen tool: add more and more anchor points to get the whole line you want to redraw, then right click -> Stroke Path… -> Tool: Brush (make sure that before this, the brush size and colour is set appropriately)

–> Removing Noise (zoom in to at least 200%)

    • 1st method: use dodge tool, with a middle brush size of about 20++ to go about the areas with noise. Decrease the size and change the exposure accordingly. Go through panel by panel. Be careful not to overdo it and thus removing the shading of the original drawing
    • 2nd method: Go to Select -> Colour Range… Select: Sampled Colours, Fuzziness will adjusts the intensity of the selection. Click on a part of the scan with the ink dropper (like background) and it will select all with that colour. Click ok when you are satisfied, then go to lasso tool to refine the edges and add or minus the selections (take note of the edges, make sure you do not miss any details). Lastly, you can either fill it with white, or right click -> select inverse and copy it into another layer on top of a plain background layer.

–> Refining: arm yourself with dodge and burn tool and go around all the panels to make sure all the whites are white (dodge) and blacks are black (burn). And of course, use smudge to fill in those out of place parts.

 Last edited by rongchan on 31 July, 2011 at 12:29 am

3 Responses to 'Beginners Guide to cleaning a Manga page using photoshop (CS5)'

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  1. Kusogaki said,

    Still using this as a cleaning guide for mangas! Rong-chan is putting details in it and up to you to exercise it. It helps me out as a beginner and everybody should atleast try it out if you ever try cleaning or typesetting mangas too.

    • rongchan said,


      Hello there!! So happy to hear from you again!

      Now you make me feel guilty, I’ve actually improved some of my “techniques” but I didn’t have the time to update this post>.-

      Talk about typesetting, I haven’t actually done the typesetting guide>.<

      Anyway, glad that you find it useful!


      • Kusogaki said,

        Lol~ yea its been awhile! I had been busy with a lot of things, it would be nice to talk again after so long. I’m actually, helping out too with the typesetting with a certain group. The shortcut cut for tools and changing the modes helped me out really 🙂 ooo~ i hope you update this soon again when you have time. It will be nice to try out new techniques hahahahaha

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