Manga colorisation tutorial – Part 1 : How to do a pretty line-art How to clean a scan

Note : This is the translation and improvement of the first part of a french tutorial I wrote in May 2008. You can download the original one here.


For this tutorial, you’ll need to have basic knowledge on how to use the pen tool as well as good understanding of how layers works in Photoshop.

Your pen tool must be set up like this

A smooth line-art is a big part of what makes a good colorisation. To get the best results, it is important to work with high quality scans only. I already tried using low-res scam and even if the colors were clean, the messed up lines ruined the whole work.

In this tutorial, I will use a high quality scan of Nabari no Ou.

Preparing the process

Open your document. If needed, switch it to RGB color mode (Image > Mode > RGB colors).

Create 2 layers :
– A completely white one, placed under your scan layer.
– An empty one : let’s call it “clean”. It will come on top of your “scan” layer.

Tip : You can lock layers you’re not using to prevent any mistakes. Just click on the black padlock.

This is how your layer panel should look like !

Now take your mighty weapon : the pen tool !

Mark out a black area of the scan, 2px from the edge line.

Tip : if you can’t see the path created by the pen tool well enough, you can reduce the opacity of your “scan” layer.

Close your path and select the “clean” layer.
Now, right click with your pen tool. Choose “Fill path” and use the white color (#FFF).

See ! You just cleaned this black area…

Mark out and clean !

Some mangakas shade their drawings. Clean them too as you’ll probably want to shade them yourself afterwards.

Clean any shading you plan on redrawing.

Advanced cleaning

In the black areas you’ll clean, there might be some white here and there. Those are important outlines you’ll need to keep.

After cleaning, you’re going to draw them again ! Don’t worry, this won’t require any drawing skills.

First, create a new layer above your “clean” scan. We’ll call it “new lines”. Then, hide your “clean” layer (click on the eye).

Now, use your pen tool and create a path by following the lines
When you’re done, select the brush tool and take the 1px basic brush. Switch back to the pen tool, right click on your drawing and choose “Stroke path”.
See the following example :

Draw the missing lines.

Tip : You can simulate the pressure. If you do that, stroke path twice : one time 3px basic brush pressure simulation, second time 1px basic brush no simulation.

Are you still here ? Good the end is near. Right now, your line-art should looks like this :

The line-art with all grey tones and black areas cleaned.

You now have a clean line-art, but you can’t use it yet because of all the white.

Final step : erasing the white parts

First, merge “clean” “new lines” and “scan” layers. Call it “line-art”.

You are facing two options now, according to what you want to do :
– You don’t want to color your line-art : put your “line-art” layer in multiply mode. It will need to remain above all your future layers.

– You want to color your line-art. It’s the harder way, but it’s worth it !

We’re going to erase every white pixels of the drawing.
In the “Channel” panel, click on the dotted circle icon, it will create a selection out of the channel’s data. Simply put, it will select all of the white pixels. Go into your “line-art” layer and erase them all.

Your line-art should look lighter. Now, click on the first layer lock. You’ll be now able to color only “existing” pixels. Take a big black brush and color your line-art. Looks better, isn’t it ?

Tip : use this lock to color the line-art other than black.

Channel selection and layer locking

Bravo, you did it ! You can now start your colorisation.

The final result

Are you ready for part two ?!