Blud's Speed Scanning Guide
First Released: Sept. 27th, 2007
Last Updated: Sept. 27th, 2007
Revision Version: 1
Hey there, I'm blud, you may remember me as the guy who cleaned, typeset and released massive amounts of One Piece, D.Gray-Man, Naruto, Bleach and other series very quickly after the raws became available. I've written a guide for you, aspiring scanlator. This is a full step by step recount of how I do scanlations, a lot of the techniques are controversial and can destroy lineart if not done properly, use with caution!
Let's put our cards on the table first, shall we, Do not use this guide if you:
To use this guide to its full potential you'll need...
- Want to make High Quality scanlations, this is purely intended for the best quality in the shortest amount of time. If you're looking to learn how to make HQs, there is no quick way to do it, and there are other guides out there if one was so inclined to seek that knowledge.
- Want to preserve lineart exactly how it appears in the magazine / tankobon, expect to lose some quality, but also expect that its quality will conquer the quality of other scanlations released at the same time... unless of course they used similar methods.
- Enjoy nice gray tones. Grays will be abused badly by these techniques and there's not much you can do about it, luckily, fans expect this and don't really care unless they're looking for a HQ scanlation.
- Don't have high resolution raws available to you (I mean 2500px+ heights). You can size up a low resolution raw a good height and follow the steps below, but the quality won't be as good as it could be, up to you my friend.
Now that we're interested in making some good speed scanlations, let's get on with it shall we?
- A modern version of Adobe Photoshop. You don't NEED cs3, but it's a nice program, earlier versions will probably work as well. I don't have a tutorial for GIMP nor do I plan on one at this time.
- Neat Image, or a similar denoising program. I highly recommend this one though, and can't provide support for others... if you're looking to download it, you could accidentally click here or here.
Step 1: actions, Actions, ACTIONS!
Scanlating can be a repetitive and dulling experience. Luckily for us, Photoshop has a powerful macro tool that allows us to automate any task that's the same across all the pages. This can shave a lot of time off of the production of your scanlation. You'll find it under Window >> Actions if it's not already on your screen. One important thing to remember is that the quality of scans can change from chapter to chapter, but it's a pretty safe bet that you'll get the same scan quality when you use the same raw provider, as they are using the same scanning machine every time. This lets us action script one of the most crucial parts of making a scanlation, leveling.
Leveling is where we can adjust the brightness/contrast/tones of a scan, attempting to make the whites as white as possible, and the blacks as black as possible. This is where most beginning scanlators go horribly wrong. If a scan is under leveled it will appear dull and grainy, and if a scan is over leveled, the grays will look awful and the lines will look jaggy.
Let's start by making a new set. You'll want to make a new set for each raw provider for organization, here I'm making a new set called "kylara raw" by clicking on the little folder icon at the bottom of the panel.
Now that we have our set made, let's make an action. First make sure the page you want to record your action on is open, then click the icon to the right of the folder icon we clicked above, called "Create new action". Below I am calling this action "kylara levels" and assigning it to the function key F3. This is so that I can easily call the leveling action from pressing F3 at any time.
Now that our action is made, it will automatically begin recording, you'll want to go to Image >> Adjustments >> Levels, or press CTRL+L. The leveling screen appears, pull the white point slider to the left of the first big curve, or until the whites look white on your raw. Now pull the midtone slider (the gray one) close to the white one. This will darken the blacks. You might want to try a few times to make sure that the action you're recording is perfect for the raw you're working with, because we'll be using it as a template for all future raws from this provider.
Once you have a satisfactory level recorded, press the stop button (the square) so that no further actions you take are recorded. Your final result should look like the following.
Step 2: Cleaning up the Page!
Now let's fire up Neat Image. If you installed it correctly, you'll find it under Filters >> Neat Image. NI is very fast and very good, so I would recommend using it if you want to get the most out of this guide. Anyhow, let's take a profile of your raw to get started, this isn't a step you'll need to do often as your settings are remembered. Pick a selection that has some white and black in it, something like the following is perfect, and click the "Auto Profile" button.
Now that we have that done, click on the "Noise Filter Settings" tab and select a piece of your scanlation to preview. On the right you'll notice some sliders, you'll want to make "Luminance Channel" under "Noise Reduction Amounts" 100%, and then adjust the "Luminance Channel" under "Noise Levels" accordingly. Once you have something similar to the following, click the "Apply" button.
Here's a close up of what the ensuing image will look like. Very nasty! but we can fix it up
Open up the Levels window again (press CTRL+L). You can choose to action script this but I find my profiles are changing constantly so this step can be pretty dynamic. Pull the white slider all the way to the end of first rise, and then pull the midtone slider close to it once again. You should see something like this. Most of the nasty blur is gone! But we still have a lot of white specs.
Now we'll crop and resize the image. First select the "Rectangular Marquee Tool" (Shortcut key is M), select the area of the page that you want to keep, excluding the border around the edge of the page if applicable, then go to Image >> Crop to hack out the edges you don't need. Now we'll go to Image >> Image Size and push it down to about 1800 pixels height (constrain the proportions so it doesn't look squished). It looks slightly better now, but still pretty grainy! Let's fix that.
Now here's where we pull out the tool that will make or break the scanlation depending on your skill. It is the burn tool, you'll find it on your toolbar as seen below.
Run over the black areas and lines on your scanlation a few times to get a result similar to the following. The most important thing to remember is to never run over a gray area with the burn tool, it will destroy the gray. Try and keep the amount of times you run over an area to a minimum, it can give it an 'over-leveled' jaggy appearance. Especially avoid running over white line art too much (like I set a poor example by doing below, on her butt), white lines will fade away and eventually disappear under the power of the burn tool. Your end result at 1800px should look like the following.
Now we move into your final release dimensions. A good size to take your page to is 1200px height. As you might have guessed, resizing adds anti-alias to the artwork, and makes it look sexy.
Step 3: Putting Words in the Bubbles
Now that our clean is done, let's typeset it. Grab an appropriate sized white brush and eliminate the Japanese text. I use AnimeAce 2.0, a freely usable comic font from BlamBot.com. Pull out the character window and make sure your text is centered, "All Caps" mode is on, and typeset in the middle of the bubble.
Step 4: Immortalizing Your Masterpiece
When you're done typesetting, it's time to save your page. There are several ways to go about doing this, but I prefer the following to achieve the standard 16 color PNG page. Open File >> Save for Web & Devices (this will just say Save for Web on previous versions of Photoshop).
This brings up a window with the following options on the right side. If you copy the settings below you should be good to go. Since PNG is a lossless file format, it provides the best quality with the lowest file size, if your pages aren't coming out properly (too many tones of grays perhaps), you can adjust the colors to 32.
Important: Always pages with color as JPG, around 70 quality. Saving color pages in PNG format is a very bad idea, you'll either destroy the color quality or end up with a 2 MB page.
Step 5: Breathe Easy, One Down, 16+ to Go!
We're done! Your page is ready for release, and when you've practiced enough you'll be able to do all of the above in a matter of minutes. Your final result should be comparable (maybe even better!) than the following.
If you end up using these techniques, awesome! Let me know by posting your scanlations on MangaShare (PM me if you need scanlator status).