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Cleaning Tutorial 03 – Paths, Brushes and the Almighty Clone Stamp

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Ok now that you know how to level a basic page it’s time to learn about some of the more mundane tools of the trade. These include the crop tool and paintbrush, but you’ll also be dipping your toes in use of the clone stamp and pen tools, which are really super important and stuff.


The page I’ll be using is this one:


I’ve already prepped and leveled the page so I can get right to the new stuff but the raw image is inside the file pack available at the bottom of the tutorial if you wanna go at it from step 1.

I’m gonna say this before I explain anything else: ctrl+z. You’d better be it’s best fucking friend if you wanna get anything done. All of the things I’m going to be explaining from here on out will involve to some degree trial and error. Getting the feeling for the tools can’t be taught. All I can do is explain how to do it so instead of bumbling around looking for a clue you can spend more time perfecting your use of the tools.


The page was from a tankoban that was debinded before it was scanned, and the scanner didn’t crop out the binding holes, so it’s your responsibility to do that.

Grab the crop tool and click and drag so that there’s a box. Drag the corners and sides of the box until it covers nearly the entire page with the only unhighlighted section the area with the holes. Once you have it where you want it hit Enter to finalize the choice and cut the holes out. Try not to crop too much of the margin out or it’ll look bad.


Now open the brushes dialog if it isn’t open by going windows>dockable dialogs>brushes via either the main menu or the right-click menu. This is one of the most important windows and you will probably always want it open for quick access. This window lets you select, edit or create brushes. Brushes are files that determine the size, shape and strength of area for tools. Paintbrush, pencil, clone stamp, heal tool, dodge/burn, eraser, blur/sharpen and smudge all use the selected brush to determine some of their properties.


The default brushes in Gimp should for the most part suffice, but eventually you’re gonna want to create both a large hard brush and large soft brush for convenience. If the raws are really big or you need to cover a lot of ground sometimes the biggest brush just isn’t big enough, and scaling the brush size is a hassle.

So now that the brush dialog is open select the paintbrush (Default: P) and make sure the selected brush is a ‘hard’ brush. These are the brushes that do not fade around the edges. Those are called ‘soft’ or ‘fuzzy’ brushes. Press X to swap the foreground and background colors (you can see the colors in the toolbox). The default forground color is black and white is the default backgorund color.

Once white is the foreground color try brushing away some text. Pretty small brush for such large text huh? like I mentioned before the brushes can be scaled up and down via the tool options in the toolbox. Scale the brush up to whatever size you need and brush away the text at the top and bottom, leaving the text in the middle of the page. Don’t forget to brush off those specks of dirt laying about like in the top corner and near the first two lines of dialog. The brush isn’t just for text. Here’s how it should look after the cropping and brushing:


You’ll notice I didn’t brush the “!” away in that bottom panel. It’s not exactly a rule or anything, but I normally leave certain things uncleaned. These include bubbles with no dialog and only symbols, such as exclamation marks, hearts or the vertical ellipses (. . .).

So now what’s left? The text in the middle. You can’t just brush over this because of the grainy background so the answer is cloning.

Clone Stamp

What the clone stamp tool does is it copies one part of a picture to another part. The way the tool works is by first selecting a source to clone from, and then a place to clone to. Select a source by ctrl+left clicking where you want to clone from, and then after that you click and then drag while holding the mouse button down. Depending on how the various options in the toolbox are set the effect will be different.


From top to bottom:

  1. Mode is an option that is used as something of a blender between levels. It shouldn’t need to be used so keep it set to normal for now.
  2. Opacity determines the alpha strength of whatever you’re using. Basically the lower the number the more transparent whatever you do will appear. 0 is fully transparent and 100 is fully opaque.
  3. A display showing which brush is selected and it’s scale. Click it to summon a brush selector dialog. The scale slider goes from 0.01 to 10.00.
  4. Brush Dynamics is a an expandable set of options that are only relevant if you have a tablet to use.
  5. Fade out will make any strokes you create fade out until gone. Ticking it will show two boxes asking for a measure and the unit to use (pixels, inches, etc)
  6. Apply jitter is an option that applies a set amount of randomization when you are stroking something. Limited use.
  7. Hard edge causes Gimp to ignore a brush’s hardness rating and treat it as if it was the pencil tool. Useless.
  8. Source determines whether you are going to be pulling your source from the image itself, or from a collection of canned seamless patterns. You can make your own patterns to use as well.
  9. Alignment determines how the source moves in relation to your mouse. With None set, after you release the button the source will return to it’s original position and with aligned set the offset registered after the first two clicks is locked and the source will mimic your mouse’s movement. I’ve never had to use Registered and Fixed is stupid so ignore those two.

So let’s take a closer look at what we’re dealing with:


As you can see I’ve illustrated that the gradient isn’t either directly vertical or horizontal. This means that if you don’t get the angle of the gradient right enough when choosing the offset for the source placement then it won’t look contiguous and you’ll have to try again or fix it up with some burn/dodge or heal tool work. This is not advised unless it’s a very small difference or you are only working with small areas.

I’d like to be able to give some help on always getting the gradient right but it’s just one of those things that comes with practice and/or trial and error. It took me a couple of tries to get the angle right on this page because it’s a little deceiving and not perfectly straight.

There’s also a shortage of good source material for the really dark area of the gradient in the top-right corner. You’ll need to either clone what’s there in such a way that you don’t ruin the gradient but also don’t make it look like you used the same source for the entire thing (takes practice), or use another, lighter source and then burn it to the correct shade.

It’s hard to show someone step by step how to use the clone stamp, so it’s good I guess that it’s relatively easy to pick up the basics. Still, here are a few tips I’ve gathered over time. You’d do good to remember them.

  1. Use fuzzy brushes. It helps make the source fit contiguously with wherever it gets cloned and allows for some leeway in precision. You’ll know what I mean if you try to clone with a hard brush near a line or over a grid pattern.
  2. Use as few strokes as possible. If you use too many strokes then your cloned area will looks sloppy, blurred, or the pattern density will be disproportionate with the surrounding area.
  3. Use large brushes. Not only do they let you cover more ground faster, but the bigger source size the more contiguous the cloned area will be. Goes along with tip 2.
  4. If you’re having a hard time keeping the gradients and offsets between choosing sources then try changing the alignment to “align” mode.
  5. If you can’t get certain patterns to look right, then try using one of the galaxy brushes for a different density spread

Here’s how I’d go about cloning this page. I’d use the largest default fuzzy brush and I’d handle the text on the right first. I’d grab source from the left of the text and start cloning, minding the gradient each time I had to switch sources.

I know I said to try to do this in as few strokes as possible, but with the upper panels cutting off the gradient it isn’t easy. Just try your best to keep the count down.

I’d work from the bottom of the text up and concentrate on a single line of text at a time starting on the left. If you do this then the stroke count stays down and you are making more area that you can source from.


This is what I did to clear it away. The red spots indicate the source I used for that particular stroke and the blue spots are where I started the stroke.

This certainly isn’t a perfect job, you can see a few instances of cloned objects (I can see 5 at a glance) but considering it’s  going to be covered in text anyway this is a more than sufficient job.

Next is the left text whiich is a bit more tricky because of that roadline thing but it’s nothing we can’t handle.

This time you’re gonna need to grab from a source that isn’t right next to the text. The area between neko mimi girl and the roadline looks promising.

If you clone from that area well enough you’ll be able to cover over half of the text in one go. After that clean up the straggling ends until it looks something like this:


When you get to this point you can just brush away the rest since it’s so close to the line it’s hardly noticable to begin with. Once all of the text is gone it’s time to use the Pen Tool (named “Path Tool” in Gimp).

Paths and the Pen Tool

I don’t understand why the pen tool is considered ‘hard’ to use. I didn’t even know it was hard until somebody told me it was. Maybe Gimp makes it easy or something. The entire concept behind Paths and the pen tool can be summed up like this:

A path is an invisible line that follows a course determined by points called ‘Anchors’. The line’s course can be altered to add curves or corners by using ‘Handles’ which are attached to Anchor points.

…That’s it. Sure there’s more to it than that but it’s all related to stroking the path and that’s not what people complain about. Whatever. I’ll teach you and then you’ll be able to rape any cleaning test a group can toss at you. Probably.

Grab the Pen Tool (Default: B). Now choose one of the ends at the beginnings of that big hole in the line. I prefer to work from down up and from left right when using paths, but it really doesn’t make a difference. Zooming in will help you get better placement (ctrl+scroll wheel). Click the end.

You’ll see the outline of a small circle. This is an Anchor. Now click the other end of the gap. You’ll see a second Anchor and a thin line connecting them. You might also notice that the first Anchor is now filled in and no longer hollow. This is because it is no longer the active anchor. If an anchor is active then it can be moved or altered or removed. It’s Handles will also be visible if there are any set.

Now either go to the main menu or right-click and navigate to Edit>Stroke Path. A window will open displaying some stuff. There are a few options available and an entire collapsed option set that isn’t even shown but all you really need to pay attention to is the line width. Change the width to 1.7 pixels and hit ok.

A black line should have appeared between the anchors (or whatever color is the foreground color if it’s not the default). Sweet! It’s not very pretty though and the color probably doesn’t match at all. Let’s fix this.

Undo the stroke and open the foreground color selector dialog by clicking the foreground color displayed in the toolbox. I’m not going to explain this box because you’ll likely never need to know and I barely understand most of it, but the important bits are the HTML notation and color history.

Next to the HTML is the eyedropper button. click it. Now hold the dropper over a gray pixel that looks roughly the same shade as what the line bridging that gap should look lik and clicke (hint: picking colors from the pre-existing line is a good idea).

You can also switch to the paintbrush and ctrl+click the desired color.

Now that you have a new FG color go back to the stroke path window (you can’t see the path anymore, but it’s still there) and restroke the line. It should look a lot better now. Zoom out and give it a look over, trying again if it doesn’t look close enough.

If you need to see the path, or edit it, then open the Paths dialog (Windows>Dockable Dialogs>Paths) and double click the path that’s there.

Now repeat this for the other gap. Once you have both of them filled, your done!


Closing Notes

With this I’ve taught you, if in a rather whirlwind fashion, how to clean an average manga page. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to everything.

If you plan on working with shit-tastic Shonen Jump scans or whatever then you’d better know more about leveling than I explained and if you’re working on a manga with lots of gradents then you’d better learn the Clone Tool really well.

These 3 tutorials are just a springboard for new cleaners. They introduce the most essential tools and steps to doing a proper job of it. The rest comes with practice, experience and a little bit of ingenuity.

I’ll continue to write more tutorials, although they will probably be narrowly focused, concentrating on a single issue and will be in no particular order.


Download Files



Written by PIR

January 17, 2009 at 17:24

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