I have a selection of pencil sketches that need to be prepared for print in a book (think standard paperback).

I'm trying to work the best way to remove dust, bring the background up to white without losing detail, whether I should convert the images to a greyscale format and if there are any other gotchas.

There are lots of ways I could approach this, I'm just trying to find a way that will be as sensitive as possible to the very fine detail in the drawings and cause as few problems as possible for publishing. Is there an accepted method for doing this?

Any advice gratefully received.

1 Answer 1


It would really depend on the drawing - hard to tell without seeing it. Is the pencil drawing grey/monochrome? How dark/discoloured/messy is the background?

Anyhoo, if I was to take an extreme case of discoloured dirty background as an example such as this, here's how I would attempt to clean it up.

  1. Scan it in colour.

Example drawing

  1. Apply a Black and White adjustment layer. In this example I moved the sliders for yellow and red to try to get rid of the background.

Adding Black and White adjustment layer

  1. Apply a Levels adjustment layer, and bring the shadows up by moving shadows slider until it touches the left edge of where the histogram shows there is some detail.

Adding Levels adjustment layer

  1. Add a new layer, set the paint brush to white, and paint out any spots or dust remaining on the white areas.

Here's the result side by side with the original for comparison.

enter image description here

  • 1
    This is fantastic, thank you, this is exactly what I was looking for. A really nice non-destructive method. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:26
  • @friendly_llama - Yes, non destructive is the way to go because it's easy to fix if you think you went too far with the adjustments.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 4, 2017 at 10:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.