I got your message and have already sent it for our Head Cleaner.
I was impressed by how much you have improved since the last application. We'd say that you're not far from passing, so here's your assessment.
In general terms, you need to improve your Dusting, not of white specks in dark areas (that one is good, you use Burn well), but of black specks in white areas (which would need Dodge). You can use the same levels layer you used to highlight the whites in order to highlight the blacks. Just change it to 253-1-255 and take care of the black specks that appear. Page 7 is the worst one in that regard, there are dark specks in people's faces and between panels 1 and 2 at the top. Make sure you look for Dust in other pages, too.
Another problem is that you are cleaning bubbles manually. You should learn to use a bubble cleaning action, like this one: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kch9rcn9in89z ... e.atn?dl=0
(instructions at https://www.dropbox.com/s/pwdzunptef97y ... e.png?dl=0
; fiddle a little with Tolerance to see what happens and you can use it on the white areas around panels, too, but don't use it in white areas that have art. Use it before filtering.)
Okay, now to the pages themselves, from the last:
- The only problem in page 7 is the Dust I mentioned above. (Examples of black dust: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/ ... nknown.png
and https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/ ... nknown.png
- Page 6 also has some dust left (a nasty patch on the woman's cheek), but you also used Denoise. That's technically not a problem (especially because these are high-resolution, but magazine raws), but be careful with what happens to art in detailed areas: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/ ... nknown.png
(Can you see they greyish areas that should be white?) You may want to Denoise less and dust manually more, especially with high-res raws. Or use PS filters that are less aggressive, like Surface Blur.
- Page 5 is overlevelled and well dusted, but at great cost. You filtered it with Denoise to get rid of the dust, but the result is that some detail was lost and the levels contributed to the loss, too. Also, the white areas will still look patchy with grey if you set the levels to 253-1-255 as I said above. That's not Dust, it's the paper texture that comes with scanning high-resolution raws. Instead of Topaz Denoise, try fiddling a little with Surface Blur to get rid of that texture. You could have done that on the Light Level layer you made, then used the bubble cleaning action and dusted the rest manually, it would have been fine.
- Page 4 could have been resized smaller, it didn't have resolution enough for 2000 px, so it's a teensy bit blurry. However
, you managed to make it look good even at that size, which is not something we see every day. It's perfectly Dusted and Levelled, too. It's a total pass.
- Page 3… some Sharpen could have improved the final appearance. Blurriness is also a JPEG artifact. Tinker with it. But if you correct everything else, we won't fail you because of that.
- Page 1-2 is flawless.
In summary, you're doing something that many beginner cleaners do: overfiltering to avoid dusting. Filtering is essential part of cleaning, but the better the raws, the less you have to rely on Topaz and the more you should rely on less aggressive filters and manual dusting. We know dusting manually is tedious. Dusting is a dying art in this age of webraws, and it's getting harder and harder to find good cleaners who can do it well. But for groups that do obscure series like ours, manually scanned raws are essential, because webraws for our series are either low-quality or non-existent. So we go the extra mile to purchase high-quality raws and scan them privately, because we want our releases to look good.
You already know your cropping, resizing, straightening and detexting. Your level instincts are also good: you only got one page overlevelled in the whole test, and that's the hardest one. If you correct your Dusting and learn to use the bubble cleaning action I've given you, your chances of passing increase considerably.
Also, here's what I mean by leaving the adjustment layers in place: https://www.dropbox.com/s/220nvvfhda310so/13.psd?dl=0
(You don't need to do the same layers, I just mean it's not what you did in your test. Sometimes, just leaving the levels layer in place is all that's needed.)
In case you want to reapply, we'll be delighted to have another look at it. Good luck!