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Printing Spot Colors

12 Oct

A Story, and a Tutorial

This post begins with a story and ends with a helpful spot-color printing tutorial. If you’re a designer in a rush, by all means, scroll! 

isaHomePage

The Story

In the spring of 2013 I was putting final touches on the art for a project that will always be near to my heart: Isabella’s Shoe Studio (duopress/2013).

duopress Doodle books

Isabella followed a string of Doodle books which I also illustrated for duopress. Every book in the Doodle series has a 4-C cover (standard 4-color process printing), and a black and white interior — basically, a pre-press breeze.

Like the Doodle series, Isabella would be an activity book, but would also tell a story.

Isabella’s Shoe Studio is something completely unique: a Doodle Storybook™. We decided to use the the Doodle books’ 8″ square trim size and French flaps to give Isabella duopress’s house look; to set her apart we would do something special in the realm of color.

Some crazy person had the idea to give Isabella’s Shoe Studio a 2-C interior. Somebody else (or possibly the same crazy person?) suggested a 3-C cover. I love the retro look of two- and three-color printing, and we all agreed and it would be a fun, inexpensive way to set Isabella apart.

ISS Pantone swatches2-C = printing in two-colors; in our case, black + PMS 196, a gentle petal pink.

3-C = (you guessed it!) three colors.

For Isabella’s Shoe Studio’s 3-C cover, we added PMS 304, a turquoise-y blue, to add a some punch to our soft pink.

Class, don’t trust your computer monitor! The color you see on your monitor is generated from a luminous mix of RGB (Red, Green, Blue), not CMYK—see below—and the appearance of color varies from one monitor to the next. To select colors with confidence, use a Pantone swatch book. These are expensive, but well-worth the cost. If you can’t afford a swatch book and you’re working with a local printer, stop in and ask to have a peek at theirs.

Printing: Color Basics

Process color (CMYK)

If you’ve ever had to replace ink cartridges for a desktop printer, you understand the mystery of 4-color printing, known as PROCESS color, or PROCESS printing. The full spectrum of standard* colors are created by a mix of CMYK inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. This is The Process. Standard Operating Procedure. Every printer on the planet (and every pre-press operator) is programmed to print in CMYK.

*Special colors like metallics and fluorscents can’t be created from a standard CMYK mix. Those colors have to be added in a separate print run, and are called SPOT COLORS. You’ll find them at the back of your Pantone swatch book. 🙂

Spot Color (1-C, 2-C, 3-C, etc)

Rather than resulting from a CMYK mix, a SPOT color comes from a can; or more likely, an industrial-sized drum. Spot color is pre-mixed ink that is identified by a PMS color number—very similar to the way house paints are organized and presented. A spot color can also be a recipe of multiple inks stirred up into a color cocktail.

In book publishing 2- and 3-C printing is much more rare than CMYK, but spot color images surround us every day on screen-printed textiles and bottles. Imagine a two-color graphic printed on a T-shirt, or Coke’s trademark red and white logo printed on a bottle.

The Story, cont’d…

duopress is a fairly young company. In the spring of 2013, although we were working with a highly excellent printer, our inexperience coupled with a language barrier added layers of confusion to our tech-talk.

My only experience at the time with 2-C printing was from the year I spent managing a full service print shop at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the mid-nineties. Every term, graphic design students were given a 2-C, screen-printed logo assignment. Our shop techs printed those bad boys by hand, dragging goopy Chroma/Tech ink with a squeegy over templates that had been burned onto film—usually multiple times before achieving a perfect print—for every student. (Think T-shirt screening by hand, times a million.) This task kept us busy around the clock for weeks at a time, and it remains etched in my memory.

The Chroma/Tech assignment taught me how to manually set up files for 2-C printing; in other words, how to separate the colors.

Manual Color Separations

The image above is an actual example of the color separation plates that we made for Isabella’s Shoe Studio. I created 2 separate plates in grayscale mode for every image in the book: a pink plate that showed the printer where to put the pink ink, and a black plate for the black ink.

halftone dots

Any gradients or tints of pink had to be converted to a HALFTONE DOTS, just like vintage comics. We converted the pink cheeks for all of the characters in the book, which had been created by smudging charcoal, to halftones—see above. (Halftone How-To: Convert image color mode to BITMAP. Select “halftone screen” on the new menu that pops up, then play with the sliders until you’re happy with the size and density of the resulting dots.)

Isabella’s Shoe Studio’s designer Charla Pettingill created two InDesign documents of the book’s interior to send to the printer: one for the black ink, and one for the pink. She placed any type that would be printed in gray or black in the black document, and pink type was set in the pink document.

This process is great if you want to give your project an authentic retro look, with a bit of off-register color here and there, but be advised: there is a ton of extra work (look up TRAPPING before you make your decision!), and you will have to explain to your printer what you are doing. Modern pre-flight technology is automated, even for 2- and 3- color print jobs. A printer’s RIP (rastor image processor) software creates separation plates automatically. If you submit manually separated plates, you run the risk of throwing everyone into a tizzy.

Carries book

I write this from experience! We had a a bit of trouble with Isabella’s Shoe Studio‘s printing process—but class, I have to say, in my humble opinion it was all worthwhile. The way those inks rest on that creamy white paper and interact with one another is a joy to behold. Isabella’s Shoe Studio is the kind of tactile experience that causes designers to salivate. The above photo shows 1-C on the inside front cover (PMS 204). The 2-C title page (PMS 196 + black) is reflective of the entire interior of Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

IMPORTANT NOTE: People in general and printers specifically prefer not to be thrown into tizzies. If you are using spot color, even if you have tons of experience, ask your printer to provide a file set-up guide. There are multiple accepted methods, and preferences vary. Copy and paste this sentence into an e-mail: “Please send your pre-flight requirements for spot color printing.”

At duopress, we’ve produced several beautiful books that include 1-, 2-, and 3-C elements since paving the way with Isabella’s Shoe Studio, all with much less stress. Here’s how we currently set up 1-C spot color files:

The Tutorial

Prepping Images for 1-C (spot color) printing

Grayscale Mode

Open the art files in Photoshop. If necessary, convert to grayscale (Image –> Mode –> Grayscale). If you file is not in grayscale mode, Photoshop refuses to allow you to convert it to monotone mode, which is your end game.

Level Check

Adjust levels (Command + L) until you have a true black and white image. Open the info menu (Window –> Info). Hover your cursor over the image and check the color mixes in the info panel: in black areas, the K on the left should read 100%; in white areas, it should be 0%.

Monotone

With your PMS color number in hand (Class: swatch book!), change your image’s color mode to DUOTONE. (Mode –> duotone.) Note: Eventually your file will be a MONOTONE, but for some reason this is not given as an option in the drop-down menu. Do not panic, just keep reading.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 8.34.14 AM

When you select the duotone option, a  “Duotone Options” menu appears.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 8.40.56 AM

Set MONOTONE as your file TYPE. Click on the color box next to “Ink 1” to reveal a color-selection menu and corresponding eye-dropper tool.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 8.44.51 AMSelect “Color Libraries” to reveal yet another menu—this one is a list of the world’s color systems.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 8.45.20 AM

Scroll to select your printer’s preference. If you’re unsure, ask! At duopress we use PANTONE solid coated, which is pretty standard.

Scroll to find your color number, or type the number and its swatch will appear at the top of the list. (Note: type fast! pauses between numbers cause Photoshop to get confused.) Photoshop requires that you enter a name for the color into the field next to the swatch.

Voila! Your grayscale image is now a monotone. It may look slightly different than your color chip but don’t worry, that’s why you invested in that swatch book! The ink will match the printed color swatch, not the color you see on your monitor.

Monotone files can’t be saved as a TIF. Save the art as a .psd file (.eps works, too), and place it in your layout.

Pantone colors can be imported into InDesign’s swatch palette, for any lettering or graphic elements created in InDesign that are to be printed in the spot color.

In InDesign, click the arrow in the top right corner of the SWATCHES menu, then select “New Color Swatch” at the top of the list. Select your color mode, and import the chosen spot color into your palette.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 11.45.01 AM

 

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Violet Lemay, the author of this post, is an illustrator, and is also the art director at duopress. Credit for all duopress book concepts goes to the publisher, Mauricio Velázquez de LeónClick here to see all of duopress’s books.

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PARK!

24 Jul

PARK

This fall my favorite publisher duopress is rolling out a cool new project: PARK: A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons. PARK is an oversized book with an accordian-fold interior that extends to almost five feet in length.

fold-out in grass

duopress’s goal for PARK was twofold: 1) Celebrate the beauty of Central Park, which represents city parks in general, and 2) Take full advantage of the uniqueness of the fold-out.

hipstersWe envisioned an abstracted, exploded view of the Central Park stretching across the five-foot spread, with the seasons evolving from left to right to show the passage of time—something that couldn’t be done as fluidly in a traditional book. Additionally, we decided to fill the park with characters whose stories develop as the seasons evolve. For example, we meet a pair of hipsters in the spring on the left. As we see them in the summer and fall their beards are longer and longer until, in their final appearance in winter on the far right of the book, they actually come alive.

The next challenge was finding the perfect illustrator and designer for the job.

ILLUSTRATION

In early 2014, riding waves of success from his blog-turned-book All The Buildings in New York (Universe Publishing/2013), James Gulliver Hancock signed on to illustrate PARK. James, a globetrotting Aussie and part-time resident of Brooklyn, NY, created all of the art from his home in Sydney.

James working 2

PARK was a dream project for me! To draw Central Park, an icon of New York City, and play with a whole bunch of quirky characters through the seasons would be so much fun. I also loved that duopress was up for doing a different kind of production in the form of the fold out and the large scale.

kid on bikeThe drawing on the back cover of the kid on the bicycle showing how big the book is really sums up the playfulness that I loved about the project from the beginning. And which kid didn’t love Where’s Waldo? it was a dream to be able to make my own take on that style of project. Also having lived in New York through the seasons, it was so fun to represent some of my experiences through the seasons—because the weather in each season is so graphic and obvious in the northern hemisphere.

It was definitely an ambitious project for me, but like most I started in the begging and worked to the end. 🙂

It was fun to do really rough sketches at the beginning, basically just circles for placement, then build that up to a second sketch and then take it all the way to final. I had to draw quite large to get all the detail in there, so there was quite a lot of collaging together of drawings to make the huge final. It was always a matter of zooming in and out to get a sense for it on the computer as it came together, but there was nothing like the moment when I saw it produced in all it’s finished glory!

DESIGN

beatriz typography

From her studio in Toronto, free-lancer Beatriz Juarez joined the team to design the book, including the title type treatment, which she created by hand.

I start with a blank page and sketch the title in as many styles as possible with markers. For Park I tried many styles, with letters that were totally script and fluid, until I got to a more cartoonish style. When I think I can get more organic options to a a particular style, I switch to my brushes. I probably filled a whole notebook with 250 pages trying different styles. When I chose the 4 characters I was happy with, I put them together in Photoshop. Retraced them and clean them up.

LAUNCH: Book Expo America

James & Mauricio at BEA

In early June, team duopress met in Central Park’s hometown of NYC to debut an advance copy of PARK at Book Expo America. All new book projects are a roll of the dice, especially for small indie publishers like duopress, but PARK: A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons was extremely well received, and publisher Mauricio Velázquez de León (seen above with James Gulliver Hancock) is optimistic:

At duopress we focus in publishing books that can’t translate too easy into the digital world. All the hand-held devices and high-tech tablets in the world can’t really compete with the size of a fold-out or a board book. I believe fold-out books are making a comeback. I see more an more coming into the market (That’s great news for Park!) It seems that Fold-Out books are becoming what pop-up books have been for years; a real competition against a world saturated with screens.

kids looking at Park

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PARK, A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons (duopress/2014) is available now. Click here to order on-line.

________________

Since its inception in 2006, duopress—a small indie book publisher currently based in Baltimore—has been producing award-winning, innovative   books and gifts for curious children.

duopress specializes in city-specific books and puzzles that reflect the company’s love for kids in a contemporary cosmopolitan style. Visit any US metropolis and you’re bound to see Cool Counting books, Doodle Books, Local Baby books, Foodie books, and puzzles produced by duopress. See them at the publisher’s website, here.

Violet Lemay joined the duopress team as an illustrator in 2010 and since then has collaborated on more than twenty duopress projects, eventually becoming the art director in May of 2013. See Violet’s portfolio site, here.

 

collaborate

26 May

ISS_Cover

A while back, after having made several books together, my publisher friend Mauricio Velázquez de León (owner of duporess) invited me to a Skype lunch. While he sat at an outdoor cafe somewhere in Baltimore with a tasty-looking sandwich, I ate a salad in a Savannah Panera, and we talked about this and that.

Before he let me go, he asked what made me tick, artistically—a very interesting question that threw me off guard, and really made me think. I love to draw cities, and kids, and animals…. but if there was one thing we weren’t already doing that made my artist’s heart sing, it had to be SHOES.

During the rest of that Skype lunch and for a long while after, we talked about shoes, and how to make them into a book. We shot ideas back and forth leisurely for quite a while (one year? two??), and then somehow or other “The Shoe Book” made it onto a tentative production schedule. We were actually gonna do it. So, I had to write it.

love_lossNow, I’m not a writer, I am an illustrator, but I can string a few words together in a pinch. With a vague idea in my head based on the amazing classic Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a book I had read years earlier, I spent a week or two typing up a charming little manuscript. Mauricio called the draft “lovely” or something to that effect, and, despite my bent toward self-deprication, I agreed with him. It was a lovely manuscript. (In keeping with my amateur writer status, it was largely auto-biographical—so predictable!) But it wasn’t a book for duopress. Not yet. After thinking about it for a while, he came back with suggestions.

Duopress publishes innovative books for curious children. “The Shoe Book” had to be an innovative. Maybe even interactive. My original manuscript was very nice, but there was nothing innovative about it.

I started over, converting the words into an activity book. Letting go of my original approach wasn’t easy, but I trusted Mauricio and forged ahead, trying to combine his ideas and requirements for the project with my initial inspiration. The result was more than a manuscript for an activity book, because it had a voice: there was a story, told by a little girl. Her name changed a few times but eventually became Isabella. Page by page Isa shared not only her love of shoes, but her obvious love for her family and friends, and for the process of design.

“The Shoe Book” was becoming not only innovative, but special!

partySCANWith a working manuscript I made some art samples, including this painting. Although this watercolor didn’t come close to making it into the book, it helped me find the look of the book. Just part of the process.

Mauricio and I went back and forth revising the manuscript too many times to count, making changes even as I was up to my elbows in ink chasing that drop-dead-absolutely-final art deadline. It had to happen that way, because the book was innovative—something totally new and different—and every spread generated more creative ideas. Input from duopress’s copy editor, distributor, family friends, and our beloved designer Charla Pettingill also helped form the final product.

The result: Isabella’s Shoe Studio, which will be available this fall. We will be promoting the book this weekend at Book Expo America.

My name is on the cover, but Isabella’s Shoe Studio was most definitely a group effort, a true collaboration. The project evolved,  and we rolled with it. What a pleasure.

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The story about how this doodle storybook came to life has two morals:

First, for publishers: Get to know your team and encourage them to explore their passions. You’ll be glad you did. (It may interest you to know that Mauricio only owns 3 pairs of shoes, and two are exactly the same! If he hadn’t asked what made me tick, it’s doubtful that duopress would have a shoe book on the horizon.)

Second, for my fellow artists: Don’t be afraid to collaborate. Good ideas can always be improved, and they may die if they aren’t allowed to be shaped by smart people who are in the position to do something with them.

__________

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!

Ecclesiastes 4:10, from The Message by Eugene Peterson

revisions

22 May

baltsun-beachguide-0522I am currently teaching an on-line class which includes discussion questions about REVISIONS. While my students’ answers are generally insightful and well thought-out, I have to say, they also make me snicker. Just a little bit.

Revisions are a normal part of the illustration process. The job is not over until the art has been approved, and often that involves making changes.

A common misconception among many students is that being asked to alter your art is a bad thing. On the contrary, requests for changes are coming from smart, savvy folk who have a good eye and can see things in your illustration that you cannot, because you are in too deep. You’re too close to the project and, admit it or not, are probably also ready to be done with it.

Your submission has to please not only your art director, but editors, publishers, and possibly others as well. A committee! AND, the image (especially if it’s a cover) has to work with a type. When your A.D. asks for color or placement changes, it is for your benefit, because she is doing her best to make the cover kick some serious derrière. So, don’t resist. Trust!

A few weeks ago I was contracted to make cover art for a section of The Baltimore Sun, which was published today—that’s the cover, at the top of this post. The job involved several rounds of sketches.

Round 1

The client provided a concept: a close-up of a lady at the beach with several items reflected in her glasses. The list of possibilities for the reflection was long, which made me nervous. I wasn’t sure how I could fit everything in such a small space, and make it read well.

beachSketches_1

I showed two options (top row) with some of the stuff on the list—fireworks and a family playing tug-of-war—in the background. In the two bottom options, I played with arranging the tug-of-war and fireworks with other items from the list (wine and sundae tasting) in the lenses. Knowing this was to be a cover, I left the top of the art fairly simple to accommodate the title, making a mental note to keep the value and color contrast up there minimal.

Round 2

After several days my A.D. (Tracie Rawson) responded. The folk at The Sun liked the idea of putting some elements in the background rather than in the lenses, but could I please replace the wine and sundae tasting with classic foods from Ocean City? You bet. Two new sketches:

beachSketches_2

Round 3

Response: Love the kid eating fries, but the branding has to go. How about kid eating fries on one side, and carousel or roller coaster on the other?
beachSketches_3

I made options showing the carousel, the roller coaster, and (anticipating yet another change) a roller-coaster/carousel combo. But the client chose the carousel.

Round 4

beachFinal_1After submitting the color final (with plenty of room on all sides for the color to bleed), Tracie asked me to take out the half-tone screen in the sky behind the lady’s head, and to zoom in the carousel in the lens and tighten it up.

Because I work in editable Photoshop layers, these revisions took all of five minutes to make—it was no trouble at all—and her request improved the art. Once she began placing the type she wrote back and asked me to move my signature to the area above the curl in the lady’s hair on the right. Again, a quickie task. Not a big deal. And, as you can see at the top of this post, the result is amazing.