Tag Archives: Duopress

The Art/Music Connection: Part 2

24 Dec

Part 1: In a Nutshell

Kandinsky writingKandinsky: 1920

Wassily Kandinsky opened the door to abstraction in art by painting music. That’s him in the image above, with his cat Vaske. Read the whole story in duopress’s new book¬†Artists and Their Pets by Susie Hodge with illustrations by Violet Lemay.

Professor Violet: 1998

An art teacher uses music to help her students understand the expressive qualities of LINE.

Scroll to the previous post to read Part 1 in its entirety. ūüôā


Part 2: Art Inspires Music Inspires Art


Gray: 2017

My teenage son is a talented artist and musician whose taste is almost exclusively classical. Once, as a baby, he danced to The Beach Boys. Video proof is locked in the family vault where it must stay lest I be disowned as a parent.


Excluding that singular event, Gray has always been an all-classics-all-the-time kind of guy. This year he’s gotten into classical Russian art and music.

In his research, my son stumbled across a cool story involving a collaboration between Russian artists and musicians, resulting in an amazing art prompt.


Modest Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

Composer Modest Mussorgsky and artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann were friends who shared a love of Russian art.

After Hartmann died of aneurysm at the young age of 39, Mussorgsky and a group of mutual friends curated a memorial exhibition to celebrate their late comrade’s life.


Mussorgsky experienced the resulting gallery show as any viewer would, walking from room to room, admiring the 400 or so framed works that adorned the walls. The experience inspired him to compose Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874.

Each of the ten movements of Pictures at an Exhibition expresses emotions experienced by Mussorgsky as he stood before an image created by his late friend Viktor. The interlude expresses his emotions as he walked from one work to the next.

Click here to read a more complete version of the story.


Professor Gray’s Drawing Prompt

Gray sat me down to listen to Pictures at an Exhibition, at a table stocked with paper and a variety of drawing supplies.


The prompt: make a drawing in response to the music. Draw whatever pops into your head. Anything at all.


Gray paused the music between movements, to allow me to finish whatever I had been inspired to draw.

The exercise turned the Russian composer’s experience on it’s head. Mussorgsky composed music in response to visual art. We made visual art in response to his music.


My professor/son couldn’t wait to compare my drawings to Viktor Hartmann’s. Were they similar? Indeed, it was uncanny how closely my sketches resembled Hartmann’s original works, not only at an emotional level, but also in terms of subject matter. This was particularly interesting since I had never heard of Victor Hartmann, and had no idea what the source images looked like.


Gray stumbled across a YouTube video that pairs Mussorgsky’s score with the inspirational source images created by Hartmann. Click here to have a look and a listen. As for my drawings, they are sprinkled throughout this blog post.


The Pictures at an Exhibition drawing prompt is extremely relaxing and fun. I recommend it for any artist who is looking for a break, or for general inspiration. And for the art teachers out there: this assignment would surely keep a class entertained for an entire period, and would be a springboard for a range of important topics. Enjoy! And if you give it a go, snap some photos and send them along… I’d love to see!


 All best,

Professor Violet


The Art/Music Connection: Part I

16 Sep

gallery girl

I love stories about creative people. Learning the details behind a specific artistic inspiration or collaboration always makes my heart beat a little faster. Yes, I am an art nerd, but I’m not exclusive; tales involving serendipty are also a personal favorite. Lately a story including all of these juicy elements has been unfolding around me. The story is too long for a single blog post, so I’ve broken it in half. Welcome to Part 1.


Klee, Kandinsky, and Music: 1920

While illustrating Susie Hodge’s new book Artists and Their Pets, I learned a lot of cool art history trivia. For example, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky were friends and colleagues who had a lot in common. Along with their wives‚ÄĒand cats!‚ÄĒthey lived at the Bauhaus at the same time.

bauhaus catsKlee’s cat Bimbo and Kandinsky’s cat Vaske used to study each other from across the Bauhaus campus courtyard, looking through their apartment windows.

Paul Klee

Klee and Kandinsky had music in common, too. Klee (shown above) was a violinist. As for Kandinsky (below): he could see music!


In Artists and Their Pets, Susie Hodge wrote:

Kandinsky had a condition called synesthesia. This meant that he saw colors in his mind when he heard music and other sounds.

Not everyone believes that synesthesia is a thing‚ÄĒbut really, does it matter? Kandinsky interpreted sounds on canvas as he saw them in his mind, and his work looks like music. The world owes him a debt of gratitude for opening the door to abstract art. I personally am also grateful to Susie Hodge and duopress, publisher of Artists and Their Pets, for teaching me about Klee, Kandinsky, and the eighteen other artists featured in the book.

Note: this story about Kandinsky’s synesthesia¬†was brand new to me. I just learned it. Seriously.

Professor Violet: 1998

Way back in 1998, I was about to teach my first-ever university art course: 2D Design, a required foundational class. In a nutshell, 2D Design teaches artists how to use color, value, pattern, shape, placement, line, etc. to move the viewer’s eye around a two-dimensional composition, hopefully moving emotions in the process.

Twenty seats were filled with incoming art students who had recently arrived from all over the world. EPSON scanner imageSoon they’d begin dying their hair and piercing body parts, but in those first weeks of the fall term, they looked clean cut and bashful‚ÄĒexcept for a one or two young goths, who were ahead of the game. ūüėČ

nervousTheir interests ranged from sound design to historic preservation of architecture. Of course, the more typical art majors were also represented: painters, illustrators, fashion and graphic designers, etc. A broad range, some of whom had no interest at all in drawing. Or 2D design. They were there to fulfil a schedule requirement, not because they  were interested in the subject. In fact, some were openly annoyed to be there. And I was completely new to teaching. It was terrifying.


Imagine a World Without Pinterest

If the internet existed in 1998, I hadn’t found it. Google wasn’t available as a teaching resource. My colleagues were very generous with their lesson plans, but like any creative person, I had some ideas of my own that I wanted to try out. I concocted tons of homework and in-class assignments that term, but I only remember one. And it involved music.

Professor Violet’s Introduction to LINE


On LINE Day I arrived on campus armed with my husband’s boom box, a stack of CDs, and a giant box of art supplies. The students trickled in to find me organizing an array of line-making tools on the big teaching desk at the front of the classroom. Markers, every imaginable type of charcoal, brushes with pots of ink and tubes of paint, colored pencils, graphite, pastels, etc. were arranged in tidy rows.line-making toolsHanding out sheets of paper, I explained:

We will be listening to music today. Every song will make you feel a certain way. Get a sense of the mood, and then grab a tool and make a line that match the mood. Let the music inspire the line.

For the next several hours the classroom was filled in turns with classical piano, discordant jazz, opera and elevator muzak. Mimi’s aria from La Bohemme raised the industrial ceiling tiles. We listened to Phillip Glass, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ella Fitzgerald, The Talking Heads, Patsy Cline… and interpreted every song by making lines on paper.measure

michaelI was nervous. At first they all just sat there. I paced. But then, little by little, they started drawing. A gentle young sound designer from somewhere in the south‚ÄĒor maybe he was from California‚ÄĒmet my eyes with a smile. His name was Michael. He had crazy long curly hair, and antique glasses. “I never knew something as simple as a line could be so expressive,” he said. And my heart melted, and I stopped pacing. Mission accomplished.

Using music as an inspiration for art is a fairly obvious prompt. Probably millions of art teachers have employed a similar technique! I don’t mean to suggest personal greatness in teaching. No way, never. It’s just that this story, which is one of my fondest professorial memories, came to mind when I learned about the bond between Klee, Kandinsky, and music… and as mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is more to this story! When you read the rest, it will all come together.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (spoiler: it involves composer Modest Mussorgsky, my son, and another drawing prompt). In the mean time: Happy reading, happy learning, happy drawing!




To order a copy of Artists and Their Pets, click here!

Artists and Their Pets was written by Susie Hodge and illustrated by Violet Lemay for duopress in 2017, and is distributed by Workman Publishing.

All illustration in this post was created by me, Violet Lemay. Please do not use without permission. ūüôā


Artists and Their Pets

18 Aug



I’m excited to announce the imminent release of a wonderful new book, Artists and Their Pets‚ÄĒwritten by Susie Hodge, with illustrations by Yours Truly, Violet Lemay. The book is full of fascinating stories. In light of recent world events, I thought I’d share one in particular.




Matisse, Picasso, and The Dove of Peace


Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, two of the twenty artists featured in Artists and Their Pets, had a lot in common. Friends and rivals, they both loved animals and kept pigeons and doves. Toward the end of his life when Matisse was ill, he entrusted Picasso to look after his fancy pet pigeons. Here is a snippet of the story from Artists and Their Pets:


There wasn’t room in Artists and Their Pets for this part of the story:

peace dove*

Picasso’s lithograph¬†‚ÄúLa Colombe‚ÄĚ (The Dove)‚ÄĒwhich was actually a rendering of a pigeon‚ÄĒwas¬†used on a poster commemorating¬†the Peace Conference in Paris in 1949. The poster was plastered everywhere, making Picasso’s dove famous, and linking his art with the cause of peace.

Picasso continued drawing doves, stylizing and simplifying the form of the bird as he went.


I originally had the pleasure of illustrating Picasso and his doves for Mauricio Vel√°zquez de Le√≥n’s 2014 picture book 100 Pablo Picassos‚ÄĒa lovely and creative biography of Picasso for small children. Here is a sketch…hands y dove… and a peek at how the whole thing came together.


In response to the recent terror attack in Barcelona, duopress‚ÄĒpublisher of Artists and Their Pets and 100 Pablo Picassos‚ÄĒposted a snapshot of these pages on Instagram today, along with these words: Picasso’s simple drawing of a dove became a symbol of peace in 1945.¬†#picasso¬†would be shocked by the attacks in¬†#barcelona, a city he loved. This image from our book¬†#100pablopicassos¬†is our message of¬†#peace¬†to all the victims of yesterday coward attack and all the citizens of¬†#spain¬†¬†#love¬†¬†#noviolence¬†#stopterrorism¬†#nomoreviolence

Well said.

Wishing you all peace, joy, love… and art. ‚̧




Click here to pre-order Artists and Their Pets (available everywhere September 15, 2017)

Click here to order 100 Pablo Picassos (available everywhere books are sold)

behind the scenes of “BABIES AROUND THE WORLD”

28 May

Recently, duopress released¬†Babies Around the World¬†‚ÄĒ a 20-page board book written by Puck, designed by Beatriz Juarez, and illustrated by moi, Violet Lemay.

We opted for a collage look for the book, which was a fun departure from my¬†watercolor paintbox.¬†A¬†new iPad Pro¬†gave me my first-ever access to digital brushes.¬†Babies Around the World¬†was my¬†pioneer attempt at creating images¬†without using any traditional media… with a few special exceptions!

Working Digitally

After adding an iPad Pro and Apple pencil to my studio, setting up my new digital workspace was easy. All I had to do was purchase and download two genius, easy-to-use tech products:

  1.  Astropad, an app that converts the iPad Pro into a tablet by reflecting your computer monitor
  2. digital brushes from Kyle T. Webster

Setting everything up¬†was easy. I’ve used Photoshop to adjust and manipulate scans of my paintings for eons, so the only new skill I had to acquire was loading brushes. It took me a little while to get used to Astropad and to decide which of Kyle’s plethora of cool brushes to use, but that is to be expected. Both suppliers‚ÄĒTeam Astropad and Kyle T. Webster‚ÄĒwere super nice and offered great support. (By the way, besides designing brushes for Photoshop, Kyle is also a terrific illustrator. Check out his portfolio here.)

The Few Special Exceptions to My New Digital Process

My son Graham and I have always used his school breaks as opportunities for mother-son artistic collaborations. His work has made its way into several books I’ve illustrated, including NY Dogs, a gift book that I wrote and illustrated for punchline¬†shortly before acquiring the¬†iPad. Graham contributed a hand-drawn map to NY Dogs, for which he is credited in a splashy way at the end of the book (see previous post).

Here is his drawing, and how I incorporated it into NY Dogs.

Last summer, because of his special interest in architecture, I gave Graham the assignment of drawing various structures from the cities featured in Babies Around the World.

Some are quite famous, like the San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid, but others are more obscure… because Graham¬†appreciates buildings that most of us have never heard of. That’s my boy.

Here are some of the drawings that Graham contributed to Babies Around the World, along with the final images so you can see the end result.

Graham is a traditionalist‚ÄĒhis drawings are made with Micron pens¬†on printer paper, which I scanned and¬†collaged into my illustrations.

Because Babies Around the World is a board book with very few pages, all of the fine print‚ÄĒincluding Graham’s credit‚ÄĒis on the back cover.

The Re-Cap

1) Astropad and Kyle T. Webster’s brushes have revolutionized my illustration process, and are aiding my effort to save the planet. Previously I went through¬†at least¬†a ream of paper every time I illustrated a book‚ÄĒas shown in this photo of my file from NY Dogs. #recommend! Click their names above to be redirected to their websites.

2) Working with Graham is simply the best! As I write this post, my son is fifteen years old. We’ve been collaborating since he was six or seven, and I hope we never stop. All this time he’s been wild about buildings, and has been contributing tech drawings of his favorites at a¬†cool website¬†called skyscraperpage.com. He has posted over 4oo buildings to date‚ÄĒcheck out his drawings by clicking here! But please don’t tell him that I sent you. No inter-family tagging allowed. ūüôā


BATW 3D cover + globe


Click here to order Babies Around the World,¬†written by Puck and illustrated by Violet Lemay (with a little help from her son Graham… who drew the front cover globe!)

published by duopress / distributed by Workman Publishing / 2017


9 May

thinking I couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by this year without mentioning¬†Gray, my only child,¬†who happens also to be my occasional co-conspirator in the realm of book illustration. This ginger fellow may be¬†taller than me now, but is barely a teenager‚ÄĒhe turned thirteen last fall, just a few months after he contributed drawings to one of my latest book endeavors, duopress‘s 100 PABLO PICASSOS. blue period Summarizing¬†the incredible life of Pablo Picasso for a 32-page children’s book would be a difficult task for anyone, but author Mauricio Vel√°zquez de Le√≥n made it look easy. There are 14 two-page spreads in the book, each devoted to a different topic: Picasso’s Blue Period (above), his Rose Period,¬†the years he spent chumming with the likes of Max Jacob and Henri Matisse in Gertrude Stein’s studio (below), etc. paris The first spread in 100 PABLO PICASSOS is devoted to the artist’s early life‚ÄĒand this is where Gray comes in. hillside sketch Gray is DNY QR codean amazing artist‚ÄĒhe made the above sketch, which is such a tiny sample of his overall body of work that it is laughable. In my house, storage tubs filled with¬†thirteen years of this kind of thing¬†are stuck in every closet and under every bed. Because of my son’s¬†particular interest in architecture,¬†duopress contracted then-nine-year-old¬†Gray to doodle some famous Big Apple¬†buildings for the web component of Doodle New York (by Puck/illustrated by Violet Lemay/2012). A handful of QR codes are sprinkled throughout Doodle New York, which are linked to downloadable coloring pages‚ÄĒseveral of which were drawn (with a blue ball-point pen!) by Gray… whose professional name is Graham Fruisen. The coloring pages are still available, but you can only see them if you buy the book and scan the QR codes.¬†When you do, imagine a skinny, freckled, bespectacled teenager groaning with despair. “That is not my best work!” carrot top As soon as¬†I read Mauricio’s manuscript for 100 PABLO PICASSOS, I knew I would enlist Gray’s help for the “Picasso as a boy” spread. The mom in me was excited because school was out for the summer, and I was looking stuff for¬†Gray to do. I asked him to contribute drawings of donkeys, doves, and bulls‚ÄĒnot Gray’s typical genre, but he was willing to dabble. My hope was that my new assistant¬†would just draw them already!¬†As a boy Picasso drew in a classic style, very similar to the way Gray tends to draw‚ÄĒbut my son¬†went the extra mile. He¬†researched Picasso and did his best to draw donkeys, doves and bulls as he imagined Picasso (the grown up, world renowned artist) would have drawn them. The result (below) is beautiful, even if it isn’t exactly what I had in mind. But hey, this is what happens when illustrators¬†pay their assistants with Little Debbie Swiss Rolls and blueberry freezes from the corner Quickie Mart. 100PP_boy spread Our resulting collaboration, 100 Pablo Picassos, is newly available everywhere books are sold.¬†Click here to order your copy today! And¬†THANK YOU, Gray! You’ll always be my baby. Mama loves you, boy. baby gray

Promoting 100 PABLO PICASSOS, part 1

11 Feb

Over the summer I worked very hard illustrating a new book duopress book, written by Mauricio Velázquez de León: 100 Pablo Picassos.

100 Pablo Picassos is¬†a 32-page children’s picture book, every square inch of which¬†is crammed¬†with full-bleeding spreads as well as¬†tons of spot illustrations.

100PP studio im progressI got to draw Picasso doing everything from painting and sculpting masterworks to doodling on a sketch pad in the bath.

After the release date, I’ll write a nice long post about how we made the book, which is the brainchild of the author Mauricio Vel√°zquez de Le√≥n.

It is February as I’m writing this post, three months before the official release date of¬†100 Pablo Picassos; however, hard copies are already available for pre-order and will actually materialize¬†everywhere books are sold in April, and the e-Book versions are good to go now. As a contributor, it’s time for me to start making some noise!

Making Some Noise

Thanks to my former life as a professor of self promotion, there is a small part of my brain that is always clicking away, trying to come up with innovative ways to publicize whatever project has been holding my attention. The obvious first step is always social media, because it is easy and free.

Use Existing Art

minotaur sculpturePerhaps most obvious way for an illustrator to promote her upcoming book is to generate interest by¬†sharing¬†the art that she’s already created for the project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and etc. I’ve been taking advantage of the plethora of illustrations¬†that we created for 100 Pablo Picassos, posting little bits of it daily‚ÄĒalong with interesting photos and facts¬†of¬†Picasso’s history¬†acquired from the internet‚ÄĒon my Violet Lemay Illustration Facebook fan page. I’ve been pacing myself, “leaking” the art slowly, a task made easier for 100 Pablo Picassos because it contains many, many spot illustrations; however, the same approach can be applied to a book whose every page is covered with full-bleeding two-page spreads. The artist of such a book could tease her audience and draw out the promotion process by posting close-up detail shots from each spread, leading up to the big moment when she posts the whole image in its entirety.

Make New Art

One advantage that book illustrators have over authors in the area of promotion is that, for any given project, we can create as many additional visuals as time and interest allow. As you can imagine, immersing oneself in the history¬†of Pablo Picasso, one of the world’s most colorful and prolific artists, was both humbling and inspirational. Picasso’s life and his work drew me in as an artist, inspiring a bevy of personal work aimed at promoting the book.

Portraits of Friends

First, I dabbled in acrylics creating Picasso-esque portraits of friends and family members for some upcoming gallery exhibitions.

MargeauxThis was so much fun, and was one of those roads down which I had to walk‚ÄĒit was either that,¬†or die. You artists know what I mean. Some inspirations tickle a little and make you twitch; others come at you with a whip.

I will write about those portraits and the gallery shows in greater¬†detail later this spring as the dates get closer. Or¬†perhaps after, so I’ll have photos to share. Let’s wait and see.

Portraits of Picasso’s Ladies

More recently, spurred on by the approach of Valentine’s Day, I’ve been working on a series of¬†small, quickly-done watercolor portraits of Picasso’s many love interests.

Even a tiny bit of digging into Picasso’s romantic¬†life produces results that can only be described as spectacular. Because 100 Pablo Picassos is a book for children, the author handled the entire topic with grace, tact, and an absolute minimum of words.

100PP_rosesWe show only one of Picasso’s many lady friends in 100 Pablo Picassos, so I had only one existing painting on the topic to share for Valentine’s Day (above), which features Picasso’s first girlfriend/muse, Fernande Olivier.

Knowing the truth about Picasso’s¬†romantic life as I do now‚ÄĒso many women, all who had an impact on his art in a profound way‚ÄĒthe idea of¬†posting¬†only a single image¬†on¬†the topic seemed¬†underwhelming. I could have devoted my daily facebook posts to photos of all of his varied wives and paramours, but I am an illustrator after all. Instead, I decided to paint them‚ÄĒquickly this time, and much smaller that my previous Picasso-inspired portraits.

The result is a new and ever-growing series, including this watercolor portrait of Eva Gouel.


I will be posting my portraits along with interesting photos and facts about these¬†lovely ladies (including Bridgitte Bardot, the object of a Picasso crush!) on my¬†Violet Lemay Illustration Facebook fan page, as well as¬†on¬†Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest‚ÄĒall for the cause of promoting the upcoming release of 100 Pablo Picassos. I would love it if you’d follow along.


Mme P coverIf all of this has piqued your curiosity about the women in Picasso’s life, you may enjoy reading Madame Picasso by Anne Girard (Harlequin MIRA, 2014). Madame Picasso, a novel (historic fiction), tells the story of Eva Gouel; it’s a fascinating read that slows down a few years¬†in the life of this great man, whose timeline is regularly assessed in large spans. Click here for more details.


100PP outlined cover*

To order 100 Pablo Picassos, click here.

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!¬†


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 ‚ÄĒ 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‚ĄĘ. 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‚ÄĒsee below‚ÄĒand 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. ūüôā

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‚ÄĒvery 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‚ÄĒusually multiple times before achieving a perfect print‚ÄĒfor 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‚ÄĒsee 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‚ÄĒbut 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%.


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.

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

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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‚ÄĒthis one is a list of the world’s color systems.

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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.

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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 Vel√°zquez de Le√≥n.¬†Click here to see all of duopress’s books.