DC’s Mark Chiarello Talks Comics, Colour And Paper Stock

Colour in comic books has become appreciated as a skill by the comic industry far more than it used to be. Partly this has to do with the technology and printing techniques now available to comic book colourists in which they can demonstrate their artistic skill more than ever before. Indeed if you are in London, Orbital Comics has a colouring class a week on Friday with Marissa Louise that might be of use.

Back in June, Bleeding Cool got the word that DC Comics was making significant changes to its paper stock, in the wake of the DC Walmart comic books. And so it has come to bass with the shiny glossy paper replaced with thicker matt stock paper. At the time we also reported that, internally, DC Comics were working with colourists to reflect the change to their work that the new paper stock would necessitate.

And we quoted professional colourist and President/CEO of SotoColor Graphics, Chris Sotomayor, who told us what such a change from any publisher might mean. And that he would have to;

Get profiles from the publisher for the new stock. Chances are the total ink limit has to be adjusted down a little bit.

In yesterday’s DC Nation #4, DC art director Mark Chiarello wrote about colour – and especially colour saturation – where this came up. And what happens when paper such as this new stock soakes up the ink. He writes,

Whenever you prepare colored artwork for print, color saturation must be considered in that process. Saturation means the amount of ink that makes up each color that is used.

The higher the percentage of each hue in a particular color, the more saturated that color is going to be. And the more saturated a color, the more ink of that color a printing press will slap on that paper.

For example, a color made up of just 30 percent cyan is going to be very light, because the lower percentage of ink allows for the white of the page to show through, whereas a color made up of 100 percent cyan, 75 percent yellow, and 75 percent magenta will be much denser.

Oversaturation remains a common mistake of colorists who are just starting out. Some paper stock will just soak up all that ink, making it darker on the page. It makes the page look “heavy” and overcolored. Instead, use saturated colors in one area of a comic panel-like people-and counterbalance that saturated area with lighter, less saturated colors elsewhere in the panel.

Otherwise, without that balance, the art will just look cluttered and unfocused. For DC books, it’s not uncommon for colorists to communicate with our Production team to fine-tune ink percentages in preparation for the paper their work will be printed on.

Which seems to be just what happened with this new stock. Here’s a look at the differences this can make…

He talks a lot more about the process in the free magazine itself…

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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