Sunday, May 19, 2013

Flatting & trapping for scared webcomics artists

I was near-apoplectic with fear before I handed my pages over to Oni Press. I was sure they were going to tell me off for my unflatted pages. All I have ever done is scan my linework at 600dpi in black and white, converted to RGB, coloured white bits between the lines with the paint bucket, converted to CMYK, and prayed. (Sometimes I didn't even pray.)

There's a lot of nonsense talked about flatting and trapping comics for print. There seems to be a huge hangover of ancient lore. Whenever I see a post where someone describes painstakingly lifting their linework up and filling the areas behind it - whether with the BPelts plugin or otherwise, I feel sorry for them. If you work with black and white line art, you don't need to do this. You don't have to try to colour a page, pre-monstered with the BPelts multifill, that looks like this:

(My apologies to the artist in question, who I am not singling out for criticism. Quite the opposite - he/she is plainly a brave soul) 

On my older books, just the act of converting to CMYK turned the RGB black into a very rich CMYK - too rich really. But I got away with it. Before I sent my art to Oni, I tried to find out what the correct rich black ratio was. I figured that was the only way I might get away with not having to painstakingly recolour hundreds of pages.


If your line art is solid black (ie scanned at a high resolution and not anti-aliased), colour the page any way you want, then convert to CMYK if the page isn't CMYK already, select all the black linework at the end and fill it with a 60C/40M/0Y/100K black. That's it. I've done this for multiple major comic book publishers, as well as on my own self-published work, and it is apparently wholly acceptable in preventing trapping errors (white hairline gaps around the lines when pages aren't properly registered).  

NOTE: Don't colour your lettering this way. Keep it 0C/0M/0Y/100K or it will look slightly fuzzy on the page.

1 comment:

Tom Ebert said...

As a graphic designer and former QA for a print company, I can affirm that if it's in CMYK, it'll print. Some of the absolute crap we'd get from people would astound you, as you'd assume someone willing to drop a couple grand on printing would at least hire a designer. But hey, it prints, and prints fine.

But, obviously, you do want your text to be 100K and nothing else, since you'll notice very tiny shifts from one plate to the other. Text requires the consumer to concentrate on it, so what is unnoticeable in line art can become a migraine in text. Even then, however, if you're using a modern press, the issue will be minimal. You're right that most of the advice you find online comes from old holdovers, or is a way of covering your ass if you happen to go with a discount printer. If they're worth a damn, however, their pre-press team will alert you before you print something that looks terrible.

Take all of this and throw it out the window, however, if you're printing in a newspaper.