Rubylith and Zipatone
Daniel Clowes’ “Glossary of obsolete commercial art production techniques” from Fantagraphics’ latest artist edition.
Was watching Cartoonist Kayfabe’s preview of Fantagraphics’ beautiful “Daniel Clowes: Original Art”. I’ve read a lot of comic artist interviews lately, and sometimes wondered about old-school terms like “pantone sheets” and “rubylith”. Was delighted when I saw the second last page of the book contains a “Glossary of obsolete commercial art production techniques”.
“A uniform dot pattern printed on what was essentially a transparent 10" x 14" sticker, sections of which would be peeled from the backing and adhered to the artwork to create a printable grey tone. The sheets came in various percentages, dot sizes, and in many stupid, unusable patterns.”
“Acetate sheets covered with translucent red film. The film could be cut from the acetate and peeled away – weirdly satisfying – leaving the remaining red shapes to indicate a second color or tone. There was also an Amberlith for people who hate red.”
“To create a color layer separate from the black line art, the artwork would be photographed and made into both a black version printed on clear acetate, and an exact matching version printed in light blue or gray (AKA Graylines) on which to do the coloring.”
Pantone Color Film
“Same concept as Zipatone – translucent sticker-film sheets with solid colors rather than black dots. Used mostly with the blueline method, though occasionally applied directly to the line art. Incredibly aggravating to use.”
Watercolor & Gouache
“In the pre-digital age, these techniques were fraught with danger. Gray tones would clog, darken or disappear entirely in the printing process, while certain (most?) colors would come out looking nothing like the had on the original.”
“This is how they did the coloring on mainstream comics (and on Eightball #s 5–14). You would color a xerox of the line art with watercolors and then write a code for each color (Y2R183 = 20% Yellow, 10% Red, 30% Blue, e.g.). It was then sent off to a pro Color Separation House where the actual work was done. A total crapshoot.”