Saturday, March 17, 2012

Digital vs Print Comics

There's an article at Comic Book Resources about the quality of "Digital" vs "Print" comics...
The author, Augie de Blieck, claims that print comics are "...like looking at a VHS copy of a movie versus a Blu-Ray...And if this is DC's print publishing program for Vertigo, I think I'll stick to the digital comics, thanks."
As someone who has worked on comic book production from 1981 up to the present, I can tell you, Augie is full of $#!t.
The problem is simple.
Comic books today are colored on computer.
The colors are based on the RGB system, which is "additive color", meaning that when you add all the colors together, you get white!
Add to that the fact that the image is on a screen which is also the light source throwing both the light itself and the image right at your eye!
Coloring for print is based on CMYK system, which is "subtractive color", meaning that when you add all the colors together, you get black!
In addition, the light source is above, behind, or around you.
It hits the page, and both the light and the image are reflected back at your eye!
Augie doesn't realize that files prepared for RedGreenBlue color, as almost all comic files are these days, simply do not print well!
What looks good on screen may not come across well when printed with CyanMagentaYellowBlack inks unless some translating and enhancement is done.
Unfortunately, most of today's colorists are incapable of doing that, having been reared with RGB only, and taught to optimize for the screen, not print!
They can't help it.
They're what I call web-heads, untrained in using printing inks or paper to create imagery, except to send their files to an ink-jet or laser printer.
Add to that the fact that some paper stocks don't take really fine screens well and muddy-up when printed, and you end up with a mess on the printed page!
Using a coarser printing screen would produce better results on lower-quality paper.
Apparently, neither Marvel or DC has in-house staff these days who can successfully translate RGB files to CMYK, or spec the correct lpi screens for various paper stocks!

This was the official DC Comics Style Guide Color Chart in the 1980s...
Click on the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art for a really BIG version!
Does that look "muddy" to you?

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