19 June 2005

I.F: B&W

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This week’s topic for Illustration Friday (See sidebar) was B&W which is an area I’m fairly familiar working in. One of the hardest things about B&W is the shades or grey tones, as things can be hard to differentiate and too flat if you don’t use them; as with everything there are always exceptions but those mostly work in combination with colour.

I guess with digital copiers and scanners these days it’s easier to get shades by using inks, water colour, or pencils, but this is hard to pull off well. I feel this is because the illustration looks like it should be colour but was printed in B&W. (Two artists that do achieve grey tones with this method successfully I think are, Charles Adams and Quentin Blake.)

Sometimes ‘zipatone’ dots can be more effective because it looks as though it was always intended for B&W, and therefore not substandard. And with photoshop or some other simular program there’s no more cutting and pasting (which can also be a downfall, as it can lead to excessive reliance it)
See David Colliers ‘Frank Ritza papers’ for a good example of using grey tones successfully.
The other way to get shading which is by far the hardest to make it look right is cross hatching (My preferred method) I use cross hatching because you can do it then and there. If you’re out and about and you see something you want to draw, I don't wan't to wait untill I get home and scan it in. I don’t want to bring a set of watercolours either, I want to capture it then and there.
I guess the biggest problem with cross-hatching is that it can add too much texture. The drawing starts to look too much like the introduction to ‘Cheers’ or the walls of the ‘Pancake kitchen’. The sort of have that olden day charm due to the same techniques that used for reproducing newspaper illustrations.

Also there’s a little trick I learned in photoshop a year or two ago for cleaning up B&W art. I really used to pull my hair out with the whole process but if you scan in at the right resolution and file type (I usually go with 300 dpi TIFFs if I’m not enlarging) and use this little tool the results can be successful.
(Please forgive me if this is obvious for most but this took me years to stumble upon)
One of the problems with scanning in B&W artwork is that upon opening after scanning the white is has a tinge of grey and the black looks more like a weak charcoal. So how do you fix this…
My little trick is to take the tick out of the ‘contiguous’ box on the top tool bar which is after ‘tolerance’ and the ‘anti-aliased’ box on the paint bucket tool. What this does is to turn not just the selected and joining areas to your selected colour (White or Black in this case) but every simular area too. This is really handy for a detailed picture or one with a lot of cross hatching So usually (I didn’t use this technique on this illustration) I choose the paint bucket tool, have the tolerance set at the default of 32 (this can be lowered for a more subtle effect) and then make sure the tick is out of the contiguous option. I then choose white from the paint box and click on the area that should be bright white. Then I choose black and click on what should be black. Sometime you might need to zoom in and see how this has worked you might need to choose white again and click on any light grey areas, which are usually pencil marks (For this I sometimes change the tolerance down to something like 11)
Now all you smart alecks might say why not just use the contrast option (Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast) well I feel as if this isn’t really accurate enough, and can change the quality of the lines. At least with my method you can check on the lines as you go, to see if they’re not changing and distorting too much.


Anthony Woodward said...

With this illustration (Done with my Steadler .05 tech pen in my sketchbook) I decided to not enhance it in photoshop like i usualy do for print. This way I'm trying to blur what's B&W, and play with our notion of that (In art in life, etc)

Anonymous said...

Wondering where you saw this fellow when out and about - he is very well drawn. Also like your added notion :)

Will try your suggestion when cleaning B&W. Thanks for the lesson.

Julie Oakley said...

Hi anthony, your line-work and cross-hatching is so good, you really achieve all those tonal qualities so beautifully. The tutorial was really interesting and helpful

Anonymous said...

nice illustration. I'm a big fan of ink line drawings and cross hatching. They have a quality I like a lot. Some nostalgia in there I guess from the kind of illustration in books when I was a kid and I guess also from when I cut my teeth in Newspaper studios where a technical pen with either cross hatching or tint film sheets were the main tools of the art studio.

Charlie said...

OK, so I forgot like a duffus to include my name above....anonymous right above = me (sigh)

Anonymous said...

Lovely cross hatching (a skill that I've never mastered). I like this drawing a lot.


Shawn said...

Hey...nice illo...you'd probably dig Josh Cotter's art...he's a cartoonist from the American Midwest who does a book called "Skyscrapers of the Midwest". You both approach illustration from a similar angle.

Good work.


Ian T. said...

I'm going to have to contemplate this illustration for a bit, but it's a fascinating piece! I haven't done my B&W yet, but working on it...

I really, really like working in "pure" black and white. Some people think I'm crazy that my scanning preference is usually for 2 bit B&W, preferably at a high resolution (600dpi or above). This means that blacks are black and whites are white - I hate how greyscale can make b&w work look in print.

Like you, I still dig zipatone and I think you've nailed the reason why - it looks made to be what it is. "Moth & Tanuki" in OzTAKU magazine are still done that way, as it's a particular pulpy look I'm going for.

As you say, greys can weaken compositions, though it is unbelievably easy to add them, compared to the old days of having to get grey-screened bromides!

I might have to experiment with your scanning tip...

Anthony Woodward said...

Glad to read that some people might be able to use the photoshop technique. But as Ian points out there are 101 ways to skin a cat. so I guess you just have to find the way the works for you with the equipment you have.
I think sanning things in at 600dpi and then turning then into bitmaps can also help take your work from photoshop to illustrator and indesign. I think this also takes care of the contrast but haven't really used the technique a whole lot to know definitley.

Caffiend said...

hey anthony its Chris from lismore,got your latest scrambled package,very impressive,should have some goodies in return soon,we just got a computer so this is all new to me,have registered a blog as caffiendcreations but no idea what to do yet...guess i'll work it out,lots of little drawings and bits and pieces but mostly busy with our little girl who is nearly 5 months now. Love what your doing mate...very productive as always...cheeers snailmail package heading south this week to warm those ballarat winterdaze.