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Grayscale Magic

(July 2012) posted on Tue Jul 24, 2012

Trimingham describes how to build incredible looking grayscale prints on dark garments

click an image below to view slideshow

By Thomas Trimingham

Creating the white plate As you can see for these styles of images, the gray screen becomes the underbase screen and the white can be printed on top of the gray (flashed, of course). The huge advantage to this is that both inks can then be run through much higher mesh counts than they would normally be. The gray will be brightened by the white on top of it, and the white will be underbased, thereby allowing the use of a reduced ink that can flow through a higher mesh count. The gray can be a 200-thread/in. mesh and the white can be a 190-thread/in. mesh using a 55-dpi dot.

These settings allow the highest quality print in this style with the least amount of ink buildup. To create the white, all you have to do at this point is duplicate the original image and then Curve out the lower end and save the highlights. Make sure to use a nice, smooth curve in the Curves menu so both colors blend well together (Figure 5). That way, the transition between the gray and white screens will appear very smooth and clean.

Practice with this style of separation can become second nature and extremely quick once you master the subtleties of it. Let’s look at a new image that will be created using the same method (Figure 6). The file had to be prepared properly, because again, in a close view, the edge quality was poor (Figure 7) and there were a few other issues. The leopard looked a little bored, so I copied the lower jaw, moved it up and closed its mouth and then duplicated the eyebrows and tilted them slightly in so the cat would look a little more intense.

The process of boosting the edge quality was almost the same as what I used for the wolf: I increased the contrast using Curves, then I sharpened the image using the Unsharp Mask dialog (amount 78 / radius 2.7 / threshold 1), and finally, I duplicated the layer and ran the Poster Edges filter (same settings) and then Color Range selected the black, created an extra layer, and filled in just the black and quickly edited it. This may seem like a lot of steps but it was only seven or eight minutes of work, which is a lot less than redrawing things or creating shapes or paths with the brush tool to define edges (Figure 8).

The separation followed the same method, except there were two overlay plates that were added to the grayscale image. These colors were reduced inks that were to be printed over the white and the gray at the end of the printing sequence. So the print was executed on press using this print order: gray, flash, white, flash, pale gold, gray blue.

The separations were produced in this order with first copying the image and placing it into the first alpha channel and then bumping it to make the gray underbase. This underbase was colored slightly to add to the color cast, so it wasn’t a pure gray, but more of a blue-gray underbase (Figure 9).

The next step was to again duplicate and then squeeze the original image using the Curves menu to produce the white screen, and this image was added to the next channel in the print order. The final colors were pulled using the CMYK method, where a duplicate of the image was split and then pieces of the resulting channels were merged back into the separations as a gray-blue and a pale-gold channel. This process was fully completed in less than 30 minutes, with the separations and final design all ready to print. The final product was bright, detailed, and still had a softer feel because it used less ink volume on the dark shirt (Figure 10).



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