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Increasing Profit by Crunching Colors

(December 2007) posted on Mon Dec 10, 2007

This month, Trimingham describes how to reduce costs and presssetup time by determining the fewest number of colors required to produce a garment graphic.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Make quick work out of this step by jotting down the colors that you feel are necessary and then checking what you have to start with. You can begin to plan what you’ll either attempt to crunch down or have to live with as a necessary screen on press. With the preliminary analysis done you can move on to the more challenging areas of the color modification. The example lion image required at least 10 colors on initial analysis (Figure 2). This configuration didn’t work for the client, so the next step in color editing was isolating and selecting the areas in the design that could be crunched together to minimize the number of colors.


Controlled selections of colored areas

There is a definite component of artistic vision in selecting image areas in which to compress colors. Minimizing colors in an image without a careful plan will deliver a similar result to desaturating the image and taking away a lot of the vibrancy and impact that it possessed. The important artistic considerations are lighting, visual planes of structure, and overall appeal.

Lighting is a function of how the design is created with a light source in mind. Some artwork does not have a noticeable light source in the image, but most artwork that is illustrated to look multidimensional has a directional lighting that comes from somewhere in space around the design and affects where the highlights and shadows fall.

The planes of structure in an image are the underlying structural shapes that create the image. An easy way to understand this is to think of the design as a cubed shape that has several sides on it that is then lit by a directional light source. A dramatic example of this in regards to the lion artwork shows how the planes of the lion’s head are affected by the light source (Figure 3). Drawing this as a reference for color correction is obviously not necessary, but it does illustrate how the planes that are similar in lighting are logical areas to group together when reducing colors.


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