This week I had planned to start my long-promised "how to" on digital restoration and prepress for line work, but it has been derailed by some good news. The restored Reads printing is now complete and on the way to Diamond.
I had hoped that Marquis would snap a few photos of the book while it was on press, but at least we received a few snaps after the fact. Here's photos of some test signatures. Notice the "color bars" outside of the active area of the page, at the bottom of the form. These are halftones of a fixed dpi and density, and can be used to tell at a glance (or with the aid of a densiometer) how much gain is present on that part of the form.
If the finished book looks as good as the test signatures they produced, then we'll soon be looking at the slickest Cerebus volume yet.
When Dave discussed proofing Reads a few weeks back, he mentioned one image in particular that jumped out at him—Gerhard's rendering of the Peacock window. Here are a few before and after images of this illustration. You can see how much more detail was lurking in the art board, especially detail under areas of tone. White Letratone especially is a lot risker than normal tone, whether being shot by a stat camera or scanned without the benefit of sharpening and some manual adjustment—simply because the white/offwhite of the white Letratone dotes over black ink is lower contrast than black ink on white. It's the same reason overlapping areas of tone (say, two or three layers on top of some hatching) had the tendency to fill in more than expected. Each layer of overlapping tone lessened the contrast just a bit and thus made those dense areas subject to more fill-in. Factor in the discoloration of the tone over time and you might think the problem would only get worse. But that's not the case with the right adjustments, and I'll show why in my first prepress post next week.
And here's an image of the original art so you can see how the image was produced. Notice how yellow the "white" Letratone is at this point, and how little contrast it presents against the black drawing beneath it. (In the closeup I've adjusted the blue color channel a bit so you can more easily see the under-drawing, including the rendering of the decidedly male figure on the vase in the foreground. Lest you think it's purely decorative and unrelated to the themes of the rest of the book!)
And then there are pages that are much more dramatic than even that, due to the original negs being replaced by second-generation negs shot from print copies, somewhere after the first monthly book came out. Here's a good example of that.
Watch this space for more on Reads in the coming weeks, including an excerpt or two (and an outtake or two!) from my mammoth essay. As always, I'll look forward to your feedback once you have the book in your hands.