Sunday, 12 June 2011

Coloring the Woodpecker

Ever wondered how coloring was done back in the 60's?
A few years ago I stumbled over a set of proofs from Western Publishing, the company that published the Disney, MGM, Walter Lantz titles etc. But not only proofs for the black lines but in some cases for the colors too.
Let me run you through a few samples. In this case the proofs comes from Woody Woodpecker #122, a reprint of WW #65. Artwork is by Paul Murry. The writer and colorist are both unknown.

First we have the inked artwork.
While the original art was drawn large, the size of the proof is 100% of the printed comic book.

Then we have the proof for the Yellow color to the left. To the right we see what it looks like when the black proof for the yellow color has been scanned and placed in the yellow channel in Photoshop, together with the black lines in the black channel.

Then we have the proof for Red placed in the Magenta channel.

And then the Blue proof placed in the Cyan channel. 

Now, let's combine Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black into one CMYK file.

What puzzles me are the big chunks color that doesn't belong to the page. Does anyone know why it's there?

With all the proofs combined it's easy to clean the page from that extra "mystery" color.

Bonus page: I guess most of you can see wich Carl Barks story that inspired the writer of this Woody story? :)

And finally a panel for those of you who thought this post was interesting and wants to see those screentones close up. ;)



Anonymous said...

The "mystery" color seems to cover mainly the balloons? You mention how the colorists worked back in the days, but do you mean that they actually colored by doing three separate sheets which combined to the full color page in the printing process?

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

If I understand it right they used pens with different percent of gray. (Or so I was told many years ago.) Those gray shades was then converted into screen tones. So to get a specific green tone they had do use a specific percent of yellow and a specific percent of blue on two separate sheets. No wonder some stuff could end up beeing colored slightly odd.

If anyone knows exactly how the grey shades were converted into screen tones please leave a comment here. I'm curious. :)

Anonymous said...

If you look at the EC process and Kurtzman's and Severin's color schemes, they did watercolors annotated with CMYK values, which were then sent to the printers for further work. Carl Barks mentions something about "a bunch of girls at the printing plant doing the overlays" (not his exact words). This leads me to thing that one hypothetical process could be like this: For every color area, the corresponding area is painted with opaque color on acetate sheets. One sheet to every particular CMY combination. This can then be exposed in a camera with varying exposure times for CMY, thus creating three individual monochromatic CMY negatives. These are finally shot onto line film through a raster glass plate, creating the "dots". In a process like this, each separate area only has to be colored (or masked) once, and that mask is then reused for every CMY color that the area contains.

ramapith said...

It always bothered me that Woody's (originally red) topknot became a straight magenta in the later Western comics ( the earlier ones it was the authentic fire engine red, wasn't it?).

Still: fascinating stuff! I'd never seen authentic Western color masters before this discovery.