Blocking being done in Illustrator

Process: Editing Separations (Again) For Print

Guitar playing robot closeup

Figure 1. Close up of The Guitar Playing Robot print in it’s nearly final state

Note: This is Part Three of a process post. For earlier posts see Process: Digital Art Editing of the Guitar Playing Robot and Process: What Counts As Cheating When Making Art?

Three months! That’s how long I’ve been editing separations on this image and making little adjustments to it. Mind you I’ve got a full-time job and house to maintain and I’ve been working on some other art projects in the meantime. As disgusted as I am with my slow progress, I’m rather glad I didn’t call this done three months ago. To refresh your memory, here’s what it looked like then:

Guitar Playing Robot Serigraph Comp

Figure 2. Digital comp from September 2014

It was okay and some people said some nice things about it, but it just felt like it needed something more to me. So now I’m going to walk you through the refining process.

Added strap webbing and shadows

Figure 3. Small additions and subtractions

Minor, but important changes in this iteration. I knew from the get go that the guitar strap was going to get some detail. I’d considered lightning bolt or skull graphics, but in the end just went with some detail to the strap webbing. I asked my printer, Steve, how feasible this was because now the purple and red screens are working together to make a sixth color. I said I didn’t care what color it exactly made with one or the other being somewhat transparent, just that the detail came through. In this case he said he’d print purple first with red on top. After I started playing with the color in the webbing, I brought it to the guitar in the way of shadows on the horns, body cut, and underside of the neck. I really like the addition. However, I felt the edge reflection on the body carving was now too much and removed it. While editing separations I try to be mindful of things that are difficult to print and removing the reflection also avoids having the purple and red screens butt up together against a blank area instead of trapped under the keyline (that’s black here if you’re not in the know).

Adding a glow to the figure

Figure 4. Introduction of glow

So I was feeling a little better, but there was still of lot of blank space around the figure and it melted into the background too much. Using the mouse I crudely traced around it on a new layer in white. I liked how it kind of punched up and I didn’t really mind that the black background dots were still in the border at first.

Dots in the background

Figure 5. Dots

Speaking of dots, here’s a picture that didn’t make it into any of the process posts before. Back in August I had drawn some dots for this project and this is how they made it into the background. Dots went everywhere they needed to be and the extras were erased.

Cleaning up the white border

Figure 6. Cleaner white line

Maybe those dots could have remained in the glowing border, but I had to see what it was like without them. This was a pain because the dots had already been merged with the top black layer. Fortunately I had some backup copies (this is a good practice, but it’s easy to forget) of the image that helped me sort them out and separate them without too much fuss.

Darkening the background

Figure 7. Darker background

Darkening the background or adding some interest was always in the forefront of my mind. Here I darkened it by adding a 2px (that’s two pixels) stroke around all the dots. The first attempt I made at this was by duplicating the layer and nudging it. It was an okay effect, but had the potential to look smudged.

The background getting too dark

Figure 8. Too dark

Sometimes you have to go too far to know that you have gone far enough. I pushed the darkness of the background here by putting a 4px stroke around the dots. It was too much, but easy enough to reverse.


Figure 9. The diffused glow

I’d posted a work in progress shot to my Facebook page and my sister noted that with the darker background the glow around the figure seemed too stark. She may have been right. So I decided to add a twinge of purple to it. This is what my screen looks like zoomed into the image at 100%. It serves to illustrate a few points. First, there are a couple little white spots in the black of the leg that need to be touched up. Second, for whatever reason when I put the halftoned effect on the leg cuff I used squares instead of circles (you will probably have to click to enlarge the image to see this for yourself). I’m not sure why I did this or if it will work, but since I’ve got circles everywhere else (like in the glow that you see here) I need to fix this as well.

Lastly you can see the stars that I’ve added so far. At this level of zoom I’m unimpressed. Unlike the background dots the white stars aren’t hand drawn. This will be a change I make before it goes to print. I’m not sure how noticeable it would have been in the final version, but it’s the details that count.

Nearly finished Guitar Playing Robot print

Figure 10. The composition nearly done

And that brings us full circle. Is it done now? No, not quite. At 7200px x 5400px this image is nearly 39 million pixels. I’ll pan through it zoomed in and look for all sorts of defects, after I make up my mind about a couple other aspects. In this version you see a thin black border around the print. I also experimented with double borders, hand drawn borders, feathered edges and so forth. The thin black border won.

I like that it is broken up by the blasts and that the guitar body isn’t confined to it, but I have to play around with how the border terminates at the guitar body. Should it stop at the glow? Should the glow follow the guitar body outside of the frame? Admittedly changing the glow back to white would eliminate some questions, so that’s something to consider as well. There’s also the fact that I have to get to work on some hand drawn stars. I’m going to try a couple techniques for that as well. Hopefully the next time I post about this image I’ll be picking up the prints and posting them for sale.


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