Happy accidents. Making riso zines with scanner – part 2

When the last post was about a printing failure, then this one goes to show that exactly the same things that ruin one comic, can create atmosphere in another. This is a riso print of my comic called “Eyes of Love”. Originally it was made with ink and orange watercolour, but I was curious to see how it would look riso printed. I weighed the option of doing the colour separation digitally, but as I’ve already written in this post, digital colour separation for watercolour can be a giant headache.

So I opted for handmade colour layers to use with the scanner. The first try was to duplicate the same colour scheme the original comic had. I printed the black layer directly from the originals. On the left one I used ‘Line’ setting (RZ570EP has 4 options – Line, Photo, Line/Photo and Pencil). ‘Line’ turned out to be nice and sharp, with a certain randomness reminding of a mezzotint. However, a couple of trials showed that it needs to be used with either minimal (1) or close to minimal (2) level of ink density in order not to have all details merged into black blots. On the right one I used ‘Pencil’ setting, which gives a softer and more grey result.

only 2 colours comp

These are the colour layers for orange (Sunflower Yellow, to be precise).

worklayer only pencil comp

As you can see, the pencil lines are stronger on the upper panels and it also shows in the orange coverage – the lower ones are a bit too light. Here my intention was to do both lighter and darker orange tones with one master, but technically they can also be separated into a lighter coverage layer and stronger coverage layer. The size of one page is A5. I taped the colouring layers to the scanner with painter tape and in this case it almost seems to have worked. The registration is not perfect, but it’s not too much off either.

After this attempt I figured that as I have three colours, why not try to print the comic with three layers as well. This meant adding a layer of Medium Blue.

3 colours 3 pages comp

This time I wanted the colours to be brighter and sharper, so I made new colour layers with black and grey markers. It helped a lot with the tone, although occasionally the marker line texture remained visible – it’s easy to see on the blue sky in both the upper and lower panels.

These are the colour layers for Medium Blue. No gradation, aiming for the brightest tone possible.

blue layer 3 pics comp

The downside with stronger brighter colours is that registration mistakes also show very clearly. However, here I actually liked them. The unintended white borders added an eerie atmosphere to both the panels where the man is fighting with crows and where the girl is walking through the field holding the torch. I’m starting to suspect that as the registration problems are always most notable with the Medium Blue drum, which is another size (B4 as opposed to A3), perhaps it has something to do with that. No proof yet though.

The orange layers had gradation, so I did parts of the colour layers in grey marker instead of black.

orange worklayer 3 pics comp7

It worked well in larger areas and not so well in smaller ones (torch), as the edges of darker parts remained too clear-cut.

Takeaways from this experiment:
When designing for handmade riso print, simplicity is the key. Larger areas of colour work better than smaller ones, so it’s better to leave details expressed with linework only. Negative space is also great. (I should have only used minimal shading on the girl’s face – it would have been more striking with more pure white areas.)

 

Making riso zines with scanner – Part 1

One of the main reasons why I bought a riso printer in the first place was to print my own zines and save the trouble of looking for a print shop with a decent price/quality balance every time. Naturally it didn’t turn out to be as straightforward a process as I had imagined. However, now after having printed 3-4 different zines, it’s probably a good time to make a summary of the lessons learned.

I’ll divide it into three parts: grand failure, accidental success and expected success.¬†And in order to set the expectation level low, let’s start with the epic fail.

This zine is actually the last one I’ve printed, so the traditional learning curve does not look like it’s working. So anyway, what was wrong with it?

First of all, the panels turned out to be way too detailed. Registration errors which otherwise can turn out to be a good surprise (just wait until part 2), here simply threw off the whole panel.

Secondly, the original technique – watercolour + graphite pencil – did not help. It is generally a difficult combo for a riso to handle, mainly due to colour separation issues. Riso loves even tones or gradations and watercolour as well as graphite pencil are anything but.

BID page 2 colour

So, here the plan was to work around the Photoshop colour separation headache and use extra pages (“riso sheets”) with coloured spots filled in with marker or graphite pencil. It’s a method I’ve used before and it can yield nice results. Just not this time.

The”riso sheet” for this page looks like this. Two pages from the dummy zine taped together on the back and the orange parts in black or grey depending on the intensity of colour I was aiming for.

BID worklayer 4

The pencil layer for orange turned out to be too light. The black parts worked fine, but as the registration was so imprecise and the image itself small, on some pages the boy’s T-shirt and its colour have only about 50% overlap.

BID page 7 colour

Using several different media for black (ink/graphite pencil/fineliner) didn’t give good results either. Smudgy pencil line next to clear black did not soften the image, as hoped, but simply made it look dirty.

Just to give an example, registration of the blue layer was no better. Occasionally it seemed to shift during the same print run, which I found perplexing. I normally tape the “riso sheets” on the scanner with paper tape to prevent them from moving, but even this was not enough this time around.

So, this was the failed zine. As it was so bad I didn’t even bother making a cover and stapling it together. Now in aftermath I reckon that it might have worked in monochrome (only black and white) and a much more simplified and clear line in drawing. Perhaps one day I’ll make a redo.

And that’s all for Part 1. Part 2 will follow soon!