Monday, August 31, 2020

Tool box time: Spot Color


By Christopher Robin Negelein

I started my professional life in the newspaper biz, where (and when) web presses ruled. Web presses, by the way, is always plural because you needed four of them to print black, blue, red and yellow ink -- basic color theory as you know it. Technically, this is called Process Color, but you could just as easily just use only two of the presses to give a black and white newspaper a splash of color, or Spot Color. 


Meanwhile, out in the rest of the printing world  digital Full Color* has been evolving thanks to computers, software, and etc. So for the longest time a publisher had six options, listed in decreasing cost; full color, spot color, and black and white with either in hardcover or softcover.

But that’s changed in the last decade as  digital  Full Color has come down in price a lot while the old web presses have been phased out. (More like dying out. It’s a cliche to say, “They don’t build them like that anymore,” but in the case of web presses those things were Industrial with a capital “I.”) 

So nowadays for pro RPG books the difference saved between printing Spot Color vs Full Color is not worth the drop in presentation -- especially when you wan to show off all that sexy (metaphorically) commissioned art. Here’s the thing, though …

 ...indie RPG makers usually “print” digital PDFs and have a dearth of commissioned art.

As a small guy, you rely on lots of stock art that has very little tying it together stylistically, never mind that some of it is in color, some of it in grayscale, and a smattering of black and white illos. 

Spot Color is one tool you can use to visually tie an assortment of art together for a digital product and avoid having some of your art stand out for the wrong reasons. 

First convert your color art to grayscale or even black and white (depending on your Photoshop Fu),then  you can use  Spot Color in a variety of ways:

  • An art element in your header, footer, or side margins
  • An element in your tables
  • All of the art could be spot art
  • Headers and subheads or even section lines
  • Or even single element in all of your art 
    • Sci-fi game? Spot color energy sources
    • Make glowy eyes in all the art for a body snatcher game, 
    • Have an Urban Fantasy game, use spot color for  magic effects

The ways to use  Spot Color are limited only be the imagination of the graphic artist. For me, I like to be judicious. It’s nice if I get some color on every page, but it’s not necessary. 

The real beauty is that, for now, we don’t see much Spot Color anymore so it can stand out artistically, and it doesn’t cost you anything in a digital project other than time. 

Give it a try.

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