K is for Keyline

cineworld folkshopping ladiesWith my comic strip project underway I see the world differently. I’m more aware of people in action in colour. But there’s the problem; in the minute it takes for a shopper to trundle along the high street with her trolley or for a cinema-goer to walk to his seat with that vital cup of coffee, I’ve barely time to sketch the basic details, let alone add colour.

I need some kind of colour shorthand but if, for instance, I scribble down ‘bl’ I can find myself wondering later whether I meant blue or black. Similarly ‘gr’ could stand for green or grey.

coffee manpasser bySo how about using the CMYK colour printing process to distinguish the primary colours? Cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The ‘K’, as far as I can discover, stands for the ‘key’ or ‘keyline’ colour, the one that, in the four-colour process, brings the three primaries together by adding a ‘keyline’ to define the image (and to give a bit of solidity to what would otherwise be a rather pastel image).

When I was working on my Richard Bell’s Britain sketchbook, I always used Pelikan Special Brown indian ink for lettering and for the vast majority of my drawings, so Collins experimented by replacing the black that they’d normally use in the printing process with the Pantone equivalent of Special Brown.

handThis warmed up the colour in my drawings compared with the originals and by printing on slightly tinted paper we ended up with a book that looked slightly nostalgic, which wasn’t really my aim. The other extreme, which we also experimented with, would have been to print on the pure white paper that they used for field guides but that gave a rather stark zingy look to my drawings.

Rannoch Moor in Richard Bell's Britain.
Rannoch Moor in Richard Bell’s Britain.

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