Overlay Pantones to Maximize Screenprinting Limitations

Screenprinting with Pantones is a great way to cut costs and ensure an accurate color match. But when you work with Pantones, paint is money. The company I print with has a price cut at four colors, which can be limiting for illustrators. I'm all for using limitations as a personal challenge, but sometimes an illustration just screams for more color.

Luckily, we can use the natural properties of Pantones to our advantage. As I explained in a previous blog post, Pantones consist of pigment + base. Some Pantones have a transparent base, while others have a white or charcoal base. Pantones with the transparent base are just that: a little transparent. 

Pantones with a transparent base can be overlaid to create a third color. Because of their transparent properties, light reaches both of the overlaid Pantones, and will bounce of your material in the form of a third, new color. This works the same way as mixing paints: blue + yellow = green.

The downside is, you can't completely predict how that third color will come out. This can be especially tough on the hyper-precise, Pantone-color-matching world of designers. But with a little luck, this technique will introduce more than 4 colors at a 4 color price.

Use Photoshop to separate hair from white background

My favorite way to add a new background while maintaining details in the hair

Before we get into it, this technique is really specific to certain images. First, it works best with a completely (0% K) white background. You can use it on something darker, but you'll have to fuss around with it more and it might not be worth your time. Second, it works best when the background you want to add in is lighter and not overly saturated.

I developed this technique while working with apparel mockups for Wine Winks. The apparel manufacturer supplies images, but they're on a white background. Boring. We wanted to spice things up without looking too computer generated, and this is the result.

1. Open your image in Photoshop. Duplicate the base layer. This is the layer we'll be working on.

2. Use the Magnetic Lasso tool to select your model (shortcut: L, or shift+L until you get to it). Be sure to grab the whispy sections of hair.

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 4.29.04 PM.png

3. Refine your selection in Select and Mask (with your model selected, hit "M" on your keyboard, then click the button in the upper-middle that says "Select and Mask..."). Set your Global Refinements to something similar below, or mess with them until you get what you want. Here's why:

Smooth: The Magnetic Lasso tool can be a little choppy, so I like to set a low Smooth. This gives a more organic outline.

Feather: In real life, object outlines always blend in with their surroundings a bit. Hard edges are a dead giveaway for digitization. Just don't overdue it. I virtually always stay below 2%, but usually below 1%.

Shift Edge: Depending on the photography you're working with and the selection you got from your Magnetic Lasso, you might not need to do this. Test it out, though. In mine, the model consistently has a white glow around her outline from the studio lighting. I like to minimize this glow so her lighting blends in with the lighting of her digital surroundings better.

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 4.31.03 PM.png

4. Hit "OK" to exit Select and Mask. With your new selection, Copy and Paste in Place (Cmd+C, Cmd+Shift+V). Title this layer "Multiply".

5. Duplicate your Multiply layer (Cmd+J). Title this layer "Details". 

6. Set your Multiply layer blend mode to Multiply.

7. Underneath both layers, create a new layer (Cmd+Shift+N) and fill it with 50% grey (Shift+fn+F5). Now your setup should look like this:

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 4.31.33 PM.png

8. Add a layer mask to your Details layer. Using a 0% hardness brush, erase the sections with hair whisps. These details are now revealed in the Multiply later.

There will be a few areas where there's white background trapped between some chunks of hair. To remove these, combine a few different brush sizes (all 0% hardness) to remove the shape. Then go back with a small brush and erase the outermost pixels of the hair. 

While you're at it, use that small brush to erase the outermost few pixels of entire hair outline. This makes a really nice blend from the Detail layer to the Multiply layer, and ultimately to the background layer we'll add later on. 

Here's what it'll look like:


Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 4.33.47 PM.png

9. You're ready to add the background! Add this underneath the Detail and Multiply layer, on top of the 50% grey layer. This works best with lighter grey backgrounds, but you can experiment with others. Here's what it looks like with our current model (apologies for pixelization):

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 4.38.25 PM.png

10. Add some shadows on a new layer to make it more lifelike. Here's another example of an image with this treatment and shadows: 

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 11.16.39 AM.png

Grouping contents in After Effects to organize write-on effect

I don't work on After Effects too often, so every time I do I forget how to group contents. Grouping is a good way to keep everything organized, especially when it comes to write-ons. Instead of doing a mad search every time I'm on Ae, I thought I'd post.

  • Build out your paths for write-on technique in separate shape layers
  • Bottom layer is your content that'll be masked (probably Ai or Ps file). Set the track matte to the shape layer that you'll throw all the paths in.
  • Add groups to your shape layer under "Shape 1" dropdown. Add > Group (empty)
  • Rename your new group to reflect the path. In my case, my path is a mask for the letter "D"
  • Move the Path and Transform layer to the new group.
  • Add and tweak trim paths.