Saturday, April 27, 2013

774 - Creating Aged Print Art

Since I've created a number of digital art pieces that look like print art, I thought it might be a good idea to show a method for easily creating art that looks aged using Photoshop.  Specifically, I am looking to reproduce something that would look like a pulp or comic book page from around the 1960's or so.
I've picked a relatively unremarkable JSVB entry to illustrate:
Line-art image.  Any image should work, as long as there are some parts that have flat colour. However, for a comic-book look I'll start with line art.
Optionally, you may want to replace the black line with something lighter.  I used Select Colour Range to select all of the black and then filled the selection with a dark grey-brown.  This is to simulate the nearly-black ink used in old comics and newsprint, called "Key".  Key black is dark enough to look like back, but is thin enough not to soak through cheap paper stock which could cause expensive jams in newspaper presses.  Against pure white, key black looks very dark. 
The first big step is to colour your image.  Since I use a stylus, I just "paint" it by hand.  You could also use the Photoshop Paint Bucket if you are a mouse user.  You need to divide your colours between "process" and "halftone" colours. 
There are six process colours in Photoshop, simulating the six inks a printer is most likely to use.  They are at the top of the default Photoshop Swatch palette.  There are two sets of process colours: RGB and CMYK.  RGB colours are intended for computer screens, while CMYK colours are intended for print.  Choose which set you prefer.  Since I want to simulate print, I used the CMYK colours.  In order, the six colours are Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta.  The RGB colours are in the top row.  Then there are some greyscale swatches, then the CMYK colours. 
The RGB process colours start with Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Magenta.  Then there are 10 greyscale swatches.  Then there are the CMYK Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta.  The RGB colours are more vivid than the CMYK colours.

Open a new layer and use whatever process colours you want in your image.  Set the layer to "Multiply" so you don't have to worry about colouring over the lines.   Don't use any halftone colours on this layer:
I've used process CMYK red and cyan.  Pure red isn't a traditional CMYK colour, but it could be used as a custom ink.

Open another new layer on Multiply and colour the remaining image with your half-tone colours.
The flesh and aircraft are in colours intended for half-tone, since they are not process colours.  These colours are on a different layer than the process colours or the line art.
  They won't look half-toned until you apply the Colour Half-Tone Filter in the Pixelate menu under Filters:
Use the default settings because they are usually good.  You may have to adjust the Max. Radius pixels to make the half-tone look good.  Note if you are using a very low resolution image, the smallest pixel value may still make your image look blotchy.  Apply the Colour Half-Tone filter to the layer with the half-tone colours.  Don't apply the filter to any other layer:
The half-tone colours are rendered in classic half-tone.  The process colours remain solid.
The next step is to "age" the "paper".  Most cheap paper is seldom pure white.  I like using a cardboard texture:  either scan or photograph a blank piece of cardboard, or find a free-to-use image on the Internet:
If it's brown cardboard, use Saturation to make it more grey.  If it's grey cardboard, consider adding a faint dark orange hue.  The paper should look slightly brown.
Copy the cardboard image to a new layer on top of all the others in your artwork.  Set this layer to Multiply.  Depending on your cardboard texture, the image might be too dark.  Simply turn down the Opacity on that layer until it looks right. 
That's the basics of making an aged image. There's a couple more tricks you can try.
If you are using line art, consider applying a small amount of Gaussian Blur to make the lines less sharp. 
You can also scan or photograph rips you make in a blank sheet of paper.  Copy and paste the rips into the image.  Change the layer value to Luminosity to get a rip that looks good without having to apply a lot of corrective brushwork.  You may have to use an eraser set to around 30% to smooth any cutlines, though. 
The finished image.
Do you recall the step at the beginning where I created a simulated key black?  Since it's lighter than true black, you can see where the colours will bleed on top of it.  It's a sloppy effect, but intentional since it is difficult to avoid bleed when using cheap ink and paper.  It gives the image a retro "pulp" look, which ironically enough, adds aesthetic value.
Look carefully at the key black lines, and you will see intentional colour bleed from both the process and half-tone colours.  A small detail but full of retro authenticity!

I use these aging techniques a lot.  Since Photoshop breaks images down into very precise digital detail, sometimes I need these techniques to simulate the randomness of analogue printing.