Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Digital Spot Color Systems

Creating illustrations for print requires knowhow when it comes to preparing image file color for commercial printing. All commercially printed material is produced by using “process” and/or “spot” color systems. Software programs have built in color selection options to accommodate the needs of commercial printing. Process color is easier to understand and use in file preparation, because there is a standard color space provided for in software for it. Spot color requires a different method for its use and image preparation. This is a basic explanation of these color systems and how they are applied to be helpful to digital illustrators who have not worked directly with commercial printing companies.

Process Color

Also called CMYK, process color is cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The term “process color” originated to classify a “process” of combining dot mesh screening using the CMYK colors in combination to simulate a full spectrum of other solid looking colors and a continuous tone appearance to artwork and photographs. Solid colors are actually “optical” mixtures created by combining flat screen meshes of CMYK. The most common use of process color is in commercial printing where it is called “4-color process printing”. In basic color theory terminology, process color is a subtractive color model, meaning that the overlapping of CMYK colors subtracts from page brightness by absorbing wavelengths of color.

The four ink colors used in process color printing.

Enlargement of process color screens optically mixing to create colors. 

Spot Color

A spot color is a solid color of ink that is created by mixing pigments. The term “spot” describes the common use for the ink for printing solid shapes, i.e., spots of color. Spot color is most often used in commercial printing where process color printing is unnecessary. For instance, when printing stationery where only two colors are needed. It is also used to enhance process color printing as a fifth, sixth, etc. additional color. An example of this would be printing 4-color process illustrations in a brochure and printing a fifth color for the logo of the company producing it. Every spot color used in an illustration or design must be custom mixed as a solid color by the printer in the correct quantity. There is no “optical” mixing of colors as there is in process color printing.

Pantone® Matching System®

There are several different spot color ink systems used throughout the world. In the US the primary system used is the Pantone Matching System. Pantone, now a subsidiary of X-Rite Inc., was founded in 1963. The Pantone Matching System, referred to as the PMS system, offers 1,677 distinct colors that are created from 15 Pantone base colors including white. The colors have been standardized by the use of the Pantone Formula Guide. 

Pantone color selector resident in Adobe Photoshop.

Using the guide and the base colors printers can mix any of the 1,677 inks with complete accuracy, so it is possible for two or more printers to print a single publication with remarkable color accuracy. 

15 Pantone base colors to mix all the inks in the Pantone Matching System.

Pantone Base Colors
PANTONE Yellow, PANTONE Purple, PANTONE Yellow 012, PANTONE Violet, PANTONE Orange 021, PANTONE Blue 072, PANTONE Warm RedPANTONE Reflex Blue, PANTONE Red 032, PANTONE Process Blue, PANTONE Green, PANTONE Rubine Red, PANTONE Rhodamine Red, PANTONE Black, plus PANTONE Transparent White.

Pantone Color Bridge®
Although based on the Pantone Matching System, the Color Bridge System was created by Pantone to show what the PMS solid color inks will look like when printed using process colors. There can be substantial color variance between Pantone solid colors and the CMYK interpretations of them due to the narrower gamut of process color printing. (See below.) It is important to note that colors specified in the Pantone Color Bridge will not be printed as spot colors.

Pantone Color Bridge selector resident in Adobe Illustrator.

A comparison of the Pantone Color Bridge swatches on the left 
to Pantone Matching System spot color swatches on the right. 
Note the variance between the Bridge CMYK simulations and the actual
Pantone spot color swatches.

Toyo Ink®
Toyo Ink, another ink system now popular in the US, was formed in Japan in 1907 and incorporated in 1979. Toyo offered alternative spot colors to the universally adapted Pantone Matching System. It began to be specified by US designers and used by printers in the 1980's. The Toyo Color Finder System offers 1050 ink color formulations that are arranged on the Munsell color model. (See Digital Color Spaces post under Lab Color.)

Toyo base colors for mixing all spot color inks in the Toyo Color Finder.

Toyo Base Colors
TOYO Warm Red, TOYO Rhodamine Red, TOYO Purple, TOYO Violet, TOYO Green, TOYO Reflex Blue, TOYO Black Tint Base, TOYO Opaque White, plus Process Yellow, Cyan and Magenta.

Additionally, Toyo manufactures Pantone base ink colors for use with the Pantone Matching System, the difference being the chemistry in Toyo inks. The pigment, vehicle, and additives used differ than those used by Pantone.

HKS Ink®

A lesser know, custom color system containing 120 spot colors and 3250 tones, the HKS Ink System is in common use in Europe. It was collaboratively developed by three companies, l.Hostmann-Steinberg, Druckfarben, Kast + Ehinger Druckfarben, and H. Schmincke & Co. 


Introduced in 1990, TRUMATCH is another color system based on the Munsell theory of color. It is a 4-process color to spot color-matching system. Much the same as the Lab Color Space, the TRUMATCH Color Finder system looks at color using a 3-dimensional construct of complimentary color along a vertical luminosity scale. TRUMATCH claims to be more accurate at matching process meshes to simulate solid color than standard digital formula CMYK mixing. The accuracy comes from assigning digital colors from actual CMYK printed samples rather than from RGB color representations on-screen. The result is “wysiwyg” color.

Patented in 1984 in Wales, FOLCOLTONE stands for “FOur-COLor-TONEs”.  The FOCOLTONE system uses the four process colors, CMYK, as base inks for mixing solid colors to match 763 process colors. The CMYK inks are used in varying percentages to make each of the 763 mixed ink colors, 860 colors in Adobe Software. A FOCOLTONE color formula would be specified in Grams and look like: 0 Cyan, 5.26 Magenta, 14.59 Yellow, 5.54 Black, and 74.61 Transparent White.


Formed in Japan in 1907 and incorporated in 1937 as Dainippon Printing Ink Manufacturing, Most popular in Japan the DIC Color System Guide. Very similar to the Toyo Color Finder system, DIC Color is a spot ink color system also based on Munsell color theory.


The American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) developed a palette of 300 spot colors for use in usage in newspapers with high volume press runs.

The ANPA index color selector.

Additional Resources
The Pantone® Matching System© is available for reference use on IOS devices from the iTunes store as “myPANTONE”. And though it is already plugged into Adobe software applications, the ”DIC Colorguide” is available as a free app from the iTunes store.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Digital Color Spaces

Digital visualization software offers a variety of color environments to suit the needs of illustrators and designers. Each environment has its own purpose and uses. Most of us are quite familiar with the color spaces we use. Still, a basic understanding of all of the color options can be useful.

RGB (The Monitor Model)

The RGB color model is composed of the primary colors of red, green, and blue. The model, also known as the transmitted model, is an additive color system. Color systems are classified by how the primary colors relate to white. An additive system means that when all three primary colors are added they create white.  When two of the primary colors are combined they produce a secondary color. In the RGB system the secondary colors are cyan, magenta and yellow. Color monitors and digital projectors use the RGB system to display color. According to the trichromatic, Young-Helmholtz theory of color vision, the RGB color system aligns very closely to the way the human eye processes color.

RGB color model. © 2012 Don Arday.

CMYK (The Print Model)

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Not to be confused with the “B” in RGB, black is represented by “K”. Also referred to as a reflective model, the CMYK system is a subtractive color system. When CMY are combined they create black. White is produced by the total lack of color and a white paper surface. When two of the primary colors are combined they produce a secondary color. In the CMYK system the secondary colors are red, green and blue. This alignment creates compatibility between the CMYK and RGB systems when creating work for print output on a monitor system.

CMYK color model. © 2012 Don Arday.

HSV (The Color Theory Model)

HSV is the acronym for hue, saturation and value. This color model is also called HSB or hue, saturation and brightness; and HSL or hue, saturation, and lightness. Very familiar to illustrators, the HSV model is based on standard artists color theory. Although not specifically relating to display hardware or printing equipment, it is an available color model in many image software programs as a more intuitive system for use by artists.

The “hue” is a color. For instance, the color of sky on a clear day is a blue hue. Every color is a hue.

The “saturation”, also called chroma, is a variation in intensity of a color. It is the amount of grey proportionate to the hue. Saturation can be used to alter a hue.

The “value” is the amount of lightness or darkness in a color. Brightness can also be used to alter a hue.

HSV color model. © 2012 Don Arday.

Lab (The Color Opposition Model)

Lab is an acronym. The “L” stands for lightness; the “a” signifies the range of opposition between green and magenta; and the “b” signifies the range of opposition between blue and yellow. Starting at a neutral center greens are negative values while magentas are positive values. Similarly, blues are negative values and yellows are positive values. This complimentary color concept should seem familiar to illustrators and designers. A simpler way to understand Lab color is to think of warm colors as positives and cool colors as negatives. The type of Lab color used in computing is the CIELab model. The CIE stands for the International Commission on Illumination. The Lab system is based on the Munsell color system. Basically, the Lab and Munsell color spaces are extruded 3D versions of the familiar “color wheel”. Although an excellent model for helping artists to understand color, the Lab system is not as compatible as RGB or HSV for use on monitors or in software programming due to its complexity. The next time you are working with an image in Photoshop, switch over to the Lab color space just to see how surprisingly different the colors in your image appear.

Lab color model. © 2012 Don Arday.

Grayscale (The Luminosity Model)

The Grayscale model is simply a range of tones between black and none or white. The range in the grayscale model used by Adobe contains 255 shades of gray plus white, and it is an 8-bit mode.

Grayscale color model. © 2012 Don Arday.

Indexed Color (The Color Compression Model)

Like the 8-bit Grayscale model, an Indexed Color model is limited to a finite index of colors. There are several Indexed Color models in common use, including a 16 Color model, the PhotoImpact Optimization Palette, the Graphics Interchange Format palette, and others. The Standard Web Browser Palette with its limit of 216 colors is an Indexed Color model. The Index color space in Adobe Photoshop is limited to 256 colors. In the case of the Photoshop Indexed Color space, colors in a non-indexed color image are altered to match the 256 colors available. To achieve this each pixel color is shifted to the nearest color in the color palette and then dithered with similar colors to optically mix the non-available colors.

ANPA (American Newspaper Publishers Association) index of color

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

10 Digital Art Copyright Definitions

There are many misconceptions concerning the use and effects incurred by copyright law. “Copyright Law of the United States”, published by the US government is 351 pages long. Although much of the information doesn’t pertain to visual artists, that which does, is absolute, so it pays to know how copyright effects what we do as illustrators for our livelihood. Whether work is created digitally or traditionally the same laws apply.

© 1995 Don Arday.

#1 Copyrightable Art

All art is copyrighted from the moment it is produced or becomes a fixed copy. Copyright means the right to copy. “Copyright protection subsists … in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” In the case of digital art, the display of a work on a monitor through a digital transmission constitutes the establishment of a copy. “A work is 'created' when it is fixed in a copy.”

#2 Notice of Copyright

Before April of 1989, copyrighted art had to be accompanied by a copyright notice. The word “copyright” or the familiar “©” symbol had to be displayed with the artwork. At the present, all art is copyright protected whether it contains the symbol or not.

Now that said, use of the word or symbol is recommended. The use of it serves as a warning to possible copyright infringers, in this way, it can authenticate and strengthen the protection of your artwork.

The copyright symbol is available on keyboards by the keystroke <option g> or <alt g>. It is also available through the Object Palette in many software programs. The correct form is: Copyright: Date(s): Author/Creator/Owner. The word “copyright, the symbol ©, or the abbreviation “copr” may be used.

#3 Original Work

A “work of visual art” is a painting, drawing, print or sculpture, existing in a single copy, in a limited edition of 200 copies or fewer that are signed and consecutively numbered by the author, or, in the case of a sculpture, in multiple cast, carved, or fabricated sculptures of 200 or fewer that are consecutively numbered by the author and bear the signature or other identifying mark of the author.

For digital artists this still applies. A digital painting or drawing illustration created in Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, or any other image-based software, is considered a “painting”. Digital drawings created in Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, etc., i.e. vector illustrations are “drawings”.

#4 Copyright Law

Copyright law in small doses falls into the category of “civil law”, meaning that your legal rights as the artist would have to be implemented though the initiation of a law suit. However, large violations involving 10 or more copies with a value of over $2500 is a felony, which falls into the category of “criminal law”. In the case of all art, to display a work publicly means to transmit it.

#5 Derivative Work

The derivative work concept is perhaps the most misunderstood part of copyright law. The derivative work clause regulates the use of copyrighted reference material. For some illustrators this can have a great impact on the use of reference material. Copyright law supports the making of derivative works, but only by, or through the permission, of the copyright owner.

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.

It is highly advisable to exercise caution when using published work as a reference source. As alluded to in copyright law, every photograph, artwork, artifact, etc. is copyright protected.  And through the internet, gathering reference copies of images has never been easier.

#6 Fan Art

Fan art is a form of derivative art. It is when another artist uses original characters or settings created by the originating artist. For instance, when an illustrator uses Spiderman as a straightforward character in a promotional illustration. This kind of use requires the permission of Marvel Comics. However the parodying or making fun of a copyrighted character or situation does not require permission of the copyright owner. This falls into the category of “fair use”, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t end up in court.

This is important to know. Fan art using settings and characters from a previously created work could be considered a derivative work, which means the copyright would be owned by the character/settings originator. So, if I did an illustration of Spiderman, I would not own the copyright of my own work! And, any display of my fan art Spiderman would be an unlawful distribution of a derivative work.

#7 Fair Use

Fair use is the use of a copyrighted work, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. If the reason for use of a copyrighted work falls under this description it is not an infringement of copyright. However, the following factors go into determining whether the use would be considered fair use: The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

#8 Work Made for Hire

A “work made for hire” is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work; such as a movie, audiovisual work, a supplementary work, a compilation, an instructional text, test or answer material, or an atlas.

A “supplementary work” is a work commissioned for publication to support the work of another author. Illustrations commonly fall into the category of supplemental work. Examples of supplementary works by illustrators would be non-self authored commercial editorial illustrations, commercial book illustrations, corporate illustrations, etc. Nearly every commission could conceivably be a work made for hire, but only if agreed upon by the illustrator and the commissioning party. All parties must expressly agree in writing to the “work made for hire” designation.

Watch out. It is vitally important to consider the following: If a work is "made for hire", the employer, not the illustrator artist, is considered the legal author and owner of the copyright for the work. Many publishing houses and magazine conglomerates are adopting and enforcing “work made for hire” contracts. This may sound absurd, but bound by one of these “work made for hire” contracts, the original illustrator would have to get permission from the contractor to display or publish the illustration.


VARA also known as “The Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 or Statute 106, exclusive rights in copyrighted works. VARA protects the “moral rights” of the artist as it relates to his or her creation. Only “works of visual art”, a painting, drawing, print or sculpture, existing in a single copy, or in a limited edition of 200 copies or fewer qualify for VARA benefits. VARA gives the artist creator the exclusive rights to do or authorize the following:

Concerning the Work (Statute 106)
The right to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies; to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; to distribute copies the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending; and in the case of pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, to display the copyrighted work publicly.

Concerning the Creator (Statute 106A)
Titled the “rights of attribution and integrity”. The right to claim authorship of a work; to prevent the use of one's name on any work the author did not create; to prevent use of one's name on any work that has been distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way that would be prejudicial to the author's honor or reputation, and to prevent distortion, mutilation, or modification that would prejudice the author's honor or reputation. Authors of works with "recognized stature" may prohibit the work from being destroyed. These rights persist for the life of the author.

#10 Copyright Registration

Copyright registration serves to verify the ownership and date of creation of a work of art with the authority of the United States Copyright Office. Registration of a work does not constitute a “granting of copyright”. Copyright is automatically granted when the work created and displayed. However, copyright registration establishes a public record and adds proof of copyright ownership to aid in fighting copyright infringement.

The US Copyright Office provides standardized forms. The web locations are linked below. The basic registration fee is ($65) for a single work or a group of works. Two or more individual works can be registered on one application with a single filing fee under certain circumstances, see below. Electronic filings made online through the Electronic Copyright Office or “eCO” are available at a reduced fee for ($35).

A group of unpublished works can be registered as a collection if all the elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly form, the combined elements bear a single title identifying the collection as a whole, the copyright claimant for each element in the collection are the same, and all the elements are by the same author or, if they are by different authors, at least one author has contributed copyrightable authorship to each element. All of these conditions must be met and works registered as an “unpublished collection” will be listed in the records of the Copyright Office only under the collection title.

For published works, all copyrightable elements that are included in a single unit of publication and in which the copyright claimant is the same can be considered a single work for registration purposes. An example would be a children’s book with multiple illustrations.

Sources and Resources

US Copyright Office Website
Single Visual Arts Copyright Registration Form VA
Single Visual Arts Copyright Registration Short Form VAS
Group Visual Arts Copyright Registration Form GRVA
Electronic Copyright Office System
Copyright registration for Works of the Visual Arts
Copyright Office Fees

The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional legal advice.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vector Or Raster: Which to Illustrate With

Digital illustrators use programs that are based on raster or vector interpretation of data, and all of us who have worked with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator have experienced how different the workings of the two programs can be. Illustrator tends to be used more by illustrators and graphic designers that tend to focus more on object making. Illustrator is referred to as “object oriented” software. Photoshop tends to be used more by illustrators, photographers and designers who lean more toward making pictures. Of course these assumptions are not absolute, and the developers of both Illustrator and Photoshop have blurred the lines between raster and vector as they have evolved. This comes from each program attempting to provide a totally functional software solution. For instance, Illustrator uses some raster display effects and offers the user an option to rasterize elements and to use raster painting effects. Alternatively, Photoshop offers Bezier pen tool functionality, the option to use vector masks, and to create and save outlines. So with the cross adaptation between raster and vector, these software programs offer illustrators new options that didn’t exist a few years ago. And on top of all this, software programs like InDesign allow the use of both raster and vector components in a single document. One thing that can help illustrators and graphic designers make the decision as to which direction to go is to consider the purpose for the illustration, i.e., the software choice is determined by how the image must function. In order to make that decision an understanding of properties of raster and vector imaging is indispensable.


Vector software is object oriented, a collection of objects that always retain their integrity. Straight and curved lines, gradients, and shapes including letterforms are an expression of mathematical descriptions. The positions, scale, and display attributes of all objects are noted mathematically using algebraic equations. Altering objects within an image results in an alteration of the mathematical data. This form of image processing preserves the integrity of the objects themselves. Because of this, there is no image degradation as a result of changing any of the objects attributes.  Even when an object, say a perfect circle, cannot be viewed properly on a monitor without some distortion, because monitors display in pixels (picture elements), the circle will exist as a perfect mathematical construct. And, with the right output device will appear so.

Illustrator vector file viewed in outline mode. © 2000 Don Arday.

Vector graphics are also referred to as “device resolution independent”, which is sort of an oxymoron. Although a vector document is dependent on a monitor or a printing device in order to be seen, the data itself always remains independent of any form of display or output. For instance, a vector image printed on a high-resolution 9600dpi printer will have a resolution of 9600dpi, and the same file printed on a low-resolution 300dpi printer, will have 300 as its resolution, and so on, but the original document data does not change.

Illustrator vector file viewed in preview mode. © 2000 Don Arday.

Vector files are much smaller than raster ones due to vector documents being based only on mathematical descriptions and not on pixels. For this reason vector files are extremely portable and very well suited to certain functions. Resizing a vector image is done by multiplying the mathematical description of the objects in the image by a scaling factor, so a file size of a vector illustrations will be the same whether it is output as a 3” x 4” spot illustration or it has been resized to be output as a 12’ x 16’ mural.

Small, efficient file sizes.
Infinite scalability of images without a loss of quality.
Excellent type rendering, manipulating, and editing abilities.
Ability to apply mathematical operations to image components.
Accuracy in rendering geometric forms.
Ability to edit image elements.

Ability to render continuous tone full color images.
Ability to globally edit color brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and value.
Ability to apply editing filters to images.


Raster software is pixel oriented. Raster files are made up of individual picture elements, or pixels that are perfectly aligned arrays of color and value. Pixels run edge to edge, covering the entire surface of the image. Straight and curved lines, and shapes are all combinations of pixels. The size, position and attributes of parts of an image are all relative to their makeup in pixels.  The resolution or size of a raster illustration relates to, and is limited by, the number of pixels contained within it. As a side note, raster images display truly on monitors because both raster images and monitor displays are made of pixels, whereas monitors simulate vector images, which have no pixels.

Raster images are “device resolution dependent”. The output quality of an illustration is dependent upon the resolution required by the display or output device. This means that illustrators must know the intended function for their illustration in order to properly create it. For instance, a 3” x 4” Photoshop illustration for use on the web can be created at 72ppi (pixels per inch), and it would display smoothly, but the same file printed on a 1200dpi image setter would look jagged and “pixilated”. In other words, the pixels that make up the illustration would be conspicuous to the viewer making the image quality appear very poor. Conversely, that same 3” x 4” illustration created at 300ppi would print nicely, but used on the web, it would slow down or pause the loading of a webpage. Due to device resolution dependence images are not upwardly scalable. (See Digital Image Resolution a prior post for more information on scaling.)

Photoshop raster version enhanced by raster image operation editing. © 2000 Don Arday.

Raster files are much larger than vector files. This is because all the attributes, including the location and color of every single, individual pixel must be recorded, not to mention any saved operations or specialized layer data. All this can result in massive file sizes for raster illustrations; especially those that are created for high-resolution output devices.

Ability to render continuous tone full color images.
Ability to globally edit color brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and value.
Ability to apply editing filters to images.

Large file sizes.
Poor scalability of files.
Poor ability to render, manipulate, and output type.
Poor ability to generate geometric forms.