Print variations

‘Many designers have creatively exploited the limitations of how printing works, and in so doing revealed something of the process itself. For example, both the American designer Bradbury Thompson (1911–95) and the Italian designer Giovanni Pintori (1912–99) explored the visual colour mixing of CMYK, overlaying the four colours to reveal their mixing potential. The contemporary French designer Fanette Mellier works in a similar way, using a limited palette of translucent colours and overlaying them to build up deeper and darker colours.

The overlaying of different spot or CMYK colours in silkscreen printing, one on top of another, builds the artwork a layer at a time and creates a rich sense of depth. This can be seen in the work of printmaking studio Aesthetic Apparatus (http://aestheticapparatus. com/) and many of the silkscreen designs featured in the Gig Posters archive (http://

Find examples of work that you think make the most of a limited range of colours, explore the overlap of colours, or in some way reveal the printing process in their approach. In your learning log, reflect on what makes these examples work on an aesthetic level. What can you take from their approach for your own work?

Using your examples as inspiration, do your own experiments to see what overlaying translucent colours and exploiting the overlaps of CMYK and other colour overlays can create. You may want to use a simple photograph of an object, a portrait or something similar as a starting point. Document your experiments by saving your different files and combining them into an overall design, such as a poster.’

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to access the website http:// which I’m sure is great – it’s just offline at the moment. I did look at http://aestheticapparatus. com, and was struck by the boldness of the designs. There’s something both raw and high impact about them which I feel is very effective. It’s sort of challenging for the eye to be met with pure ‘in your face’ no apologies colour! I do also enjoy muted tones in general, but they have a very different message – much more whispered, and probably not so appropriate to this aesthetic.

I started out by simply creating some cubes of colour – cyan, magenta, yellow and black

Here, you can see I have overlapped them to better understand the colours that are produced when ink is combined. I wasn’t quite sure what to do next, but our notes mention a simple photograph of an object, which gave me an idea.

Here it is – a photo of onions I took for the photography part of my OCA course.

I cropped a section in Illustrator and then decided to hop over to photoshop instead, as I thought its better suited to this task. I really like the flow of lines across the onion, and  I was hoping it might give some good results.

Obviously, in photoshop, you can play about with masks, blending modes, and knock out or adjust different channels. Oh, and alter the hue and saturation. Plenty to work with!

I experimented with isolating channels, for example, yellow + black, magenta + black…

…cyan + black

And some combinations

This led me to layer up these images, create masks, and paint certain areas to reveal layers below. I also altered the hue and saturation to further vary the colours.

Not forgetting the subject is an onion, so I tried some text too. I quite like the absurdity of elevating a humble bit of veg. And why not, red onions are a gorgeous colour in the first place.

Here are the results…

My CMYK posters

Poster one – overlaid channels, slightly misaligned to allow pure colour to peak through

Poster 2 – the hue is altered to emphasise different colour combinations

And with semi-opaque text –  I think I prefer it knocked back a little

I loved all these colours! I think mine are rather ‘pretty’ rather than raw and edgy. I’m not completely sure if this was what we were being asked to do?! But I loved doing it.


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