All Images ©Neil Gaiman and Todd Klein.
This time I’m focusing on the gray tones added to the inked art on the computer. Above is the nearly final version of that, with most of the text once more blurred so that, when you order and receive yours, you can enjoy reading it for the first time then.
My original idea for the atmosphere of the print involved printing the text and line art in black on a medium gray paper. Unfortunately, the only appropriate gray paper I could find was a very pale gray which is hardly noticeable until you put it next to something really white. So I decided I needed to add some gray tones to the background to give it the night-sky look I was thinking of. This turned out to be a much better solution, I think, as it gives the image more depth and realism than the line art on gray alone would have.
I knew I wanted to have an impression of rays radiating from the moon, and couldn’t think of a way to get that in Photoshop, so I created the above radial pattern in Adobe Illustrator using gray beams on a paler gray background, both getting lighter toward the center. There were two problems with this when I imported it into the background of the art. First, the lines were too well defined, the stripes too distracting, making it hard to focus on the text. Second, a moiré pattern was formed by the lines, especially toward the center. You can see it in the above image, those starburst-like shapes in the image. This is an optical illusion in this case, not an actual printed moiré, but when printed it would become one, and in either case was another distraction. So I needed to blur the radial pattern quite a bit to remove both those problems. I lost some of the impact of the moon rays, but preserved the readability of the text, which is more important.
You can see some of the rays behind the text here in the upper left corner, and where they end, I’ve used Photoshop airbrush effects to add gray clouds. This was done around all the edges of the ray area. Rather fun, using different size brushes, different shades of gray, until you get something that works. And always in a layer below the line art, so that remained untouched. In the top banner, where the titles and credits are, I added a simple gray gradient getting lighter toward the bottom, complimenting the way the title letters get thinner at the bottom.
Here’s another section showing some of the geese, with rays and clouds. This is the version on the large image at the beginning of this post, and it remained this way for a while, but as I kept looking at it, something seemed wrong to me. Finally I realized the pure white areas of the geese didn’t read correctly for a night sky. In life they’d probably just be solid black silhouettes. For my purposes I wanted the light areas to show, but needed them to be a darker gray than the backgound.
Here they are with that added, which works much better, I think. Finally, the candle flames needed to have lighter glow highlights around them.
Easily done with a Photoshop airbrush and a very light gray color. When everything was as I wanted it, I printed a sample. A few spots needed minor tweaks, but it was mostly fine. Oh, and perhaps you’re wondering what happened to the actual moon and candle flame shapes seen in the inked version? Those would be added in the next and final step in the process. After printing they’d be painted in on each print with white paint. More on that next time!