Carnival: what's next?


Dan Margulis
 

Unless someone wants further discussion this will be my last post on the Carnival image. In past case studies we’ve tried to pick winners. Here, the top entrants are so close that trying to choose between them is like splitting hairs.

Also, in previous studies there have always been some completely fouled-up entries, useful because it highlights misconceptions. Here, the only obvious mistake was that some people concentrated so much on the reds that they ignored the need for strong yellows. Even so, there were no really bad entries.

I do think it was a worthwhile exercise. It highlighted some excellent techniques. It also may have instilled some confidence, because several people in their notes describing technique said things like “I’m sure this is going to seem terrible next to the others, because I know absolutely nothing about CMYK.” And of course they all did well.

It’s true that this is a very atypical image. OTOH it represents a category that we are probably seeing more of: a job where technical limitations (in this case, a lack of gamut) make it impossible to achieve what we would like (in this case, matching an extremely intense red). People who don’t understand the process give the work to us to figure out what is and is not possible. And not just to execute, but to explain.

This brings up the question of whether to do more case studies. I’m still stuck at home and so are many of us so it could probably be done. Then again many of us are not necessarily in the mood for such diversions. I’ve got more than enough interesting images but what we would need is interested people, since it takes an effort to run these case studies. So I ask now whether the list would like to see more of them. I won’t be offended if the answer is no.

Before signing off let me discuss one special Carnival case. The original artwork is silhouetted, no background at all. In #217 Harvey Nagal had the inspiration of adding a gradated black background. In his notes, he cited Chevreul, reasoning that the red robe would appear more brilliant against black than against white. And in this he was correct. There was nothing in the instructions to prevent this move, although in real life we’d need to run it by the client first.

In real life offset printing, large black areas like this can have unintended consequences, even if technically the file complies with the ink limit. So I would recommend not using this file in real life unless you are really confident about your press conditions.

Something lighter, however, might work. Harvey said he first had tried a pure Chevreul move of making the background the complementary of the robe, which in this case would be a cyan rather than a black. He reports: “I replaced the background with the inverse color of the costume, and found that the costume did indeed look as colorful in CMYK as it did in the original RGB image. The background looked like the worst puke spewing from a sewage pipe, but neutralizing the hue showed that the luminance contrast was sufficient to make the colors look brighter.”

I would point out that there are intermediate possibilities between dead black and bright cyan. Also, that it doesn’t have to be the exact complementary: anything cool might do. And white is the most brilliant background possible, so *anything* that darkens it may have a helpful effect—it doesn’t have to be a black.

You may wish to test this for yourself by downloading and blending #217 into your own version, at say 25% opacity. Or you might try a blend that partially excludes the green channel, making the background slightly purple rather than black. Or any of a hundred other permutations. The results are interesting.

Dan

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