The mossy green on the top two-thirds of this image is a single, uniform, printed color. The darker areas and ghostly gutters and speech balloon come from the opposite side of the paper. When you're on the lefthand page of a comic, this is the palimpsest effect; if you're on the righthand page, it's foreshadowing.


Over at HiLobrow, the latest edition of 4CP Friday is curated by Chris Lanier, who observes that zooming in on process printing creates an ambiguous zone between illustration and diagram. Lanier's thesis and his clever choice of a final image reminded me of one of my favorite series of LP sleeve designs, which is surely also one of the forgotten inspirations for the 4CP blog. 

Brian Eno's 1970s ambient albums brilliantly employed extreme zooms of printed maps. These visual cues on the sleeves suggested that the music within was itself an isolated and magnified detail – a pattern of dots, backed by a couple of underlying tones and textures. Blown up, the diagrammatic, information-bearing structure of maps gave way to abstract process-printing art.

As Lanier points out, maps can just as easily emerge from abstraction: The river delta below is smoke from a Jack Kirby Demon panel.

Codex 1

Lately, I've been trying to master the relationship between dot patterns and the finite color value options of vintage four-color process. Typically there were only three basic values for cyan, magenta, and yellow: 100%, 50%, and 25%, which were combined to create the optical illusion of 45-65 colors. (70% was also used sometimes.) These values account for the way a constituent color may appear as large or small dots or as what looks like a solid color with dots knocked out of it.

When you blow up process printing, you eliminate nearly all of the intended colors. There is no illusion of anything anymore, and no human intention behind what you're seeing. It's just the rudimentary building blocks of an inexpensive mechanical printing process, thrown into accidental relationships at the microscopic level. 

The spatial relationships among dots become infinitely varied, due to differences in the alignment of the individual printing plates' tiny patterns. Some alignments are stable, while others seem to vibrate. True, blended colors are created where dots overlap, while the constituent colors remain where there is no overlap. Small errors in the color separation become spectacular boundaries between larger spaces. I find the results to be quite delicious.