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Separating Flesh Tones – Without the Horror

(October/November 2017) posted on Tue Oct 17, 2017

Transforming skin hues into printable graphics is a nightmare designers might shy away from, but with patience and the right preparation, it doesn’t have to be.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Things to check prior to image preparation:
1. Make sure your image is set for final print size at a resolution at least four times the resolution of the output. (300 dpi is a good default. If you’re going to image the screens with 55-lpi halftones, you should have at least a 250-dpi image in the source file at the actual output size.)

2. Look closely at the edge quality in your image and make sure that it isn’t too blurry. Look for JPEG compression (areas that look blocky or distorted on magnification) in your flesh tones.

3. Zoom in and look for color pollution. Often, you’ll find brightly colored pixels like bright green, red, or neon yellow sprinkled in flesh tones.

4. Check the lighting that is hitting your flesh tones for unnatural color casts. For example, a figure that is lying on the grass may have a greenish cast to the underside of its skin and in the shadows.

5. Look carefully at shadows that are crossing your skin tones to see if any details need to be conserved. What may look like color pollution when you’re zoomed in on the image may actually be an important detail from another area of the design.

After reviewing the image, you can move on to the prep stage. Understandably, there will be times where you need to rush through a separation and can’t do a full review of all flesh tone areas. Even in those cases, it can make a huge difference to spend a few minutes zooming in to the design and checking the quality of the image so you’ll at least know if you face a larger task than you anticipated.


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