Tracing Paper

or, Killing Trees & Why I hate Flats


I've been dreading the tones for this book.


The tones are definitely my least favorite part  The flats are definitely my least favorite part.  

Flats are hard to describe if you don't know what they are. Flats are a part of the process that aren't really talked about (they're that boring). Here's a visual example with images stolen borrowed from Terry Dodson, one of the few people I've seen even mention that they have a flatter (-a person who does this).

The flatter pretty much traces the picture and fills in shapes with color (see 1), it doesn't even have to be close to the final colors, the shapes just have to be filled with something. The flatter's done. That's it. They send it back, so that the person can pick up from there and finish it (see 2).

Now, I know that it seems like this wouldn't be hard or take long. But, the specific image above is a cover. Imagine that image smaller, and on a page four to six times. That's a lot of shapes to fill. And, at least fifty percent of the time (for me, at least), the fill bucket doesn't work because the shapes aren't closed. So, I usually have to do it all manually.

I can't describe how time consuming this is. And mind-numbing. It's sort of like cleaning the Colosseum with a toothbrush, but blindfolded, so it can't be interesting in any way.

It took me a while, but I pinpointed the reasons I don't like it (big one = I hate drawing on a computer), and made up a different way to do it so I wouldn't hate it as much. Tracing paper and sharpies. I never really tried it, but hoped it'd work. A few days ago, I felt the toning anxiety creeping back over me so I decided to try it again. Well, more or less. I tried a few quick scribbles with different things to see how they'd look. If something quick looks okay now, then it should work on the day.

Before sharpies, I tried pencil-
It seemed like it might turn out okay, but scribbling in a whole page like that seems like it would take forever.

I tried to see if I could go quicker and have more range of tone with a china marker, but it actually translated to less tone difference with my scanner-

Then I tried the sharpies (see first image above, on the left). And it worked. And it was quick. Twenty minutes, maybe. Then scanning and actually toning, maybe another ten or fifteen? And, on top of just the flats, shading (the shadow) with the sharpies only took a few minutes. The reason I paired that image with the original (one on the right, used for this) was to illustrate my point about time consumption. The original on the right was used for a card, so the tones couldn't be complicated because it was going to be printed so small.

My point is- originally, just filling in those shapes on the right, took maybe an hour, maybe more. And, they look like crap compared to the sharpies, which took less time.

It takes about 3 or 4 sheets of tracing paper per page, but a page will probably take 3 or 4 times less than pages took me before, and, they'll look better.

So that's good.