This is my new book that’s coming out titled: An Annoying ABC, written by the legendary Barbara Bottner, and published by Knopf. The editor was Nancy Siscoe and the art director was Isabel Warren-Lynch. This is an image of a jacket “proof”, which means this is a pre publication test print used to try and get the colors of the final book as good as they can be. Usually 2 or 3 test prints or proofs, are ordered to make small adjustments to the printing press to try and match the original art as closely as possible.
Down in the bottom right hand corner you can see a 1, 2, 3 and the first two blocked out. This means this is a second proof, or the second attempt at getting the colors right. In this case I would have liked to have another proof as I didn’t think the colors were very good, even on the second go round (this web image is greatly enhanced, the actual colors are a bit off to my taste). But the artist is seldom thrilled with the printed results as the 4 color printing process, the cheapest way of printing full color books, can never really capture the original art, unless there is a very skilled person every step of the way from the scanner/separator, to the printer, to the production supervisor at the publisher. It can be done well, but there is just not the money in these days of ever tightening budgets to pay for the time it takes to properly tweak the process, and to pay the high cost of a true printing artist…
I know printing is just as much of an art as any of my illustrations, and I have watched some great ones. I had the pleasure of going on a print run in Italy years ago with a master production person at Little Brown, and watch the process of her expertise, matched with the old school craftsmen working the press just outside Milan. It was the book Welcome Back Sun, and it contained many soft graded backgrounds of changing light – very tricky to capture, and very difficult to match the spreads as they go from left page to right.
A children’s picture book is printed on one sheet of paper generally, and the pages, if you saw them, look like they are all over the sheet, not right next to each other, as you would expect. This is because the machine that folds the paper up into a small folded bundle that will become the finished bound book pages only works one way… try it sometime with a piece of paper folded in half several times, you’ll see what I mean. One or two left and right hand pages will match up but the rest won’t. Color is much easier to match on the big printing press if the areas are close to each other. If the two pages are on opposite ends of the single sheet being printed, it’s a nightmare to get them exactly alike, and compromises have to be made…usually in the color. But… I have seen it done… so it is possible. I think these artistic printing professionals are a dying breed.
(to be continued…)