Dixie Drive Thursday: Ghosts!!

Got the cartoon in at the last-minute yesterday.

puttin’ the color to it

I’m always curious to see how it printed in the paper on Thursday morning. It’s a crap-shoot. The giant presses at the paper can be off by a millimeter and add a blur to the whole affair.


I figured out a large part of the problem a few weeks ago and thought I’d had my hands on it but, alas, I can still screw up…especially when under a tight deadline!

You see, the paper runs it’s presses in CMYK , Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (same as most desktop printers).  If one of those colors is off registration, you get a little ghost on the side. Here’s the problem: a good, rich black is made up of a combination of all four colors… so, if there’s a registration problem, it makes the black look blurry and screws the whole image up. Well,  I figured that if I initially scan the inked cartoon into Photoshop, I can force all the blacks to straight “K”, or black. Then, I do the color work on a layer beneath the black and when it’s printed, the black will be pure and crisp! Lastly, I do my watercolor coloring to the original to match the colors I did in Photoshop and throw it into my flat file.

Printed Vs. Original

Unfortunately, I screwed up somewhere and converted my blacks back to CMYK. Here’s what happens: You can see the “Dixie Drive” title is fine (that stayed straight “k”) but the guy and all the lettering in the balloon, etc.  has a ghost. Looks sorta like a drop-shadow.


And there you have it. A lesson in colors and the limitations of print media! You’ll need to check out the original some day, maybe I’ll have a sale, the colors are much more vivid!

Have a great day!

Rich Powell

I'm an artist/illustrator residing in a small, North Carolina town. I worked for a few years as a conceptual artist and art director in the computer game industry but set off on my own to freelance. I currently do humorous illustration and cartoons for publications such as MAD Magazine and Highlights for Children.

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6 Responses

  1. Paul Pearson says:

    Always love seeing the latest D.D and seeing behind the scenes is fun! Looking forward to seeing it in print when I’m next over in Ashboro!

  2. Amy says:

    I never thought of that before but it makes a lot of sense! Great educational post 🙂

  3. Rebecca Briles says:

    I would love to know if you ever decide to sell the originals. I look forward to them each week. They are the main attraction in the Thursday paper!

    • Rich Powell says:

      Thanks Rebecca! I was asked to do a show of the originals at a local gallery but I’m afraid I’ve caved to pressure and already sold a couple! If there is a certain cartoon that you are interested in, contact me and I can put it up on my Shop site for you. The cost ranges from 75.00 each to 125.00 ( some are just the black and white cartoon and some come with the original sketch, inked cartoon and color watercolor). -Rich

  4. Dave says:

    Don’t beat yourself up too much. A good pre-press department would have caught that in pre-flight. Not to mention, a good pressman, wouldn’t allow the registration to deviate enough to make things fuzzy. You are a good man for taking the blame, but people in the business know where to point the finger. I can send my printer the magazine on a napkin and get it back looking great.

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