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Illustration Art Appraisal Terminology
Creative Process Illustration Art 
In order to fully understand the field of original comic art it is beneficial and necessary to understand the creative process behind its production and the associated terminology .

Illustration is the art of visual communication.  Traditional illustrators aspire to tell their stories in personal and unique ways. Through illustration they satisfy these two imperatives by using their personal voices and medium choices.

Illustration art can be varied.  It can take on the form of beautiful oil paintings for magazine covers, book covers, movie posters, pulp magazines, interiors, advertisements, editorial illustration, animation, cartooning, toy design, children’s book illustration, fine art, graphic design, textile, surface design and a myriad of other purposes.

Comic Publication

Movie Poster illustration

Publications containing art rendered by an artist (as opposed to a photograph or digitally created graphic image), utilize one of two methods in the production process in the vast majority of cases.

Method 1: The artwork is prepared in stark black and white and the "color" is added by the printer to the delimited (bordered) areas on a photographic negative. The "original art" remains black and white throughout the process.  This  was the method of choice for an inexpensive publication such as a comic book and applies to the vast majority of the publications produced since 1933.

Method 2: The artist or creator provides fully color images to the "publisher" or printer and separations are made before the creation of printing plates.  This method is expensive as prior to today's technology it entailed a costly photographic process. This was sometimes reserved for covers but rarely for interiors.


In most cases a script or synopsis is developed by a writer or editor. This may be as simple as a single page document or as comprehensive as a panel by panel breakdown of the story. A story may fill all pages of a book or be as short as a single page. The length of a book usually varies from 22 pages to 64 pages. Graphic Novels, Annuals or King Size editions may contain many more pages. 

A panel by panel breakdown of the story is known as a layout.

A second artist,  the inker, solidifies and embellishes pencil lines by applying india ink with a pen  or a brush. The result is a stark, high contrast page of art. Most inkers have a distinct, recognizable style, as such their work will affect the appearance of the finished art.


The art, in this case the cover of the comic book,  is now completely penciled and inked and is  handed over to the colorist. The colorist begins by making a copy of the original art, usually reducing the copy to what will ultimately be the finished size.

The colorist applies color to the copy using a variety of mediums (most cases Dr. Martin's dyes) defining specific areas, while keeping in mind the limitation of the final separation process. 

Separations and Printing Plates
The art is "separated" into four negatives by color: black, magenta, cyan and yellow. From each negative a printing plate is made and mounted on a printing press. The printing press has a minimum of four print stations. The four ink colors are applied in a dot pattern one after the other creating the illusion of unified color. This is the reason the printing process is known as "Four Color Printing".

Printed Page
The finished full color printed product. Keep in mind that the original art remains black and white.