Screen Printing - October/November 2017 - 27
Properly preparing your image will stave off the vast majority of separation issues that you will encounter when working
with flesh tones. The real challenge is to edit your design without overdoing the color adjustment; skin should still include
some color depth and dimension.
Separating fleSh toneS in photoShop
For the majority of flesh tones, you can use the "sandwich"
style of separating. The base of the separation (some would call
this the "bread" of the image) is the medium tone, or largest
area of color in the graphic. This color can be obtained by copying the flesh selection you created in the prep stage and saving
this information into an Alpha Channel selection (see Figure
3). You can then edit this using the Curves menu to darken the
midtone areas to define the main flesh color in your image.
The same copy that should still be on the clipboard can then
be used to create the shadow areas by pasting it into a second
Alpha Channel on top of the midtones. For this channel, edit
out the highlights and midtones and save just the shadow areas.
(This can be considered the "meat" of your separation because
it creates most of the dimension in the image.)
The last two steps are the "condiments." Create the darkest
shadows using a thin black overlay, and then separate the
white or lightest highlight areas, the elements that create the
polish in the final design. (See Figure 4.)
After you have saved your three Alpha Channels - main
flesh tone, shadows, and highlights - create a visual proof by
putting the selected colors into the Channel Options menu
and turning each Channel Eye on in Print Sequence to look at
how the colors are stacking up. You may want to add a certain
amount of pink or other colors if you need some blush on the
cheeks or reflections of light.
The final step is to extract out 100-percent areas of each color
from all the other colors in the graphic. Copy each skin tone
channel; squeeze out the low and middle parts; make a selection
from the densest, opaque areas; and extract it from the other
channels. This will prevent too many colors mashing together in
your skin tone areas.
The flesh tone separation steps:
1. Select just the flesh tone areas from your merged,
prepared graphic. (To create a selection from an
Alpha Channel, control-click or command-click
on the image part of the channel in the Channel
Docker dialog box.)
2. Switch to your Layers Docker and copy the
flesh selection from the merged layer.
3. Create a new Alpha Channel and make sure it
is white (inverting it, if necessary).
4. Paste your layer selection into the new Alpha
Channel. Use the Paste in Place command to
make sure the selection doesn't re-center or
move from its original position.
5. Use the Curves menu to adjust the midtone of
the selection and increase the opacity.
6. Create a second layer and paste in the same information.
Use the Curves menu to squeeze out the low and middle
tones to create a shadow channel. This channel is commonly a dark brown for shadows on flesh.
7. The third layer is your black outline layer. This layer
is where the darkest shadows and things like nostrils,
ear holes, eyebrows, and mouths can be defined. The
darkest areas can be obtained by using a color range to
pull the black areas or using Curves and saving only the
darkest areas in the copied image.
8. Add a highlight white or bright flesh color area. This is
commonly created using the Color Range tool to select
just the brightest white or flesh areas. (Pro tip: Select
highlights in the flesh only while your selection of the
flesh areas is already active. This way, you'll get highlights that are just for the flesh areas and not for the rest
of the image.)
9. Review your flesh tones and see if you need to pull any
additional colors for a light blush layer or a color cast
from a lighting effect in the image. Often, it is beneficial
to pull flesh tones first before doing these effects so you
can lightly apply them later - too much and it'll look
obvious and harsh.
10. Separate the rest of your image and see if you can use
any of your flesh tones in other areas of the image to
save colors on your print.
One thing to consider with screen printed flesh tones is
that you will almost always have some amount of dot gain on
press. This means that any delicate areas in your flesh tones
could rapidly darken after only a couple dozen shirts. A light
red percentage on the cheeks can become a red blob if there
is a lot of dot gain. Keeping an eye out during separation for
even a small percentage of colors that could gain can save
a printer from having to scrap shirts, especially if the face
images are critical in appearance and color shifts would cause
issues with the client (see Figure 5). The best ways to combat dot gain are to adjust the midtones of the separations and