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Comic Book Color Swatches for Photoshop

Hacks, News | July 9, 2011

Classic Comics Color GuideA recent blog post by Ed Piskor generated some interest in the old craft of coloring comic books in the days before comics were printed using full-process color. Ed created a chart showing all 64 colors available in most comics of the bygone era. I also enjoyed an article at the CO2 Comics Blog that went into depth on the classic comics coloring process and how it evolved over the years. What I thought was missing, however, was an easy way for folks to use the same colors to get a “Silver Age” effect in their own comics. To that end, I wrote a script to generate a swatch palette for use in Photoshop, Illustrator, or other graphics software. But I didn’t stop there! I also created palettes that recreated the even-more-limited Golden Age palette, as well as the expanded palettes that began to appear in the 1980s. You can download my palettes here.

I have made the palettes available in both the .ACO (Adobe Photoshop Color File) and .ASE (Adobe Swatch Exchange) file formats. The .ASE format may be the most widely useful across various software. Photoshop can read the .ASE format, too, but it defaults to .ACO format, so I’ve just included both.

Each color is named using the standard color coding conventions of the day. Color codes were labeled using the codes R, B, and Y for magenta, cyan, and yellow (and sometimes K for black), plus a code representing the percent of the screen used. A 2 meant a 25% screen, a 3 meant a 50% screen, and a 4 meant either a 70% or a 75% screen, depending on the publisher. A code with no number meant a 100% screen, and colors with no screen at all were omitted. Thus, a screen of 25% yellow, 50% magenta, and 100% cyan would be Y2R3B. All of the palettes include white as the first swatch (that is, zero screen of any color or black).

Enjoy them, and let me know any feedback/corrections/omissions/etc.