Letraset Screentone Review
Date: Sunday October 30th 2011 [5:08] | Posted By: Voxie
All my life I've been drawing, and I've appreciated the manga style for most of my life. But I've always been adamant to delve into the world of screentone. I've never really figured out why this is, however perhaps I'll find out today. I've been handed two kinds to look at, a Letraset Screentone MT23 pack, and a pack of Letraset Safmat Self-Adhesive Printing Film. I've only worked with digital screentone before, so this is a bold adventure for me!
I drew a quick comic page to act as guinea pig for my first foray into the world of traditional screentone. First up is Letraset's ready printed screentone. A read of the back's instructions and a quick YouTube search of 'how to apply screentone' readies me for the x-acto knife...
I put the sheet over my first comic panel, pencilling out where I need to cut. Gingerly, I slice round the pre-pencilled lines, but not too hard as I don't want to cut right through. I use my nail to lift it off the backing sheet, then place it on to the hair of my first character, and to my horror, a slight air bubble is made. A gentle pat fixes that, and viola I have my first traditionally screentoned girl! This being a test comic page, she has no identity, but the choice of screentone immediately makes me presume she's a brunette. I do the same to her hair in the second panel – Took note that lifting up tone is easier with my knife, rather than the complexities that come with my fingernail (sweat, dirt, etc.!).
Onwards with the Safmat Self-Adhesive Printing Film. I actually have a load of digital screentone given to me by a couple of friends a few years a go. Alas, it's great timing that my PC choked during the writing of this review. So a quick Google and I download and, making sure I've got the sheets printing on the right (shiny) side, I print a few samples at the office. The result is quite striking, but still slightly pixellated. (That should add to that whole grainy "manga effect" anyway.)
I allow the sheets to dry at least 15 minutes to be sure. A work colleague noses in, "Hey, I know these! I love these things! I can work them out easily, watch me". I allow him to stare at least 2 minutes before I confess, apologetically, that they're not autostereograms, sorry! Anyway, now that they're dry, I repeat the process as above. As I slice round and lift, I notice the self-adhesive sheets are slightly less dense than the usual screentone sheets. It sticks down just as easily though, and cuts up just as nicely. It is just slightly stickier though, and extra care may need to be taken once it's applied to your artwork. These really are slight however, and me being new to all this, it could just be clumsy craftsmanship anyway!
To compare the two types, I like both, but I prefer Safmat. Why? Well, I work with digital screentone anyway for one, so I can print off the screentones I want, when I want. For two, you get 10 Safmat sheets for about a tenner, while single ready-printed screentones are about £1-2 each. So Safmat seems better for me economically. However, there is the slight downfall of having to print and wait for the tones to dry, and of course the extra costs of printer ink. However, the flexibility of the screentone use behind it is a true bonus! And it won't necessarily stop you from shopping for regular shelved screentones either - There will always be another pattern you've never seen before, inspiring you to create another new story scene.
The final product looks as professional as anything! All it needs is lettering and maybe some background. Overall, I found my first traditional screentone experience fun! I guess I'm a digital artist when it comes to after effects. I've always been one to do base effects (speedlines, some cross-hatching) in ink first, then adjust and other add digital effects accordingly through Photoshop (lens flare, blur, fade). But traditional screentone feels so much more productive, given its hand-on nature. And it's much, much less of an eye strain!
I'll definitely be using both the ready-printed and to-be-printables again in future. I'd especially like to experiment with both digital and traditional types now, creating a collage, or maybe even a 3D style comic...!