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Halftones and Hybrids


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COLLOTYPE HYBRIDS


The random grain of the collotype does not form interference patterns when overlapped with other collotype plates, but the density of these extremely fine markings made it difficult to integrate multiple plates when printing in color. Although full color postcards were made exclusively with multiple collotype plates, the process at its best produced inconsistent results. A far more common practice was to employ collotype solely as a black key plate, which would be printed over color lithographic dots and spatter just as if using a halftone. Collotypes could also print a full range of continuous tones so no medium tint plates were needed on these hybrids. The results could range from highly mannered looking images to those that were fairly realistic. In either case they produced a remarkable tonal range and were able to capture details far better than halftones.



Collotype Inserts
When collotype and lithography first shared the surface of a postcard together they were printed side by side and not over one another. The differences between the two techniques were meant to create visual contrast that created the illusion of an artist drawn chromolithograph with a tipped in photograph. Such cards that imitated more expensive printing methods became a very popular during the 1890’s and they can be found on many postcards extending into the early 20th century. This hybrid style may have also addressed the public’s conflicting desires for high color and the precision that a photograph could bring. What is not so obvious is that these types of cards usually functioned as an in house stock card. A publisher would often print up an elaborate color design in large quantities with space left for the addition of different collotype inserts as they were needed. The larger press run of the lithographic half reduced cost while the repeated design saved on much prepress work.

Postcard

Collotype Hybrid: The postcard above displays a typical chromolithograph with a collotype insert. The same color border can be found on stock cards depicting different cities. The postcard below only mimics this style for a collotype is used for the entire key plate printed over color lithographic dots. Despite these differences they are both contemporaneous dating from the late 1890’s.

Postcard


Postcard

Tinted Halftone: Not all cards with inserts were printed with collotype. This postcard was printed entirely in lithographic dots with a spot plate printing solid silver. The inserts are produced in halftone while the drawing is rendered with overlapping fields of benday. This was a very popular style in Japan during the early 1900’s.


Collotype as Key
Even though hand coloring seemed the simplest way of adding hues to a postcard it was still time consuming and quality was always a variant of each colorist’s ability. Color printing was always the fastest method that yielded the most consistent results, which was ever more evident as higher speed presses came into play. Attempts at printing collotypes in color however often ended in mixed results. It was a process that took great skill even if working with only three colors. A solution was found by using collotype solely as a key plate that would print in black over color lithographic tints. A tremendous amount of postcards were printed utilizing this basic principal though there were many variations to how it was specifically applied. Postcard

Tinted Collotype: On both of these postcards a black collotype key is printed over irregular red, yellow, and blue lithographic dots. The collotype process was so remarkable at capturing detail and a subtle tonal range that when it was carefully paired with a color lithographic under-printing as seen above it could achieve very natural looking results. In the Rotograph card below, a slightly more mannered approach was taken when drawing in the color dots by hand but the results are no less effective.

Postcard


Postcard

Tinted Collotype: The collotype process was used to print both of these postcards but the one below is placed over color lithographic dots. While the same photograph was used to create both collotype plates, the one above was exposed to print dark so it would render more detail. Detail was sacrificed on the one printing a black key so that the lighter density of markings would not optically muddy the colors placed underneath it. Note how the clouds are different on each postcard; this is a result of them being drawn in and not reproduced photographically.

Postcard Detail


Postcard Detail

Tinted Collotype Details: In these details of the two postcards further above we can more clearly see that the density of grey in the color card is much lighter than that found in the black & white card so that the color beneath it can more easily show through. This lightning of tone has also rendered details less sharp.

Postcard Detail


Postcard Detail

Tinted Collotype: The untypical collotype texture in the detail above is very open and barnacle-like, closely resembling the aquatint like appearance of a photogravure. The large open areas between the dark reticulated marks would normally produce a coarse tone on a black & white postcard but here it better allows for the color to show through, and the color in turn acts like a tint softening the image. This is also a fine example of how a simple black key plate can create form even when the rest of the image is made up of an amorphous field of color dots.


Postcard Detail

Tinted Collotypes: A collotype key plate was usually chosen over one made from a halftone screen when a more realistic and finely detailed image needed to be captured. This however was not the only way this technique could be used as illustrated in both postcards above and below. Even though both consist of a black collotype key printed over RYB lithographic dots, the results not only give us different coloration but two very distinct mannered looks. The broad flat areas in the image below are usually found on cards printed using halftones or benday dots but as we can see in the detail further below the key is in collotype.

Postcard

Postcard Detail

Blue Key
A method was developed where the number of plates needed to print a color collotype was reduced by substituting a medium to dark blue for black. By moving blue to the key plate, only lithographic dots of red and green needed to be printed. The results were varied yielding some images similar to those that used a black key, to ones that looked extremely mannered due to the dominance of blue. This technique was used most effectively when rendering images that had a natural blue cast such as scenes with snow. The American News Company produced these types of cards under the Litho-Chrome trade name but other publishers used this technique as well.

Postcard

Blue Key Tinted Collotype: Only RGB colors are used on the postcard above; red and green dots are printed in lithography and the key plate is a collotype printed in a deep blue. These types of cards typically have a blue color cast to them but here it is used to good effect.


Postcard

Blue Key Tinted Collotypes: Both of these postcards use the same simple palette with a deep blue key, but the typical blue cast this method creates is almost absent from the card above because of the excellent integration of all the retouch work. The blue cast on the card below goes well beyond creating mood turning it surreal. While this look could have been a conscious design choice it was most likely the result of bad decisions made in retouching. Such dark cards appear fairly often because it was difficult to balance hue against value when only using blue.

Postcard

Expanded Pallets
Primary colors formed the standard palette for the lithographic tints used under black collotype. While there was no consensus to what the primary colors were, some combination of red, green, yellow, and blue were the most widely used. Most printers were happy working with this limited palette because it kept costs Others however made concerted efforts to expand upon this limited range since all colors cannot be optically mixed from three. At other times extra spot color was added to bring attention to a specific object or even to create a particular mood. Sometimes it is questionable to why extra color was added. While the use of untypical hues could create a more unique image, these additions were not always necessary and they rarely improved on the composition.

Postcard

Tinted Collotype: This unusual collotype postcard was tinted in two ways. The black collotype key was printed over a solid fawn tint with whites removed in a traditional manner as if it were a duotone lithograph, and then red, yellow, and blue lithographic dots were added in for color. The extra fawn tint does much to warm up the overall image and create mood

Postcard

Six Plate Tinted Collotype: While the black collotype key on this postcard from 1907 seems to be printed over three colors, it is an illusion caused by their pairing as used in a traditional chromolithograph. A light red has been printed in addition to a medium red, and a light blue accompanies a medium blue. The yellow seems to play off of the more neutral tan of the paper saving a printing plate but it is not possible to tell if this was intentional or if the paper just yellowed over time.


Postcard

Six Plate Tinted Collotype: Two extra lithographic plates carrying a pale orange and light green were added to the more typical RGB palette and black collotype key. Even though a wider range of colors are produced, they fail to integrate and the image is not enhanced. Since color on most early cards was not photographically separated, the quality of the results depended on the skill of the retoucher.


Postcard

Double Tinted Collotype: This postcard from 1916 shows the typical black collotype key printed over red and yellow lithographic dots, but rather than print blue dots a second collotype plate is substituted to print a light blue that adds color intensity rather than detail. While these images are striking, they can be off putting, which may be why they are not more common.

Postcard Detail


Postcard

Double Tinted Collotype: This postcard shows the typical black collotype key printed over color lithographic dots, but a second collotype plate has been added to print a medium blue. In the detail below we see that there is a minimal overlapping of ink which creates more intense pure colors. Using richer colors to attract the eye over any attempt to render a realistic image was a common trend on postcards printed in Europe during the 1920’s.

Postcard Detail

Postcard

Tinted Color Collotype: Tinting with lithographic dots was the primary method used to add color to a black & white collotype, but in this case two extra collotype plates inked in a light red and blue were already used. When this color collotype is added to lithographic tints, a dense but very intensely colored image is formed. In the detail of the sky seen below, the red and blue collotypes optically mix to form a smooth transition.

Postcard Detail

Artistic Fusions
Even though the collotype process is renowned for its faithful rendition of photographic details, the technique was sometimes combined with such heavy retouching work that the benefits of the process are lost. While many collotypes have been combined with lithography to add simple color tinting, many hybrids use this same method to create a stronger mannered look. The combination of many disparate techniques might provide a unique look but this is not always for the better. Very often the inherent properties of a technique cannot be overcome, and these can work against one another when they are combined. On the other hand when collotype is used for its superb rendering abilities and matched with a strong artistic presence some very interesting fusions have resulted.

Postcard

Collotype Hybrid: This very unusual card from 1922 utilizes collotype for the black key plate but the color lithographic patterns underneath seem to be both hand drawn and created with the aid of paper tints. The zig-zag patterns of some of these tints are visible in the sky as seen in the detail below.

Postcard Detail


Postcard

Collotype Hybrid: On this postcard the collotype process is used to create very realistic details but the color lithography underneath is used in a very mannered style. The juxtaposition of handmade drawing with photography creates an unsettling but intentional effect predating Surrealism.





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