In the Kitchen: Transparent Overlays with Sector 9

SeriesIn the Kitchen
In the Kitchen: Transparent Overlays with Sector 9

It's true: I ride a Sector 9 Bamboo Series for my 2-block commute to work every morning, so I got pretty stoked when they reached out to us to print the commemorative poster for this year's Angie's Curves Downhill Event. The design is so good and gets so much done with just four colors, we just had to feature it in hopes that it will inspire you to see some of what's possible with spot color design. In this case, what's possible with transparent overlays.

First, the basics of transparent overlays.

An transparent overlay is created by printing a semi-translucent ink on top of another ink in order to create a third color. For example:

The yellow on top of the blue makes the green; the red on top of the blue makes the burgundy.

It's a really simple way to get more colors out of your spot color designs. To implement this technique on the design-side you simply lay the two overlaying shapes on top of each other and set the top color to “Multiply“ — the resulting color will appear to be a third solid spot color. Viola! You are now getting 2-colors for the price of 1.

The possibilities with this print: 7 colors out of the 3 color layers, a black layer on top and then 1 color from the paper, so up to 9 colors from 4 screens.

For more on designing for transparent overlays, let's chat it up with the designer: Derek Hall.

First off, tell us a little bit about the design - its premise, the event it's supporting, where you found inspiration for it, etc.

DH: The design was based on an evolution from last year's event poster. Our riders found this hill several years back and befriended the owner of the land out in the mountains, Angie. She was kind enough to let them skate it, even though it is private property. The hill is quite technical, so they started calling it Angie's Curves. When Sector 9 decided to host our own officially sanctioned downhill race, it seemed like the obvious choice. Angie also happens to be Native American and raise wolves on her property. The art is pretty much a tribute to her for letting us host the race on such an epic hill.

Did you initially set out to design a screen printed poster or did the design find its way towards the process later?

DH: This year we wanted to do a little more for the merchandising of the event than last year, so I suggested a silkscreened poster, gig style, in addition to the hats and tees we planned to run. I got the okay from marketing, so I went into the design process knowing it would be screened and had to create my art accordingly.

What was your comfort level with designing for spot color printing before this project?

DH:I can easily say this isn't my first barbecue. I've been working with tee graphics and skateboard graphics for almost 9 years now, so designing for screen printing and spot colors is fairly regular work.

We count a great deal more than 4 colors in the final print, did you initially design it as all these colors separated or was it designed to utilize the overlays in the way it does in the final print? Where did that idea come from?

DH: The transparent overlays were purposeful. I designed the poster with a limited palette in mind, 4 colors max, and used multiply in Illustrator to test out the combinations of colors to try to create a larger final palette. I've followed DKNG over the years, and always loved how they get such depth and detail in their work with such a limited amount of screens and colors. It's not a process that we use for screening tees or board transfers, so I was stoked to try it out with these posters. Plus, the more colors used, the more difficult the print can be, so keeping the colors down provides less room for error and missed registration… and it's cheaper. HA!

What was the communication process like working with us? How did it differ, if at all, from working with other printers?

DH: Communication with Mama's Sauce has been great. You guys are super on point and timely in your responses. It took minimal time to get this project going, which was key as I had a tight deadline. Definitely the most professional print shop I've had the pleasure of dealing with, and I've dealt with quite a few over the years. I'm definitely looking forward to working with you again, and hopefully soon.

What's your Sector9 of choice?

DH: It's an old Cosmic shape, the Rapa Nui. It the very first deck I designed for Sector 9, so it holds a special place for me.

Why Mama's Sauce?

DH: I'm something of a design nerd, so I regularly check out design blogs and other designer's work, and I've seen some some great stuff come out of your shop. I actually suggested the silk screen posters with you guys in mind, hoping I'd finally have something I could send your way.

Lastly, where can we find more of your work?

DH: Alas, my portfolio is down right now. It's a designer's curse, never being happy with your own work, so it's under construction. However, I do have my hands on just about anything coming from (*ahem… shameless plug) Sector 9 Skateboards, Gullwing Truck Co., Rider Approved Designs (RAD), and Freeride Skateboards, so those are great places to start.

You can buy this beautiful 18×24 print from Sector 9 online here.

Music in video by Casework (If Hogan's your salesman here, tell him how good his bass playing is on the track)