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The Art of Story Writing : CHAPTER XXXIII Illustrations

by Nathaniel C. Fowler, JR   

CHAPTER XXXIII Illustrations

ABOUT a third of the books published, other than those in paper covers, and considerably more than half of the magazine articles and stories, are accompanied by one or several illustrations, which are either what is known as halftone engravings, or reproductions of line prints, or from pen and ink drawings.

Half-tone engravings, or what are commercially known as half-tone cuts, are produced from photographs, either from nature, or from wash drawings, or from oil paintings. A photograph of the object is taken in the ordinary way. The same solution which is used in the making of photograph paper is placed upon the surface of a plate of copper or zinc. This metallic plate, with the photograph upon it, is placed in a trough resembling a small cradle on rockers. Sufficient acid is poured into the cradle so that it will flow over the surface of the plate when the cradle is rocked. This acid eats between the lines of the photograph, but does not affect the photograph itself. Thus the plate is etched, and has a surface similar to that of type, although more shallow.

In the making of half-tone plates, however, which are taken from photographs of objects which are not lined off or of indistinct lines, it is obvious that no printing result could be obtained if the picture was not broken up or separated into distinct parts, allowing for space between them. To accomplish this, the photograph is taken through a screen, which consists of a pane of glass, upon which are painted lines or dots, running from eighty to three hundred to the square inch. When the coarse screen is used, the plate may be printed in an ordinary newspaper, but fine half-tone engravings require coated paper or paper with a very hard surface. So-called line-engravings or cuts are made in the same way, except that no screen is used.

Half-tone plates cost from fifteen to twenty- five cents per square inch, and line-plates from eight to fifteen cents per square inch.

Originally, all illustrations were engraved upon wood, the picture being drawn upon boxwood, which has the finest fiber, with a pencil, or else the object was photographed upon the wood itself. The engraver, with a fine instrument, cuts between the lines. The cost of the woodcut, because of the skill and time required in the making of it, was excessive, many book and magazine illustrations costing from fifty to even two or three hundred dollars. The woodcut is, to-day, practically obsolete, and photo-engraving has super-ceded it, at an enormous saving of expense. An illustration which formerly cost from fifty to three hundred dollars to produce, can now be made, and have a much better appearance, for a few dollars.

While coarse half-tone engravings may be printed upon book paper, they seldom appear in a book, most of the illustrations, unless line-cuts, being printed upon coated paper and inserted, which increases the cost of paper and binding.

A few books are printed upon coated paper, but as a glazed or hard surface affects the eye, the text in most books is printed upon book paper. Line-illustrations may appear in the body of the book, on the regular book paper, as they do not require a coated surface.

Several books are illustrated with one or more colored plates, which are produced by either what is known as the three-color printing process or by lithography. If the former method is used, the object is photographed through three colors of glass, and three half-tone plates are made, one from each photograph. These are printed in three colors of ink, one for each plate, and the colors of the ink blend upon the paper, reproducing the actual colors of the original.

This work is expensive, and the plates must be printed upon coated paper and inserted into the book.

Lithography is occasionally used for book illustrations. It is more expensive than is the three-color process, unless a large edition is printed.

Lithographic work is produced by drawing a picture upon lithographic stone, requiring as many stones as there are primary colors used.

Let us suppose, for example, that the picture is to be in six colors. That part of the picture, which is to appear in one color is drawn upon one stone, and so on until the work is completed. One color is printed at a time, and the finished product is similar to the original colored sketch or painting. The drawing upon stone is made with a pencil containing a greasy substance. The lines sink slightly into the stone but have very little raised surface, so little that one may not be able to distinguish the engraved stone from one unen-graved by passing his hand over the surface. The law of nature does not allow water to adhere to grease, or grease to adhere to water. The lithographic press has two sets of rollers, one carrying ink, the other saturated with water. The stone passes under the wet rollers first, and the water does not interfere with what is drawn upon the stone, but clings exclusively to that part of the stone which is not engraved. Lithographic ink contains some oil, which prevents the ink from attaching itself to the parts of the stone which are wet, the ink being distributed wholly upon the engraved portions, which are impressed upon the paper in the same way that type printing is done.

Occasionally the illustrations are printed upon Japanese, Chinese, or other thin paper, and tipped upon the pages by pasting the upper end of the picture onto the white page.

Many books contain little corner illustrations, which are vignetted into the book, usually at the beginning of each chapter, and may be a part of initial letters. They may be printed upon any kind of paper.

Mechanical drawings, which are usually in outline, are inexpensive, and do not require the use of coated paper or that of a hard surface.

It is evident that the expense of illustrating a book is considerable, not wholly because of the cost of the plates, but because they often require coated paper, which must be inserted into the book, and which increases the cost of binding.

If the book is to be illustrated, other than by the reproduction of photographs, which the author may or may not supply, an artist is engaged by the publisher, who reads the manuscript, and under the joint direction of the publisher and author, draws scenes or characters appearing in the book.

Illustrations add materially to the sale of the book, and often justify the additional expense, but are not considered necessary to the average novel or work of fiction.

Some publishers require the author of an illustrated book to release his royalty upon a thousand or more copies, to meet the additional expense of illustration.

Illustrations for articles or stories in magazines, and other periodicals, are printed upon the regular body paper, which is usually of a hard surface, permitting the use of half-tone engravings.

It is suggested that, if the author feels that illustrations would add materially to his work, he outline the subjects of them, and furnish the publisher with photographs of scenes or persons to be reproduced.

Photographs and negatives may be "doctored," so to speak, and even material changes made, which may affect the individuality or personality of the originals or be improvements.

Photographs should be used whenever it is possible to obtain them. If taken especially for the purpose, a photographer familiar with half-tone work should be employed, and, in any event, he should be told that his photographs are for reproduction. As a rule, the photograph or sketch, should be larger than the reproduction of it, as a better result can be obtained by photographing down rather than by photographing up.