Saturday, 7 July 2012

Test printing of promo metal signs.

Above are two test prints on metal for a possible range of faux Victorian tinplate signs that I'm thinking of making to promote my latest project.
I can see have some explaining to do…
Over the last few years, in my spare time, I’ve been working on my, as yet unnamed, Top Secret Graphic Novel Project (I really need to come up with a better working title).  So far I’ve got 35,000 words in 190 pages of script, covering approximately 1/3 of the first storyline plot, with enough extra bits that I didn’t have room for that would probably fill another two volumes. 

I’m doing the whole thing myself as this is one project that I want 100% control over.  This means it’s taking forever - and I haven’t even started the layouts yet :)  I am considering doing a Kickstarter project to fund the printing of really good quality bound hardback books - but that’s still a long way off and not definite by any means.  I'll set up a separate site to deal exclusively with the project once I’ve made more progress and actually got some content that I can show.  But I thought these were so cool and I've been keeping this project under wraps for soooo long already I had to say something before the big vein on my right temple pops.
It’s set in an alternate reality version of 1890’s London - the term Steampunk grates on me and I’d argue that this isn’t part of that genre, but I suspect it will end up being labelled as such regardless of what I say.  I'm not going to go into any detail yet about the story or characters because I want to build up a body of work that I am comfortable with first.  At that point I’ll then start to release bits and pieces online before working up to putting out the first chunk in print form.  The prequel will be released free online, the opening sequence and maybe the first chapter - depends how long that turns out to be or rather where I decide to break the story.  I 'm not ruling out doing something for iPad/tablets but have no idea what or how yet.
The Victorians were very keen on advertising, just about everything that didn’t move (and quite a few things that did) was plastered in ads.  This doesn’t often come across in TV and Film because it would give the art director and props master an aneurysm and would get very busy, very quickly. I’ll be using ads and bill posters throughout the story to hopefully cut down on long-winded exposition.  I don’t want huge speech bubbles filled with boring backstory or captions that take up half a page when I can have a poster for a travelling circus in the background of a panel that plants the germ of an idea in the mind of the reader much more subtly and succinctly. 

It occurred to me that as I already know what a lot of these ads will be (as they’re essentially chunks of script) that I should get these designed early on so that I can establish the various companies, products and ‘rules’ of this universe in the reader’s minds from panel 1.  The ads will crop up many times throughout the course of the story but may not be 100% legible in any one frame as they’ll be incidental to the action.  I planned to have full versions of the ads plastered all over the endpapers of the book so that if people want to read the original in one go, they can.
About 20 seconds later it clicked that I could also use these ads to promote the project in the early stages before pages have even been pencilled. 

It was always my intention to make up a series of double-sided postcards to look like cigarette cards with character portrait on one side and some blurb about the character surrounded by fake cigarette card styling on the back (as at least one of the characters is closely linked to a specific brand).  I thought they’d make nice little ‘impulse buy’ bits and pieces to flog at conventions - if I ever got to the ‘lugging books around cons’ stage that is.  
After looking at several graphic novel projects on Kickstarter it occurred to me that the fake adverts might make really nice rewards/perks for backers who pledge X amount to the project.  While I was looking at tons of reference pix of Victorian adverts I kept seeing old tin signs and realised that would be a perfect format to present the ads.  After a lot of searching I finally found a company in the UK that would custom print my design on steel or aluminium plates.

Above are the results of the first test printing at 30cmx40cm - the largest they can print and a perfect size for this project.  I made two versions of the same ad.  The first is a pristine version that was printed on steel which I am going to leave outside to weather naturally (after I’ve kicked it about a bit).  For the second version I tried out various fake ageing techniques in Photoshop and had the resulting image printed on aluminium.  Apparently the inks are not particularly colourfast in direct sunlight so these may still fade a bit but they won’t rust. 

I have to say I am seriously chuffed with the results of the test.  My rubbish photos don’t do them justice (ignoring my pathetic design for a minute).  They’re shiny, shiny and feel like a really good quality object in your hand.  The aluminium one has a very similar weight and flexible feel as tinplate.  The steel one is reassuringly substantial without being silly-heavy.  I was worried that they might turn out to be extravagantly decorated razor blades but they’re nicely rounded and smooth along the edges. 
Many thanks to Martin at designasign for doing such a brilliant job and turning these test pieces around in a couple of days.  What a star.

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