Whenever you're making a multicolor print, it's essential to plan how color layers will interact. Here are some digital and analog approaches.

Planning Color Layers with Photoshop for Hand-Pulled Prints

Using Photoshop to create a sketch layout and color separation for multi-color printmaking processes such as intaglio, relief, monotype, screenprinting, and lithography. I combine a photo and hand-drawn elements to create a mock-up on 9” x 12” document, the size of my printing paper when I make the hand-pulled print. Covers composition, color planning, and Split Channels function in Photoshop, which allows automated export of 1 file for each color in your image.


Channels allow a good reference for the relative roles of color within an image. Note that options for Split Channels are RGB (red green blue) or CMYK (cyan magenta yellow black). For printmaking applications, you can mix any color of printing ink you like, so why limit yourself to these “primary colors” of screen- and print-based digital images? For instance, you could use CMY channels as a guide for a turquoise, crimson, and yellow ochre 3-color print. Or a navy, hot pink, and orange print. While each would look different than commercial process colors, the relative roles of colors remain. You can use Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, and other adjustment tools in Photoshop to play around with the color palette in your image before you Split Channels.