Friday, January 20, 2023

Retro Coloring 06: Skin Color

As noted previously, coloring comics was a two-step process performed by two different people.. The colorist indicated which colors should be used, but the separator did the actual, physical task of stripping the color separations. This is why there were often errors in the colors printed in old comics; either the colorist made an error, or (more likely) the person doing the separations made an error do to being in a hurry or simple inexperience.

Experience is also something that mattered, a lot. There was a lot of repetition in coloring comics, and as such both colorist and separator tended to skip over common things that were done over and over again. This becomes apparent when looking at old color guides: One thing that is often skipped is the code for Caucasian skin tones. This was a very standard code so the colorist really didn't need to specify it since the separators already knew what it was.

That's all good and fine, except for poor ole me living in the 21 Century! 

I actually had a little trouble confirming that these are the standard skin tones used by Marvel, DC, Archie and Harvey. Okay, it wasn't like I had to delve into books of forgotten lore, but it did take a few days to find and confirm through multiple sources that these are, in fact, the correct codes for standard skin tones from the 1940s - 80s:

  • White People: Y2R2
  • Conan's Skin (redder skin): Y3R3
  • Black People: YR3B2
  • Hulk's Green Skin: YB2

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