Lenticular Effects

The month of September has been Villains Month 3D at DC Comics. The publisher has come out with a series of beautiful lenticular covers that have received glowing review on the web.  Jim Lee from DC Comics recently explained on Buzzfeed “We’re … doing something really unheard of, I think, as far as a major publisher – we’re actually adding a special cover on every single villain’s book. It’s called a 3D motion cover and it’s essentially artwork that’s been separated onto different layers, so when you hold the cover, which is a premium stock cover, and you slightly rotate the comic book left or right or up and down, the images move a bit.”

Poison Ivy, Batman nemesis, in 3D glory.

The amazing thing about these covers is the size of the lenticular effect. In the past only small printing spaces could have lenticular effects. Now, because of innovations in printing technology, publishers can design full size 3D covers. National Graphics, a pioneer in lenticular imaging,  provided DC with the printing for the covers. The technology is pretty sophisticated. The company recently posted a short explanation of how the printing works.

“The first step of the process is to separate graphic elements from the artwork and place them on their own layers. The void that is created by removing an element must be filled-in with the objects behind it. This is a very time-consuming process. To help reduce time and preparation cost it is best to provide your artwork with as many layers as possible.

“The next step of the process is to create “parallax.” Parallax is the position change of objects that are viewed from different vantage points. This is the very basis of stereographic or 3D imagery.


National Graphic's lenticular print process

“The parallax images, called frames, are then spliced together to create an “interlaced” image. This image is a close-up of Venus’ face. The number of frames used, the splice configuration and the resolution of the interlaced file are based on the type of lenticular lens to be used.

“The final step of the process is printing. The interlaced image is lithographically printed directly to the back of the lenticular lens. The lenticular lens is comprised of lenticules that serve different perspectives (parallax) of the interlaced image to each eye creating stereographic or 3D viewing.”

The effect is fun and eye-catching, which is undoubtedly why DC decided to undertake such a massive undertaking. Beyond the delight of collectors, the results of the DC 3D project have had unexpected consequences: Cnet’s Seth Rosenblatt has reported a resultant plastic drought in a China province while Bleeding Cool revealed that comic shop owners would be receiving only  percentage of their actual orders.


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