5 Ways You Need to Prepare Your Artwork for Screen Printing

Have you ever ordered any printing before? If it’s your first time ordering, you may be unsure of how to prepare your art files to be printed. Knowing how your art files should be prepared will prevent any errors or unnecessary delays in your t-shirt designs. Follow all of these tips to help you have a successful printing order.

  1. Plan the color schemes

Details often get overlooked when customers don’t plan the color schemes they want. It’s important to have an idea of what color pallet you want to be used. Create mock-ups to simulate all of the ink and garment color combinations. It can be an easier process if you’ve already got the design ready, and it just needs to be added to the clothing. Make sure your shirt and the graphic are the same color. When you do this, all space between and around the subject of your image can function as negative space. The negative space should only be for the middle of the print; otherwise, the matching colors that are on the outside edge won’t be visible.

There’s also a risk of low visibility with garment and ink colors being close in value. The best level of visibility depends on the style you’re most interested in having for your logo or design. If you’re most interested in creating a unique effect, you can use tonal colors for your ink and garment and keep them close in value. If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in having a readable logo that can be seen from a distance at public events, it’s better to have as much contrast between the two colors as possible.

Some of you might be starting your logos from scratch, which allows you to choose the garment color before the ink. If that’s the case, you’ll be able to center your design around color harmony. While this might seem challenging for those who are new at designing, this advanced technique can be made easy through the right tools. For the garment color you’ve chosen, you first need to decide to determine the RGB values. Once you’ve done that, open a color palette generator and input those values. Then you should create ink color swatches by applying different color theory rules.

Then you can add the colors you’ve chosen to your palette and save them. You’ll want to make a folder for the color scheme and label them. The presets will be your guide for painting the different areas of your design.

  1. Use Pantone colors

If you’re unfamiliar with Pantone colors, they’re a color code that represents a specific shade. Colors are made from a palette of 18 colors. Using Pantone colors helps to ensure the color you want on your t-shirt is accurate when its screen printed. It also makes color separation simpler for screen printing as well. Since there’s always some shine with ink, it’s recommended that you use coated colors rather than uncoated colors. Pantone colors have a code that’s either followed with a C that represents coated or a U that represents uncoated.

A mistake you want to avoid is improperly using Pantone references. Some designers expect to see the same results on their screen when they select PMS colors from Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. The problem with that is computer monitors have a difference in color calibration. One example of this is when you go to an electronics store and look at the different computer and television monitors. You’ll notice that they might all look different in brightness, contrast, and color.

Looking at identical references is the only way the screen printing company can use an exact color match for your design. A majority of screen printers use the Solid Coated Formula Guide as a reference for colors. You can acquire the book online, and some will come with an uncoated version as well. If you can’t afford the investment, a screen printer will usually match the closest available Pantone with what they see on the screen. Most screen printing companies are aware of the importance of using ideal lighting conditions and accurately calibrated monitors to best understand the color that you desire for your design. You just have to be aware that there’s a possibility the color of your design may slightly vary from what you see on your computer.

If you do get the Solid Coated Formula Guide, make sure you include your Pantone Color references in your order submission. Doing this will ensure the color references you desire are not overlooked.

  1. Utilize Adobe Illustrator

Whenever you create your graphic assets, it’s most helpful to do it in vector format through Adobe Illustrator. Vector graphics can be resized without sacrificing print quality. This resizing is key for when you want to use your t-shirt logo for other things such as postcards, banners, billboards, and business cards. Your logo will be able to be printed on all formats clearly without any pixilation or blurriness that can happen with resizing images in Adobe Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop is more useful when you’re planning to use a design for just a specific product, like a t-shirt.

It’s because creating graphics in Photoshop limits you to the original dimensions. Be sure to start your documents from scratch at the exact print size you want. The resolution should be 300 pixels per inch. The graphic will be resized and smaller if you copy and paste low-resolution elements into it. Avoid scaling elements to a larger size, as this will make them blurry and more poor in quality. It’s best to always create your artwork at a size that’s at a higher resolution and larger than you think it’ll need to be. Scaling a large artwork to a smaller size will cause fewer issues than doing the opposite.

Additionally, you should be sure that you’ve scanned your art design at the correct resolution if you’re digitizing a hand-drawn illustration. Scan it at 300 dpi if you’ve drawn the design at actual size. You should double the resolution if you’ve created the artwork at a 50% scale. Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid using photoshop effects. They usually will not be compatible with t-shirt printing. In particular, try not to use faded edges, drop shadow effect, glow effect, reduced opacity, or any filters in general.

  1. Let the screen printers do the separations

During the process of screen printing your design on your t-shirts, the screen printers will likely make spot color separations. It won’t be necessary for you to divide the ink colors up. Set your color mode to RGB for whichever program you use. CMYK is meant for process color printing. When it comes to screen printing, it’s more like putting pre-mixed paint colors from a bucket to your t-shirt. Screen printers utilize spot colors to reproduce the colors that are on your artwork file.

The advantages of doing this are that there’s greater color consistency, and prints are replicated with more vibrancy. Printing companies create color separations based on their specific equipment. Creating the separations before you send your artwork can potentially add extra work that needs to be done by the screen printing company, because there may need to be corrections. If you have any concerns about making sure the results are completed as you desire, you can consult the printer ahead of time before submitting an order. You can include instructions with your untouched print file as well.

  1. Save a copy of your file

Before you send off your final design to the printer, save a copy for yourself. There’s always a possibility you might have to adjust your artwork if your order doesn’t look the way you want, or your printer has issues with the file. It’ll save you time having to start from scratch and recreate your design. The print file should follow a few guidelines depending on which program you used to create it. If you used Illustrator to create your artwork, outline all your fonts, embed all the raster links, and save as either a PDF, EPS, or AI.

Outlining your fonts is necessary if the font you’ve used for your artwork is obscure or custom designed. If you don’t outline the font, the printing company might end up substituting the fond in your design. All you have to do is right-click on your text with the Selection tool, and then select create outlines. If you used Photoshop, rasterize all the text layers, merge all of your printable layers, and save as either a PNG, PDF, PSD, or TIF. Your garment color should always have a separate layer that’s labeled, and your artwork should never be flattened to your garment color.

While it may seem like preparing your design for screen printing can be difficult, carefully following these tips will make it a lot simpler for you. There will be less of a chance you have to keep having calls with the screen printer about any issues you have with the final product. Consider also requesting plastisol printing to make your design stand out. You can find out more about plastisol printing at this link:

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