How to design print ready art for clothing and t shirt screen printing

screen printing Melbourne

Designing print ready art for t shirt screen printing and other types of clothing can be a tedious process to get right if you are unfamiliar with graphic design.   This task is generally something you would want to hand over to an experienced graphic designer.  If your designer hasn’t created art to be screen printed on clothing before then it doesn’t take too much for them to adapt if they follow these few key guidelines.  

For starters, screen printing needs to be in vector format.  Whilst Adobe Photoshop can achieve this,  the best programs to use for screen printing are Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign.  Illustrator is usually the most common program designers use.  The final export that a screen printer would want to see is PDF, however, it can be acceptable to send through .EPS or .AI file types as well since screen printing operators are well equipped with this knowledge.

To start the file off we recommend that you use a garment template.  Templates are widely available on the internet or if you are printing with us, simply ask your account manager to send you one of ours that match your exact garment.  This will ensure that your designer can indicate the exact size and placement of the design on the garment.  

All fonts, layers and assets need to be converted to outlines as every asset needs to be completely vector.   To do this for fonts & text in Adobe Illustrator it’s very simple, just select the text you want to convert with the black arrow and then from the menu, choose Type > Create Outlines. You can also press Ctrl/Command (Windows/Mac) + Shift + O for this.

Your designer should supply an image (could be pdf or jpg) of what they want the final result to look like when they hand over the vector files, this is especially important when you require multiple colours with screen printing since that each colour is applied separately.

Screen printing requires spot colour designs, this means that each colour must be a solid colour and you cannot use coloured gradients (more on that later).  If you are using multiple colours then you may be asked to supply multiple files for the screen printing that indicate each screen/colour. Each colour has its own process and if the design or size is different for each colour then a new mesh screen will need to be made for the printing process, it’s ideal if each screen design is in it’s own file.  If you do this you will still want to hand over a file that contains all of the layers and colours in one file for reference.

The colours that you use in these files really don’t matter so much, what does matter is that each colour is the same shade or pantone of each other.  Due to the nature of screen printing inks it’s essential that the final desired colours of the print are communicated very clearly to the operator so that they know what colour ink they should use.  

If you have very specific colours in mind then you should use a pantone colour wheel to select your colours and ensure they are applied within your file, otherwise results may vary.

Back to gradients.  Whilst full colour gradients are not possible using spot colours, there are methods you can use to achieve a similar effect that tricks the eye into seeing a gradient.  Remember that every colour is a spot colour design only and you want to limit the amount of different colours used as much as possible.   There are some great tutorials across the internet that teach a few types of spot colour gradients for screen printing.  If you have issues achieving this then just get touch with us.

If you are having trouble getting your designs print ready for screen printing or require an experienced graphic designer to do it for you then get in contact with us for an obligation free chat. 

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