You may or may not know that I am a professional screen printer. In fact, I was running my own screen printing business before I summed up the courage to take the leap and start a t-shirt label. I can’t tell you how many times I have had artwork sent to me that I’ve had to spend countless hours tweaking to make print ready.
I know some of you are using artists/designers to design your t-shirts and some of you are clever enough to have the skills to do your own. Either way, I think it’s important to know what elements make a design “print ready”.
First up, it’s important to remember that most screen printers are just that – screen printers. They’re not graphic designers, and they’re definitely not mind readers. The best way to get along with your printer and get the most out of their skills is to provide solid artwork. It’s a common saying that a print can only ever be as good as the provided artwork.
STEP 1: COLOUR SEPERATION
Basically, the way screen printing works is that every colour is burnt onto a screen and put down separately. This causes a layer of colours to form your image (similar to the way you use layers in Adobe Photoshop).
So, if you have a look at the image below, it consists of white, green and black. If we are going to print this on a white t-shirt- each colour will require a different screen, minus the white (the background of the shirt will work as the white). It’s important at this stage to know that when doing the printing, we always lay down light to dark colours. In this case it would be white, green and then the black.
This means you have to put each colour on a separate layer and save it. You will then have to change that specific colour to a solid BLACK (this is crucial for printing). The printer will then print each of these layers out onto film in special all-black-ink to then burn onto the screens.
STEP 2: CONVERTING YOUR TEXT TO OUTLINES
The next step is to make sure all of your fonts are converted to outlines. I can not stress how important this is as there are tens of thousands of fonts out there and this is the only way to ensure your font is what comes out on the t-shirt.
STEP 3: ADJUSTING TO PRINT SIZE
This one sounds simple enough, but it happens a lot – people send a file that’s not the right size. Printers can use a mock-up to roughly guess what print size you want your design on the t-shirt, but the simplest thing to do is send it over to size. Get a t-shirt, measure up where you want it, and make sure your file has the right dimensions. This way the printer just has to print out the films, but get going.
Each printing shop has a preference, whether it be eps. or ai. or even tiff. files. They also have requirements when it comes to resolution. You should get in contact with your screen printer (or label owner if you’re designing for a brand) and ask what file type and resolution they require.
The above steps are intended to give you a bit of insight into what screen printers like to receive on their end and what type of file will get the best results for your design, and ultimately your brand. I always think it’s better to keep your screen printer on side, and providing solid print-ready artwork is definitely one way to do that!
Thanks for reading – peace