5 Tips on Designing Artwork for Screen Printing
Here are a few important pointers on what not to do when creating your artwork. By following these guidelines it will maximise the quality of your screen printed garment.
1. Web Images
Using images from the web can be handy, but note that most of the time these images are very small and set to only 72 dpi (very low image quality). Web designers use the lowest resolution and size possible so that their pages load fast while keeping the images looking good. Due to this, the image downloaded is designed to look good at the relatively small size it appears on screen and not printed out here in the real world. When it comes to screen printing, these forms of photo images should be avoided altogether – but vector based images are absolutely fine.
As shown above, many internet images are very pixelated and blurred.
Try to avoid very small negative spaces as they can fill in or “bleed”. Ink is a fluid and therefore spreads a little bit by nature. So a very small negative space (such as the words “Screen Printing” – shown in the image below) can be filled in by the ink that surrounds it pretty easily. However, there is no hard and fast rule for avoiding bleed on small type/detailing, so every piece of artwork will be evaluated on a case by case basis. However, a good general guideline is to use fonts at or above 12 points and lines or outlines stroke size larger than 0.3 pt.
The fine or “light” version of this typeface is not a good choice, the hairline box detail also wouldn’t print.
3. Illustrator Effects
Illustrator has some cool effect options, but you’ve got to be careful when using them – especially when creating artwork for screen printing. Try to avoid drop shadow or gradient effects. These often look good (at first glance) and add dimension, but they complicate your file by mixing image types and this type of effect doesn’t translate to the screen successfully. If you do want a slight shaded area effect or gradient within your design or logo, it will need to be made up of a series of very small dots (when viewed close-up) that from a distance, create the look of a gradient or difference in tone. It is more time consuming, but the outcome is a much better print.
In Illustrator, when two shapes overlap and the one on top has opacity set lower than 100%, the color of the shape below it will affect its color. For example (see below), when the circle on the bottom is red and the one on top is blue with 50% opacity, the overlapping portion is violet. But when it comes down to printing, it almost never works out like that due to unpredictable ink transparencies and intermingling pigments. If you’ve got a red + blue = violet type scenario, use a spot color violet instead of transparencies.
5. Problem Colours
Inks have varying degrees of transparency. A few color ranges are very transparent and do not look good when printed on a particular colour under base – whether that’s another ink layer or your actual garment colour. This can leave areas looking splotchy, washed out and generally poor. Darker blues tend to be one of these and, unless you’re printing on to white garments, avoid using them. Another one to look out for, is bright fluorescent inks, they too are very transparent and tend to lighten up and lose brightness when printed on an under base.
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