Our top tips on prepping your artwork for printing.
Plan your colour schemes beforehand.
This might seem like an odd place to start, but by planning your colour palette first, you can avoid details that are often overlooked in this process. When creating an order from scratch, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you pick garment or ink colours first. But keep in mind that there is a link between the two that is reflected in the final product. Always simulate every ink and garment colour combination by creating mock-ups ahead of time to proof the results on screen before going ahead with your print order.
If your designs are already finished and you just need to get them printed. The process is a little less complicated. It is important to check if your design contains the same colour as your chosen garment. If that's the case, those areas in your print can be used as negative space – the space around and between the subject of your design – in the middle of your print only, as matching colours along the outside edge will not be visible on the print.
Similarly, inks and garment colours close in value will result in lower visibility. Sometimes this can produce cool effects. However, if your intent is to have a design or logo that is super visible and readable from far distances, you may want to go a different route. With whatever colours you end up using in your design, add them to your ”swatches” on your editing software palette and save them. Create a separate folder for this colour scheme, and label each colour in a way that you will remember easily. You can then use the presets as a guide to how you will paint each area of your design and keep everything nice and coherent.
Always reference Pantone colours.
One of the biggest mistakes is the improper use of Pantone references. Many times designers will select PMS (Pantone Matching System) colours from their software and expect to see the exact same results as they appear on their screen. This defeats the entire purpose of calling our Pantone references due to the differences in colour calibration from one computer monitor to the next. The only way that your printer can guarantee a colour match is if you both are looking at identical references. This requires both parties to be holding the exact same physical colour book in their hands.
The Pantone book that you will need for screen printing inks is called the Solid Coated Formula Guide. So, unless you need to guarantee exact colour matching on a regular basis. This may be a bit of an investment. The good news is that printing companies will generally not require Pantone colours with your order and will choose the closest available Pantone based on what they see on screen.
Count on your local print shop to have correctly calibrated monitors and ideal lighting conditions for colour viewing. Just remember that there may be slight variances from your “out of the box” computer that you are working from in your office. Remember to include your Pantone references in your order if possible.
Design in Adobe Illustrator if possible.
If you have control over how your artworks are created, always do so in vector format, created with Adobe Illustrator. Unlike .JPG, .TIFF, or .BMP image formats, vector graphics are not made up of a grid of pixels. These files can be resized without sacrificing print quality, so if you want to use the same logo for stage banners, shirts, scrims, and even billboards, each one of them will print without pixelation that occurs when resizing images that were created in grid-based design software.
Always start your documents from scratch at the intended print size with a resolution of 300 dpi. If you then copy/paste low-resolution elements into that workspace, you will notice that it will resize the graphic and will appear much smaller. When in doubt, always create your artwork larger and at a higher resolution than needed. As you can always scale the art down without causing issues.
Ask any designer and they'll tell you this; save an editable copy for personal use and a second copy for print!
When you've done all the final touches on your design, be sure to save an editable file for yourself, in case you need to make tweaks later on. If your printer has issues with any of the things that you have done within your file, you want to be able to go back and make adjustments without having to recreate your whole artwork. Ouch!! Once this safety net is in place, save your “final” print file to send on to your printer using the following guidelines:
Illustrator: -Outline all fonts (convert to vector shapes) -Embed all raster links -Save as AI, EPS, PDF
Photoshop: -Rasterize all your text layers -Merge all printable layers -Save as PSD, TIF, PNG, PDF