ARTWORK GUIDES

THIS PAGE SHOULD HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO HELP YOU SET UP ARTWORK FOR SCREENPRINTING
BUT IF YOU NEED ANY HELP JUST DROP US A MESSAGE!

The final print you get is reflected by the artwork you send us. A generic term used by printers is “Garbage in – Garbage out” So the better the artwork is when it arrives, the better your final product will be. It’s also more time effective for us, more cost effective for you and makes for a much happier print experience.

This guide outlines everything from final sizing to resolution and some handy tips you might need to decide on your design. That being said, there’s a lot of info so let’s get started (you can click on the links to jump to the section you want):

A BIT ABOUT SCREENPRINTING

For those of you new to screenprinting, lets cover the basics. It involves making a separate screen for each colour in a design and then pulling ink through that screen to produce the image. When it comes to photos or work that is shaded then these screens need to be halftoned (dots) in order for them to create the illusion of shading or mixed colours. So in short, your artwork needs to be separated by colour and then each colour exposed onto a screen.

So what are screens? Screens are like a picture frame with a mesh/netting fabric stretched over it. It has to be a specific tension, and the mesh fabric comes in different densities. The lower the mesh then the bigger the holes are between the strands – low meshes have low detail retention and are used for chunky inks like glitter or glow in the dark…inks that have particles. The higher the mesh the smaller the holes – high meshes have high detail retention and are great for detailed photos or fine lines. Our main screen count is a 62, it’s a happy middle of the road mesh that works for most jobs. We can go as low as a 10 mesh and as high as a 120.

Right, so we have the screen, but how does your artwork get on to it? Well this is where it gets a bit sciency. The screens are coated with a light sensitive emulsion and then dried. Then your artwork is printed onto transparent acetate in solid black. Yes. Each colour is printed in solid black. In the industry these are called “film positives” – they can be reused mulitple times as long as they’re stored correctly!

We then take a coated and dried screen and one of the film positives, it’s lined up and placed on an exposure unit. The exposure unit contains UV light bulbs, much like a tanning bed, so you see where we are going here. Where the film positive is clear the light passes through and cures/hardens the light sensitive emulsion. Where it’s black (your artwork) it blocks the light so this bit remains dried but not hardened. Once it has been through this stage we remove the screen and film positive from the exposure unit and rinse off the unhardened parts with a pressure washer, leaving a stencil of your design. Magic!

It sounds pretty simple but it’s quite complicated when it comes to the practicality of it, choosing the right mesh count, applying the right emulsion level for that count, getting the timing right, etc… but you get the idea. Thats how we get your artwork from screen to well…screen. From this point the screens are lined up on the press, ink applied and the design printed. You can see from this process how the initial artwork will effect the final outcome of the screen and as such the design, so sticking to this guide will help everything move along more smoothly.

 

File Types: Vector or Raster?

The first thing to say is that you should always supply your artwork in the highest possible quality that you have, the bigger the better. If you’re not sure how big to make it then you can use the template files in our artwork pack that you can download below:

Artwork pack includes psd and ai template with commonly used print sizes.

VECTOR

Vector files are the preferred option wherever possible. Instead of pixels the files are made from a series of points and curves which means that the file can be resized big enough to be seen from space with zero quality loss. It’s also easy to update, change colours and split colours ready for making screens. This saves a lot of time and artwork costs.

Not all artwork is suitable to be a vector file, so whether it’s yourself or a designer you’re working with check to see if it can be saved as a vector or not.

Here’s a checklist for working with vectors:
  • Convert fonts to curves

    If you're not sure what we're on about there's a bit about this below.

  • Size the artwork to the size you want it printed

  • Make sure everything is on the artboard

    This is especially important with PDF files, we've had a lot of artwork arrive that is cropped off due to the wrong artboard size.

  • Make sure the PDF is a PDF

    Ok, this one is a bit odd, but it's something that happens more than you'd think! When saving a PDF make sure it's not a jpeg or other file inside of the PDF, it should still be editable.

RASTER

Raster images are all pixel based, which you probably already know has quality issues if not set right. If the resolution is too small the image is extremely pixelated when scaled, not at all good for print.All raster images need to have been made at a minimum 300dpi at the size you want the print to end up – any smaller will result in poor quality outcomes. With raster images artwork separation and changes are a bigger task and take longer, which can sometimes become more costly if a lot of work is needed. We use some pretty awesome software to help us separate complex artworks but it still takes time, sometimes hours.

If you send us files that are too low quality to work with it could end up with a terrible print or it could end up costing extra fees if we need to re-create your artwork. The worst case scenario is that the file is not printable at all, but we will talk to you about this and discuss options if that ends up being the case.

Here’s a raster checklist for you:

  • Design at 300dpi minimum

  • Must be print size or larger

  • Rasterize any type layers

    This merges the font into a single layer, theres some info on this below.

  • Watch out for white on white

    If you're saving a raster file that has white with no outline or other colour separating it from the background, make sure to save it as a png with a transparent background.

  • Clean up scanned images

    If you are scanning your artwork make sure to scan it at the highest resolution and then clean up any marks or errors before sending it to us - cleaning these up can cost a fee if there's a lot of work needed.

Getting the right resolution

ANY raster artwork that comes to us should be at least the size you want it printed, and at the minimum 300dpi.

When you open a new file in your editing software – photoshop, illustrator or any other program – there will be an option to set the canvas size and resolution/raster effects. As a general rule of thumb, set your canvas/artboard size to at least A3 and the resolution to 300. This is usually good enough to work with on 95% of jobs.

You could also just use the template in the artwork pack. If you have any issues or questions, just get in touch.

The difference between vector and raster images is quite clear, as shown above. This is the same file set to the scaled to the same size.

FILE SEPARATION

When it comes to file separation it’s best to leave this to us, so send your files in as a flattened image or the original working file with layers. We know what works best on our screens. DO NOT apply halftones without speaking to us, these cause the biggest issues and cost the most to fix. It’s best practice to supply a copy with your halftones applied so we can see how you want it to look and an original copy without halftones for us to work from.

We don’t charge for separation but we do charge you if we have to spend excessive time fixing artwork that has complications.

Converting fonts

If you’re sending us a flattened image like a .jpg or .png then you don’t need to worry about this part, so take a break from all this reading and have a cup of tea. If not, keep reading.

Although we have a large collection of fonts to work from, we don’t have everything, and one of our biggest issues is a font substitution. It messes up your whole artwork file. Font’s need to be edited to avoid this and make sure you get what you’ve designed. Don’t worry, it’s pretty straight forward if you’ve never done it before.

In vector programs you’re looking for an option to “convert to outlines” or expand the text, this converts all of the font to curves like in the rest of the design.

In raster programs like photoshop, you should be able to right click on the font layer and choose an option along the lines of “rasterize type”, that will convert your text to a flat layer.

And that’s it, that’s all you need to do to solve the font issue.

INVERTED COLOURS

When you supply your artwork you might want it printed on both light ink on dark garments and dark ink on light garments. Most designs work fine with this (especially logos or solid colour designs) but other designs, like faces, will look pretty odd when you invert the ink colour. This is because you are putting ink through the same screen, so highlights become shadows and vice versa…you can see that below.

Original Screen – Black on white

Same Screen – Image inverted

Second screen for white on black

To avoid this you’ll need a second screen with an alternate version of the artwork. You can see how from the images how much this changes the appearance of the art and keeps it true to the original design.

Halftones

We mentioned halftones up above but we’re going to bring it up again because it’s an important one. If you provide a piece of artwork that’s already been halftoned there’s a good chance it will be too fine to print. This can happen for two reasons:

1. The halftone was setup to small to begin with (extremely high dot frequency) or 2. It was applied to a huge image and then shrunk.

This is why it’s key to scale your artwork to the print size & resolution BEFORE adding halftone. Now we’re not talking about the chunky really visable, comic book-esque halftone. We’re talking about photos, fades of colour in a design, details type of halftone. It’s a complex combination of screen mesh to dot ratio to dot angle that makes halftoning work in screenprinting, which is why we say it’s best to leave that part of the artwork to us.

The reason the dots need to be the right size and frequency is so that they can allow ink to pass through and not fill in. Fine dots that aren’t suited to the mesh will fill in and produce a solid colour appearance. We tend to use an angle of 22.5° and a frequency of 35-45lpi on a 62 mesh, 55lpi on a 120 mesh.

If you can, supply a copy of your artwork with your halftones applied so we can see how you want it to look and an original copy without halftones for us to work from.

INK, COLOURS and EFFECTS

WE MIX ALL COLOURS BY HAND

It’s always best to ask about colour if you’re not sure. The industry standing in printing is to use Pantone colours, or PMS (Pantone Matching System) this guide is best viewed in a physical form as a pantone book filled with swatches. Why might you ask? Well, all screens are calibrated differently, and to view true colour representation on a screen you have to have a fancy colour calibrated specific monitor. If you view a pantone swatch on your screen it may look different to ours…or your phone…or your tablet.

Now you’ve come back from darting off to see what a pantone book is, you’re probably still just as confused because there’s so many different types. The book that screen printers use is the Pantone Solid Coated, these are the pantone codes that end with a “C” (e.g. 2299C). We use this book because it’s the closest representation we can get to the ink we use. If you want a specific colour shade then it’s best to provide a pantone colour code for each colour. You are more than welcome to pop in and look through our pantone chip book to see the physical colours, the other option is using hex codes with online converters but these are not always reliable. 

If we don’t have a specific colour code off you we will make a best guess judgment or use standard pot colours, a lot of our jobs end up having colours picked like this as no colour specifics are provided. If you are very particular about the colour provide a pantone reference. We can also match colours to physical samples you provide as well as pantone colour codes, say you have a pen that is the exact colour you want. Bring us that pen and we’ll find a pantone reference and mix a colour to match.

It’s also worth nothing that, as with most things in screen printing, there are variables. Ink changes colour as it is cured, and although we do our best to take this into consideration, it may mean some slight colour variances from a chosen colour. We have a 5% tolerance on this where we do not class colour shade variance as a misprint. Additives can also affect the cure colour of the ink, puff for example lightens the overall colour as the ink expands. 

Sizing your artwork

So you’ve followed everything above and you’re getting your artwork prepped for screen, but how do you know what size screen you’ll be using? Below are the maximum print sizes for each screen to give you an idea of what template file you should be using and what limitations are there.

Our standard screens have a maximum print size of:

    • 30.5cm (12") wide
    • 42cm (16.5") tall

Although highly unusual, these screens can be set up in landscape format if need be.

Our oversized screens have a maximum print size of:

    • 35.5cm (14") wide
    • 48.5cm (19") tall

These screens can only be set up in portrait format.

Our oversized screens have a maximum print size of:

    • 10cm (4") wide
    • 38cm (15") long
      OR
    • 12.5cm (5") wide
    • 30.5cm (12") long

Our standard tote bag screens have a maximum print size of:

    • 25.5cm (10") wide
    • 30.5cm (12") tall

**Always remember that if you want to print your artwork at multiple sizes this will require the cost of multiple sets of screens. If you want to save on setup costs, plan your artwork to fit on the maximum amount of sizes possible with just one set of screens. The recommended sizes we’ve listed over there are pretty universal.**

HOW BIG SHOULD I PRINT?

If you’ve never done anything like this before or are just looking for some general guidance, here are the sizes we would recommend for the most common print areas:
  • CHEST PRINT -
    28cm (11″) x 23cm (9″)
  • FULL FRONT/BACK -
    30.5cm (12″) x 38cm (15″)
  • POCKET/BREAST -
    10cm (4″) x 10cm (4″)
  • LONG SLEEVE/LEG -
    10cm (4″) x 33cm (13″)
  • SNAPBACK CAPS -
    11.5cm (4.5″) x 6.5cm (2.5″)
  • SHORT SLEEVE/NAPE -
    9cm (3.5″) x 9cm (3.5″)
  • NECK LABEL -
    7.5cm (3″) x 6.5cm (2.5″)
  • TOTE BAG -
    25.5cm (10″) x 30.5cm (12″)
  • OVERSIZED FRONT/BACK -
    34.5cm (13.5″) x 45.5cm (18″)
  • VINYL SHAPED STICKERS -
    10cm (4″) x 10cm (4″)

If there’s any question you want to ask becuase you’re not sure, just drop us a message. We’re always here to help and offer advice if you’re a bit undecided.

WOW, YOU MADE IT THROUGH THE WHOLE THING!

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