Artwork for Screen Printing

Tips with Artwork for Screen Printing.

Here at Fifth Column, we take great delight in providing high quality t-shirt printing and clothing customisation. There’s nothing quite like seeing an excellent design expertly reproduced on shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts and so on. But you obviously need to prepare and send us that design before we can perform any of our inky magic. And we appreciate that not everyone is comfortable with this aspect of customising clothes. After all, how to set up artwork for screen printing isn’t necessarily something you just pick up along the way.

General art guidelines for screen printing.

As with many things these days, designs for custom tees need to be in an electronic format. And, not surprisingly, there are many different sorts of files for digital images. You can tell the type by those letters you see after the dot at the end of the file name. If you have a graphic designer on your team, this kind of stuff won’t faze them in the slightest. They’ll be able to easily prepare your artwork to the required specification. But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. Below, we’ve put to together some tips and useful reference information about artwork for screen printing.

PSD artwork for screen printing guide at Fifth Column.

PSD files

EPS files

AI files with artwork for screen printing.

AI files

PNG files with artwork for screen printing.

PNG files

PDF files

TIF files with artwork for screen printing.

TIF files

File types when making screen print art.

Our top priority with any screen printing project is to get a great finished product and the graphics file is clearly a vital element. That’s to say, achieving the best results starts with having the right components. Bearing that in mind, the following artwork file types are usually okay for screen printing purposes:

.PSD | .TIF | .EPS | .AI | .PDF | . PNG | JPG

There’s no need to panic if the above just looks like a lot of random letters because we’ll explain what they mean. For context, there are two major digital image file types we need to look at with the artwork used in customising clothes. Specifically, vector and raster. Each is saved with different extensions (as above). Which is the most appropriate for your particular design will depend on the circumstances. But both have a place in the world of screen printing, DTG printing and embroidery. With customisation, vector graphics are generally more versatile than raster images. Consequently, they tend to be favoured with artwork for screen printing and embroidery. However, either may work, depending on your project.

Getting the artwork right is crucial for screen printing clothes.

Appropriate artwork is crucial for high quality garment printing

Vector Artwork for Screen Printing.

What images are best for screen printing? Well, the short answer is vector images. So, what are they? In basic terms, a vector file is made using mathematical equations to form the lines and shapes. This means that the saved artwork can be scaled (up and down) without the image losing quality. By the way, if supplying vector style artwork, create the text as outlines. This way, if we don’t have the same font on file, it won’t change it to ‘something similar’.

There are more than those listed here, but the vector file extensions that we find easiest to work with for printing and embroidery are as follows:

  • .ai – this stands for Adobe Illustrator and is a proprietary file format developed by Adobe Systems. It’s a graphics file that was developed in order to contain vector based graphics in a single page.
  • .eps – stands for Encapsulated Post Script and is another product of Adobe. One of the older vector graphic formats, an EPS file can contain text, as well as graphics, but does not support transparency.
  • .pdf – short for Portable Document Format and developed for cross-platform document exchange. It’s one you may know even if you aren’t a graphics wizard. PDF files are often saved from existing files rather than originated in PDF.

A couple of points to remember with vector artwork. Firstly, it’s best if the image is the size that you need to be printed. And secondly, crop the image to the actual design.

Raster Artwork for Screen Printing.

A raster image is composed of tiny squares of colour (called pixels). The resolution is determined by the DPI (dots per inch). For example, if you hear 300 dpi, it means 300 pixels per square inch. This will be a more detailed image than 72 dpi which is generally used for online graphics and why we stipulate 300 DPI for t-shirt artwork. Saving images in a raster file format has inherent limitations. The quality deteriorates when you increase size. The four most common raster file types that we get are:

  • .psd – the quick way of saying Photoshop Document, this is a layered image file, the default format in Adobe Photoshop. It allows the user to work with the individual layers, even after the image has been saved.
  • .tif – Tagged Image File Format (you sometimes see it shorted as .tiff) was invented in 1986 by an industry committee in an attempt to standardise computer image usage across multiple platforms. TIF files are high quality.
  • .png – an abbreviation of Portable Network Graphic that became available in 90s. Often used online for high quality illustrations, these images can be compressed without loss. Plus offer bright colours.
  • .jpg – all of us will have come across a Joint Photographic Experts Group image (also known as .jpeg). It’s easily the most widespread file type for pictures and artwork and can be opened by the majority of image editing software. That said, you need to be aware that manipulating your artwork in .jpeg means every save can reduce quality.

As mentioned, it’s important to note that raster files need to be 300 DPI or higher. What you want is a sharp image when you look at it actual size. Artwork also needs to be scaled to the necessary print size. For reference, a standard Fifth Column screen is 28cm x 40cm and this pretty much fills the whole front of a t-shirt.

Guidelines to follow for screen printing artwork.

Follow the guidelines for screen printing art

Printing Hand Drawn, Photographic & Scanned Art.

Okay, all good. But not everything is created on a computer. Indeed, we’ve worked with numerous artists from a wide variety of artistic fields. And the essential nature of their craft is ‘by hand’. A fact that we both appreciate and admire. However, electronic is still the order of the day when it comes to translating that unique piece into something to adorn the front of a t-shirt. In effect, converting the hand drawn to one of the formats already mentioned. Scans should be high resolution and clean. By which we mean only showing exactly what you want to print.

That’s it, a quick guide to preparing artwork for screen printing. You don’t need to become an expert, that’s why we’re here. But, as with any subject, an understanding of the basics will make life a lot easier. And usually save you time and expense. Get in touch if you need advice about graphic design for screen printing or any aspect of the customisation process. We welcome general enquiries and are always happy to answer any specific questions. In our experience, the best working relationships often start with a friendly chat.

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