ARTWORK GUIDE FOR SCREEN PRINTING
The final print quality is almost entirely down to the quality of the artwork you supply us. If you send us a low quality image it's likely to either reflect in the print, or cost extra for time spent working to get the design up to scratch. This guide outlines everything you need to know about getting your artwork on point from the get go. Following this guide and making use of our free template design kit will ensure your design looks as good on a tee as it does on the screen. Okay, let's get started.
A Little Bit About The Screen Printing Process
Screen printing involves making a screen for each colour in a design. In short, screen printing is a technique where a piece of artwork is split into separate colours and then 'burned' onto screens.
A screen is a device whereby mesh fabric is stretched across a frame and secured to it. The screen is coated with a light sensitive emulsion and left to dry. Each separate colour in the artwork is printed out onto a transparent medium with special highly opaque black ink. These are called 'film positives'. Once the film positives are printed out, they are lined up onto the screens in a darkroom and then exposed to UV light to 'burn' the design into the screen. This process is called 'imaging'. The UV light basically hardens all the emulsion in the screen everywhere except for where the light is being blocked by the design.
Once the screen is burned, the design is washed out of the screen mesh with a pressure washer. This leaves the mesh open and allows ink to pass through the screen leaving only the desired design, effectively leaving you with a stencil. Sounds fairly simple, right? It’s actually a little bit more complex, but you get the general idea. Now that you have some idea of how the process works, there's a few things you should think about when designing your artwork to give us the best possible chance at getting top notch film positives of your design.
File Types and Artwork Sizing
You should always provide the highest possible quality artwork you can at the size you want it printed. If you are unsure, you can generate a mock-up using our free template with approximate size and position of your design. Our maximum print size is 13" x 19".
Below is a list of file formats we accept, they generally fall into 2 types:
Vector Files (Our Favourite!)
These include: Illustrator (.ai) or vector-based .pdf/.eps.
Vector files are our favourite. We love working with them because rather than being pixel based, vector files store 'points' and 'curves' as mathematical formulae, meaning that they can be resized and changed easily, without compromising the image quality. Its also much easier to separate the colours within the design, which will save a lot of time and will likely avoid any extra artwork fees.
If you have a designer for your artwork, you should check to see if your artwork can be sent to you in a vector format when possible. As great as vector files are, not all images are suitable in a vector format - particularly detailed images such as photographic quality images.
Raster Files / Image Files (These are okay too)
These include: .psd, .jpeg, .png.
Raster images unlike vector files, are pixel based. If you are supplying your artwork in a raster image format, you should ensure that the image was created at a minimum of 300 dpi and at the size you want it to be printed. Raster files that are supplied in a low resolution or at a very small scale will not translate well in the print results. Raster images cannot be sized in the same was as vector files and degrade in quality with every modification that needs to be made and the final result will be a horrible pixellated image. Please note that if you provide us with low quality files, the result will either be a low quality print, or you may incur artwork charges if excessive time is required to get your design print-ready. In some cases the quality may be so bad that we may be unable to fulfil your order. This will all be discussed with you during the quotation process. To ensure the best quality prints we advise that you use our free design templates for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, available to download for free above. Image files downloaded from the internet are usually 72dpi and therefore not suitable for screen printing. To ensure the best quality prints we advise that you use our free design templates for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, available to download further up this page.
Low Quality Formats (Nope!)
These include: Word, PowerPoint or Publisher file types.
No thank you! Sending us artwork in this format will make our designer cry and then we'll have to spend a whole afternoon trying to coax him back out of the cupboard with promises of cookies. Seriously the cookie budget is getting out of hand. It will also increase your turnaround times as we'll have to ask you to resupply your artwork in another format, like one of the nice ones above.
The left image is a raster or pixel-based image and the image on the right is a vector image. As you can see, vector images have much more crisp and defined lines, which makes for a much better print than images supplied in raster formats. We always prefer to work with vector files whenever possible.
When opening a new file in Adobe Illustrator, make sure you set your colour mode to CMYK and raster effects to 300 ppi (pixels per inch). You should always make sure your artwork is provided at the correct size, so make sure your artboard is big enough to fit it on there!
When opening a new file in Adobe Photoshop, make sure you set your colour mode to CMYK and raster effects to 300 ppi (pixels per inch). You should always make sure your artwork is provided at the correct size, so make sure your workspace is big enough to fit it on there!
Why is Resolution So Important?
If you are supplying your artwork in a raster format such as a .psd or .jpeg you should always make 100% sure it is at least the same size as you would want it to be printed and at minimum resolution of 300dpi. Raster files that are supplied in a low resolution or at a very small scale will not translate well in the print results. Raster images cannot be sized in the same was as vector files and degrade in quality with every modification that needs to be made and the final result will be a horrible pixellated image. Please note that if you provide us with low quality files, the result will either be a low quality print, or you may incur artwork charges if excessive time is required to get your design print-ready. Most images found on the internet are 72dpi, the standard resolution for viewing images on a computer monitor, so these images are definitely no good for screen printing. Please always send us the original art files when you can to avoid any extra artwork fees. Again, the best way to ensure this would be to us one of our FREE TEMPLATES to design your artwork right from the start.
Look at the two logos above. The fuzzy image on the left is a 72dpi version of our logo downloaded from the internet that has been scaled up to the desired print size and converted to 300dpi. As you can see, this 'upsampling' has caused some nasty pixellation which makes for a very bad print. We are unable to work with files supplied in this way. The image on the right is our logo created in Photoshop at the correct print size and at 300dpi. The lines are much more defined and will make a good film positive and therefore, a good print. There is a saying in the screen printing industry; garbage in = garbage out. The better quality artwork files we have to work with, the better the results when it comes to printing. The best way to avoid any mishaps is to create your artwork using one of our TEMPLATES.
One of the biggest problems we encounter is fonts not being prepared correctly. We do have a pretty sizeable collection of fonts here at Fyahfly HQ, but we may not always have the one you use in your artwork. Fonts need to be prepared correctly to avoid any nasty surprises when is comes to print. Sometimes Photoshop and Illustrator will substitute a font if we don't have the font installed so its very important you follow these guidelines if your artwork contains any text. For vector artwork, fonts will need to be converted to Outlines so that they become a path rather than a editable font. For raster artwork, fonts will need to be rasterized so that they are pixel based rather than an editable font.
If you are supplying a flattened file format such as a .jpg, or .png, you won't need to worry about preparing fonts.
If your artwork is created in Adobe Illustrator, simply select your text, the go to Type > Create Outlines
Once your text has been converted to outlines it will become a vectorised path or shape, meaning we wont need the font file to be able to work with it.
If your artwork is created in Adobe Photoshop, simply select your text, the go to Type > Rasterize Type Layer. This will effectively 'flatten' the text and we will no longer need the font file to be able to work with it
We do not charge for separating artwork colours for print and have our own set way of doing this. Please do not try and colour separate your artwork yourself as this can sometimes lead to confusion and complications and may even incur extra artwork fees if it takes a long time to rectify. The best thing to do is to save your artwork as it is, with all layers included and at the size you require it printed. Design mockups are also fairly useful too, you can find a mockup template in our FREE DESIGN KIT.
Changes To Your Artwork
If you've followed our guidelines above or better yet used one of our ARTWORK TEMPLATES to create your design, the chances are that you have your artwork pretty much spot on and ready to send to us for printing. If extra graphic design work is required including modifications to your artwork, colour reduction or logo arrangement, we can do this for you at a rate of £40/hr. If you need your design creating from scratch this may also be possible, but will incur a charge. Please get in touch for a quote and to discuss this further with us. However if you require us to arrange logos for you or alter art (such as removing unwanted colours), we can do this for a fee of £40/hour, starting at £20. Please make sure all supplied logos are of a reasonable quality following our guidelines.