Designer's Guide
Design Considerations
Separation Techniques
Types of Presses
Hardware and Software

Hiring a Printer Determine Your Needs
Finding a Printer
Communicating Needs
Ask For Samples
Hiring a Printer
Quality Control Issues

General Information General Information
  About Printing

Ink Systems
Old Vs. Modern Presses
Shirt Weaves
Environmental Issues

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[Mirror Image, Inc. presents the complete hypertext guide to the silkscreening process]

Hardware and Software

If you intend to create finished separations for screen printing we strongly suggest that you talk to your printer before getting in too deeply. Screen printers each have their own set of specs and techniques, unlike offset, which has a fairly standardized library of methods. If they are unable to communicate their needs to you, you should leave the dirty work to them or find a printer who speaks a bit of your language. If possible consult your printers art department before laying down the final vector on your cutaway diagram of the 12 cylinder combustion engine complete with drive train and 38,000 control points.

Art and separations for T-shirts can be produced using a wide variety of platforms and applications. Most of the tools used were not designed with our process in mind but are borrowed from the world of desktop publishing. Often work-arounds have to be implemented to fit our mold. If you intend to create vector graphics, devoid of blends or any other half toning, a solid working knowledge of the popular drawing programs should give you enough control to create a wide variety of successful images. Programs such as Illustrator, Freehand, QuarkXpress, Corel Draw or Pagemaker are all feature rich enough to handle most tasks but some are better suited than others for some of the more complex procedures. Generally, the bulk of T-shirts are printed with spot as opposed to process color so a program that can easily output spot colors will be more suited for the task. If you create an image in a program that does not output spot colors readily then be prepared to pay an art charge to re-create the whole design in another program. The programs listed all have some type of spot separation capability but your printer may not know how and may have to charge you anyway.

Dealing with continuous tone images for T-shirts is in a word "hell". The advent of affordable computing has given the average screen printer a whole new set of tools to corral this ornery beast. More printers every day are attempting to add 4 color process and duotones to their repertoire but implementation of controlled halftone printing on a garment is in no way standardized. Different printers with the same equipment and training may have vastly differing tone curves and printable gamuts. The tools generally used for photographic images are the same as offset, with Photoshop being the most popular. Many printers with deep pockets have opted to install high end work stations, such as Scitex, Alias Eclipse, or Dainippon Screen to help them tame the dot gain beast. Unfortunately the bigger equipment does not necessarily yield better printing. If your printer can handle photographic reproduction chances are they should be able to deal with your TIFFs, PICTs, or Scitex CTs.


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