Regardless of the garment decorating process you use, understanding how to get your artwork ready for digital printing is critical. Below are suggested steps so you achieve the best results:

Setting Up Your File

Making the right choice in the type of art, raster or vector, is key for digital printing. Raster art is preferred as it is a continuous tone, pixel-based artwork; I prefer to use Photoshop to create raster art. Vector art, created with programs such as CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator, uses a series of nodes and paths. Vector art can be used, but doesn’t maximize the full color capabilities offered with digital printing.

Knowing the artwork’s purpose and how it will be produced also has an impact with digital printing. For example, quality can be lost when starting out with a smaller image that later needs enlarging. With this in mind, make sure the image is created at the size and resolution needed for the largest item being decorated.

Enhance Your Artwork

Because digital printing’s output is in full color, take advantage of this by adding more dimension to your design. For example, add texture to a solid area within your artwork or add a shadow or beveled edge.

Change Your Color

When using Photoshop to create your artwork, changing the color is an easy adjustment by changing the hue/saturation levels. This feature allows you to either recolor the entire design or selected pieces.

Optimize Your File

How the artwork was created won’t matter if it isn’t optimized. Optimizing your artwork ensures you get the best print possible. Photoshop’s Adjustment Panel will be the go-to tool for this. The options within this panel allow you to change elements of the artwork such as the hue and saturation levels, brightness and contrast, and the image’s sharpness.

The technology of digital printing is ever-changing and evolving. Using this technology to its fullest will set you apart from your competition. Being able to offer your customers high quality, full color designs is a sure-fire way to increase customers, which in turn increases profits.

Click here to read the full article featured in the February 2018 issue of Impressions magazine.

You’ve seen it on everything from tattoos to T-shirts. The “torn to reveal something under the surface” look has become increasingly popular in the past few years. For many people, it’s a form of self expression that says to the world, “Hey! There’s more to me than what you see.” We want to help you create this popular look for your customers. Here are the step-by-step instructions for creating a torn shirt image.

There is certainly more than one way to set up your files to create this look. In this tutorial, we’ll be using Photoshop® CC 2018, but the steps can be recreated in the program you’re most comfortable with. If you’re looking for a shortcut, at the end of this article there is a Photoshop .psd file that will allow you to drop your artwork into the pre-created layer mask and save your file for production. It is truly production-ready!

Remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge it for more detail.

Let’s get started!

Step 1:

Open the “G6372-DIGITAL.png” file in Adobe® Photoshop®.

G6372 Torn Shirt Artwork

Step 2:

Create a new layer (Layer 1). Place it below the artwork layer (Layer 0), and fill it with white. This will make the next step a bit easier to do as you trace the opening of the tear.

Step 3:

Before we start, with the Pen tool selected first make sure the “Path Operations” (the button next to “Shape” at the top left of the Photoshop interface) is set to “Combine Shapes.” Now with the Pen tool, we can begin to trace the opening of all the torn areas to create a path. Your Work Path can be found in the Paths palette. If you need to adjust your path, you can do it at any time by using the Direct Selection tool.

Once you have traced the entire opening, you’ll need to save your path. Click on your Work Path and choose Save Path. You can choose what to name it (we chose Rip Opening) but the default is “Path 1.”

Step 4:

Now that you have created and saved your path, right-click (or control-click) on the path and choose “Make Selection” from the menu. Your path should now be a selection.

Step 5:

With your path selected, go back to the layers palette and make sure you are still on Layer 1 – the white fill layer. Then, go to the Layer menu at the top of the screen, select Layer Mask and choose Reveal Selection in the sub-menu. Your selection, sometimes called “dancing ants” or “marching ants,” should now be visible.

Step 6:

Back in the Layers palette, add a new layer – Layer 3. This is the layer where you will add your logo or any other type of artwork you’d like to see behind the tear. In our example, we’re using the Great Dane Graphics logo.

Step 7:

Go back to your white layer (Layer 1), and select the Mask icon to mask this layer. Then, while pressing the Alt key (or Option key on Mac), click and drag the mask to your logo/artwork layer. Both layers should now be masked.

Step 8:

Click the chain icon that sits between the two thumbnails on the logo/artwork layer. This will allow you to adjust the artwork within the mask. Don’t forget to click on the artwork before moving the image. This will ensure you move the art and not the mask.

Step 9:

You can now change the background fill color (Layer 1) and adjust your artwork while maintaining the mask.

Step 10:

Save your file, and get ready to print your new torn-shirt design!


As mentioned at the beginning of this article, included with the Digital Printing version of the Torn Shirt art, is a pre-setup Photoshop® file. All you need to do is place the artwork you’d like to use on the layer labeled “PLACE YOUR ART HERE.” Simple enough! We’d love to see what you’ve created! Share your pictures with us in the comments or on social media (be sure to tag us).

Last week, I introduced all over printing techniques. The post focused on sublimation, its benefits, and what to consider when prepping artwork.

Today’s posts continues on the topic, specifically highlighting how to print and apply your designs using transfers. You can either order a custom transfer or print it yourself. The process involves digitally printing the image in reverse using dye-sublimation ink on compatible heat transfer paper.

All over printing sublimated motorcycle shirt
All over printing sublimated motorcycle shirt (front).
All over printing sublimated shirt motorcycle (back)
All over printing sublimated shirt motorcycle (back).

The transfer is then heat pressed onto the fabric, which activates the ink and causes it to change from its solid, printed state to a gas that bonds with polyester fibers. If you opt to have another company do the printing, you’ll need to send them a digital Photoshop® software file for the front and back and one for each sleeve. The files dictate the colors.

Pressing also can be handled in several ways. Oversized flat beds and large, roller presses are available, but they’re expensive, with the latter being found mostly in larger operations where they’re used for applications like beach towels. One option is to contract out the pressing. Although all over printing of finished garments can be done on a standard heat press, it requires multiple applications. What helps with application of oversized images is typically the transfer paper has a slight tack. This doesn’t affect printing because the inks are inkjet sprayed on and nothing touches the surface; but it helps keep the transfer in place on the garment during pressing.

After application, you simply raise the upper platen and peel the carrier sheet off hot. Then you can flip the shirt over to do the other side. All over printing lends itself to various markets and has been met with success in the racing, resort, and wildlife arenas, as well as bowling and tournament shirts. If you’re looking to stand out with unique designs that command attention, and are willing to explore a different type of approach, this may be the edge you’re looking for.

Photographed: Motorcycle Sublimated Shirt

Front: Crown Glory Chopper, MC90009; Crest & Skull, C-3060

Back: Rockin’ Chopper, C-3503; Snake Tattoo MC90012

Not all graphics are created equal. Your decorating method determines the type of art file you need to use to design graphics for apparel. So how exactly is our artwork production-ready for your print/cut system?

Watch this short video on our printing/cutting stock art graphics to find out. You’ll see how bleeds and cutlines are already included in these full color designs, eliminating a huge production step for you. It also eliminates the need for a white outline, which customers hate.

If you’re ready to dig a littler deeper on using our printing/cutting graphics, we also have a recorded webinar from STAHLS’ TV showing how to customize our printing/cutting files using Adobe® Illustrator® software. Watch the video learn how to select and download the right file and then customize it in Illustrator®.

All over printing is a great way to increase impact and impress your customers.

While it’s a lesser-known technique, it’s unique and sets your shop apart from the rest. It does require investing in an oversize heat press, but this can easily be farmed out on a contract basis until your own volume is high enough to justify the expense.

All over printing is just what its name implies: printing an image or images to completely cover a garment seam to seam. This effect grabs attention and has real appeal in certain markets, provided it’s done right. To be successful, it requires a good sense of design, as well as an understanding of the techniques involved.

There are two approaches to this type of decorating: sublimating a finished garment, or sublimating cut pieces of fabric before they are sewn. Although direct screen printing can be used, it requires oversized screens, which means having oversized exposure units and washout sinks, etc. For this reason, most providers use sublimation transfers.

Advantages of All Over Sublimation Printing

The biggest advantage to oversize sublimation printing is its soft hand and vivid colors. It eliminates having to squeegee over collars, buttons, plackets, and pockets, as you’d have to do if you were screen printing. This enhances the all over effect by allowing for more uniform, consistent printing. The only limitation with sublimation is it can be done only on fabrics with a polyester content—the higher, the better—and white or light colors because the inks are translucent.

Creating The Big Picture

An example of all over printing with dye-sublimation.
Example of all over printing with dye-sublimation.

Good all over printing starts with the design. As with any apparel graphic, it’s important to take into account both the garment and its intended market. For all over applications, you want to create a look that takes advantage of the format and adds to its appeal.

Typically for finished shirts, you’re going to need a front and back design and one for each sleeve. While you can create your own art, there’s a wide variety of clip art options to choose from that can easily be adapted for this purpose.

Once you’ve chosen a theme or direction, the trick is tailoring the design for application, which begins with creating a garment template. You can do this by laying the shirt flat, taking its measurements, and drawing it in Adobe® Illustrator® software. For best results, a template has to be made for each size and/or brand.

Simply scaling the design up or down proportionally doesn’t work well because of differences in the way the material lays in different sizes. Similarly, although you can design for the main image area on the smallest size and then add filler art on larger garments, it’s going to skew the proportions and not look quite right.

The next step is to import the template into Photoshop® software. I personally use Photoshop® software, but you also can use Abobe® Illustrator® software or CorelDRAW® software. Bring the individual designs into the design software program and try them in various sizes and arrangements. You can position elements to tell a story; change the colors and the degree of saturation; rotate, flip and overlap them; push some parts of the design forward; and make others less prominent.

This is how you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. A lot of times, you’ll encounter issues with the shape of the image or striking a balance between an image being big and bold vs. overpowering. Sometimes, if there are too many small elements, the design doesn’t have a focus or it looks busy and out of control.

Designing for all over printing is not a fast process. For one thing, these are high-res, large—sometimes 900 MB to 1 GB—files with multiple layers. That slows down designing; so count on about three or four hours of time. The main thing is that it’s not just about the artwork, it’s about moving things around and coming up with a layout that’s pleasing and works.

Photographed: Zombie Sublimated Shirt

Front: Zombie Basketball, D-3581; Zombie Baseball D-3582Zombie Lacrosse, D-3583; Zombie Soccer Kick, C-3521

Back: Zombie Grave, C-3561

Photographed: Firefighter Sublimated Shirt

Front: Fireman Maltese Emblem, D-3982; Firefighter Dalmatian, D-4114

Back: Firebird, D-4071; Purple Fire Skull, D-4072

We’re known for creating production-ready art for Vinyl Cutting that is easy to cut and weed. Cut lines have the proper line and gap thickness, images are designed for less pulls, and lines are always complete, never overlapping or too thin. If you’re not sure if the artwork is production friendly, you can view the vector lines without the fill color. Download this comparison chart to see the difference.


  1. No overlapping of objects—sections are connected for ease of cutting and weeding.
  2. Complete and outlined strokes are ideal for cutting and weeding.
  3. Large open areas require less cutting passes which makes for faster weeding time.

Ready to try it for yourself? Download a free art file and experience the art advantage.

We recently uploaded several new artwork training videos to show you how to use our inkjet/laser printing files with OKI® Data white toner printers. Inkjet laser/files have hard edges; in just a few simple steps you can add a clipping path, and they’re ready for white toner printing on transfer paper. Why do you need a clipping path for white toner printing? The clipping path tells the printer where to place the white toner.

Watch this video to learn how to create a clipping path for OKI Data White Toner Printers.

Watch these videos to learn how to edit an inkjet/laser file:

Working With Inkjet/Laser Files—Illustrator® Software Edition
Working With Inkjet/Laser Files—Photoshop® Software Edition

In the videos you’ll learn how to:

  • Add type with a stroke effect
  • Reduce image size
  • Add canvas to the bottom of an existing image

Once you have your image edited and clipping path created, you’re ready to go to print.

These videos show you how to adjust your printer settings.

Printing to OKI® Printer—Illustrator® Software Edition
Printing to OKI® Printer—Photoshop® Software Edition

Here are my top go-to techniques to add effects like texture and dimension to screen printed design.

1. Shapes

One technique starts with drawing your own shapes. Use any shape you like. Once you choose your shapes, colorize them in different percentages of the same color to keep the number of colors down while still giving the illusion of multi-color design. Then, paste these shapes inside of your text by creating a clipping mask.

Halftone shapes for dimension
Halftone shapes for dimension.
Type with shape texture pasted inside
Type with shape texture pasted inside.

2. Graduations

You also can use graduations to create interest, but be sure to create them using spot colors. This gives the illusion you are using more colors when you are actually blending two colors together to create a third.

3. Drop Shadows

Create a quick drop shadow to add dimension by duplicating your text layer then coloring the bottom layer black (or whatever color you want the shadow to be), then offsetting it slightly.

4. Distressed Bitmap Overlay

Another option to create texture is to add a distressed bitmap overlay to create a worn effect. This look is popular on shirts.

Distressed texture
Distressed texture.
Text with gradient drop shadow distressed texture
Text with gradient drop shadow distressed texture.