Join Dane Clement from in this insightful episode of Secret Sauce, where he unveils the secrets to setting up raster art files for garment decorating. Discover the fundamental steps to prepare your art files, whether they’re self-created or AI-generated, for the best printing results. Dane guides you through the nuances of adjusting image size, resolution, and color profiles using Photoshop, but these tips are applicable across various image editing software. This video is crucial for anyone in the garment decorating industry looking to enhance their print quality. You’ll learn about the importance of selecting the right DPI, understanding color modes, and ensuring your art is at the optimal size for printing. While we keep the full process under wraps in the video, you’re sure to walk away with practical tips to elevate your garment prints.


When it comes to creating designs for screen printing, the number of colors used greatly affects the cost of the print. The greater the quantity of shirts to be printed, the more cost effective it is to print designs with more colors. However, the time it takes to expose screens and set them up on a press does not make it beneficial to print a full-color design for short runs. Generally, in these cases, simple one- or two-color vector clip art and/or text is used to create a basic layout.

But just because you may be restricted to one to three colors for a design doesn’t mean your artwork has to be basic. Think outside the box and utilize full-color, raster images to your advantage. Work with images in Photoshop to transform them into fewer colors that still make an impact.

In the design world today, AI is being utilized more and more to generate images and layouts for garment decoration. While you can provide prompts to generate images in certain colors, you don’t always get what you want. In general, AI images are created in full color (see image at the top of this article). When it comes to digital printing methods like direct-to-film (DTF), direct-to-garment (DTG), or dye-sublimation, this isn’t an issue because it doesn’t affect the price.

So, how can screen printers benefit from AI or any full-color images they may have to create on a budget using less colors?

Grayscale Image

One of the most basic ways is to turn the image into a grayscale. You can simply change the mode of an image from RGB or CMYK to grayscale and it is now a one-color design. Even though the color may be gone, you are still left with a detailed, impactful image. This makes for a great tone-on-tone design when the ink color used is in the same color family as the shirt color.

Depending on the design and the original colors, just changing it to grayscale may not be enough. You may need to adjust the levels or curves to adjust the lightness or darkness of the design to get good contrast (Images 2 and 3).

Image 2

Image 3

Make sure the black areas or darkest areas of the image are at 100%, whites are at 0%, and that there is good variation between grays in between. While everyone’s equipment is different, a general rule of thumb to keep in mind is that most halftones above 80% will become solid, and anything below 10% will not be held on the screen and, therefore, will not print well.

So, as you are adjusting the percentages, anything that you want to print without becoming solid or falling off should fall between 10% – 80% with good distinction between the varying shades. If not, and there isn’t good contrast between the shades of gray, dot gain will cause the image to fill in and lose detail and definition.

When you initially transform the image to grayscale, the white areas do not become transparent. To do that, make a selection of the grayscale alpha channel, make a new layer, and then fill the selection with black. Delete the original grayscale layer, and your image is ready for use.

The grayscale image can remain black to print out the positive to expose your screen. You can add your type in the Photoshop file, or you can save the image itself as a PNG file with a transparent background and import or place it into a vector program like Illustrator to add your type and print your film positive from there (Image 4).

Image 4

If you need to show a proof to your customer, you can place the PNG in Illustrator and color it with the appropriate spot color, and put a background color behind it to represent the shirt color (Image 5). Make sure the color you use is set up as a spot color or it will not work. The image will remain black.

This grayscale method works when the image will be printed in a color darker than the shirt. There may be instances depending on the design where a lighter color print will work on a darker shirt, but usually it will look like a negative image on the shirt (Image 6).

Image 5

Image 6

Grayscale with a Twist

Another unique look utilizes the grayscale option, but incorporates a large halftone screen for a more graphic look (Image 7).

While you could print it as a one-color as mentioned above, you can also add some additional spot colors for added punch. By saving the grayscale image as a PNG, you can import it into Illustrator and color it with a spot color. You can then use the pen tool to create a shape in the area where you want to apply the additional color and place it behind the grayscale image. Since the grayscale is transparent, the added area of color will show through, and the shirt color will show through everywhere else (Image 8).

Image 7

Image 8

Hue/Saturation Colorize

Another option you can use to take a detailed, full-color image and reduce it down to two to three colors is using the Colorize option in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment (Images 9 and 10).

Image 9

Image 10

Once the color is set, you will need to make adjustments to the darkness and lightness of the image using the levels or curves like you would with the grayscale option (Image 11). The interior of the image is not open, so the shirt color will not show through. The image will still maintain any black and white areas while transforming all other colors into varying shades of the selected color. This is a good option to use when going on a darker colored shirt (Image 12).

Image 11

Image 12

With this option, you will need to generate your separations like you would for a full-color image, but the separated information should be limited to black, white, and the main color. If you are only printing on black or white shirts, then the design can be printed in two colors. If you are printing on a colored shirt, you would need to print three.

Use Existing Separations from a Full-Color Image

If you’ve printed an image already for a full-color design using simulated process separations, but are looking for an inexpensive option to reprint some additional products for the same customer, start by reviewing your existing full-color separations. You may find that you can create a one- to three-color design just by selecting certain separations. You can use the black or the base white, for instance, to create a one-color design. Throw in another color from the separations to create a two- to three-color design.

The example shown here was originally separated with Separation Studio into seven colors, but the black and highlight white separations were used to print the same image in just two colors using dark blue and white inks (Images 13 and 14). Since you won’t be printing all the colors, the shirt color will show through in the areas where the other colors would normally print. It’s important to keep this in mind when thinking about the final look you want to achieve.

Image 13

Image 14

These are just a few ideas for screen printing images on a budget without having to sacrifice design. Your customers may be used to simple clip art layouts when they know they can only get a one- to two-color print, but why not show them something different. Whether you use something from a stock art library you already have, or utilize AI to generate an image, you’ll be able to provide a more detailed, interesting image at no additional cost.

Cost-Effective Designs for Screen Printing Using Full-Color Raster Images


So, your customer returned again this year asking you to reprint their usual spirit-wear design for the upcoming football game. That’s great. But why stop there? Think of all the potential that exists for increasing your sales by taking that one design and using it to create an entire collection. The idea here is to take the initial image you’ve been working with and either resizing or  odifying it to create any number of other layouts and products. Now you have a whole host of additional options to present to your customers in a bid to further increase both profits and sales. What follows are a few things to consider when trying to flesh out a new collection.

Impressions Magazine

Go Beyond Apparel

The most obvious way to create a collection is by taking an existing design and simply printing it on any number of different products. Let’s say there’s a new restaurant in your area, and they come to you asking for some T-shirts. Why not create some additional samples of the same design on other products as well—aprons, bandanas, napkins, hand towels, caps, you name it. What about hard goods? Think things like mugs, water bottles and cutting boards. Imagine all the things that can be used in a restaurant, either for decoration or by the staff as they’re going through their daily routine. Imagine as well all the items that can be sold to the restaurant’s customers.

Don’t have the necessary equipment to provide certain decoration methods on certain products in-house? No problem. Contract it out. Look for one of the many wholesale printing companies online or any companies you may know of in your immediate area that can do the work for you. Maybe try and find someone who doesn’t do the same kind of decorating as you and work out an arrangement between the two of you to provide complementary services for one another on similar jobs in the future.

All Together Now!

Taking a single image or logo and then modifying it for placement on a variety of products is a great way to increase sales.
Image by Dane Clement

Size and Placement

When printing on different products, size and placement will naturally come into play. A full-front design that’s printed on a T-shirt, for example, will obviously need to be reduced to fit on a mug. Something to keep in mind: if you know you are going to be creating a layout that will be used as part of a wider collection, be sure and create it for the largest piece first. Also bear in mind that while size doesn’t really matter for a vector image because it can be resized without affecting quality, that’s not necessarily the case for a raster or bitmap image. It’s always better to start a raster image at the largest size needed, as opposed to enlarging it later. Otherwise, quality will deteriorate.

Along these same lines, there are a few other things you need to consider when
resizing artwork for different decoration methods. If you are creating a vinyl cut image, for example, creating a large vector image and then simply reducing it may not work. Lines and cavities may become too thin to cut and weed correctly. A full back screen-printed image reduced to a left chest may also run into these kinds of issues. Lines or text, in particular, may become too thin or too small to hold on screen. Small details may bleed together and lose their sharpness.

Again, it’s important to always think ahead and organize the creation process for a design according to what you will be printing and how you will be printing it. Central to this approach is remembering that to get the best results for a variety of different products or decoration methods, adjustments or modifications may need to be made between the larger and smaller layouts.

As you are doing so, when picking out your product offerings and figuring out the size and placement, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I remember the first time I saw a North Face fleece jacket with a leftchest sized logo on the back, placed on the upper right side. I thought to myself, “That’s different!” Same thing when I first saw a line of type going across the back of a pair of shorts or sweatpants.

While these two examples might seem commonplace now, they show how placement can make a difference. Unique placement catches your attention. Think about the big sportswear companies and how they will place a tiny logo at the bottom of a long sleeve or above the cuff, or how they will include a small tag on the back of a shirt. While you might not take a full-blown illustration and reduce it to a size that is small enough for these kinds of applications, the approach many larger companies take illustrates the potential in terms of the different placement options available. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

All Together Now!

This collection was created for a restaurant. Note how it includes products for sale to customers as well as for use by the staff .
Image by Dane Clement

Changing the Layout

Using the same layout and changing the  size and placement for the different products making up a collection is all well and good. But to create a truly eye-popping collection of product offerings you may need to take things a step further by pulling some of the elements from an original image and then manipulating them to create a number of similar, but different layouts.

As an example, try changing the text of an original layout or dramatically rearrange your existing elements. As long as you use the same elements and fonts, the collection will retain a sense of sense of cohesion, which is key. Adjusting the layout this way will also allow you to use the design on other products that the original layout might not work on,due to their having a completely different set of dimensions. A full-size T-shirt layout reduced to fit on a pant leg, for example, doesn’t really work. Run some type vertically along with an element or two from the original layout, though, and you’ve got an all-new product offering to add to your collection that you might not have ever thought of using before.

All Together Now!

For a vinyl-cut application, be sure the lines and cavities don’t become too fin or narrow to effectively cut or weed.
Image by Dane Clement

Go with Vector and Raster

Try employing both vector and raster images when creating your designs in order to maximize your options. Some production methods can only be done with vector artwork. Others require raster images. For example, you can try creating a simplified, vinyl-cut vector version of a full-color raster image for some unique garment ideas and then use this same image for some laser-cut products in leather or wood. Don’t miss out on all the product opportunities available by limiting yourself to just vector or raster art.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, restaurants are a great example of the type of business you can create a collection for, and other possibilities abound. Think spirit wear for schools and sporting groups or local attractions, like zoos or aquariums. And don’t just stick with businesses. Events like bridal showers, bachelorette parties and birthday parties offer a wealth of opportunities. Same thing with holidays like Halloween, Easter, the Fourth of July and Christmas.

With the variety of products, production methods and markets available, the opportunities for creating a design collection are endless. Don’t be content with a single T-shirt design! Let your imagination run wild! Expand both your horizons and your bank account with all kinds of extra cash from the many additional items you can create and offer your customers.


10 Design Hacks for Creating artwork for screen printing requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure the final print looks great. The whole process starts with the art. If it isn’t created correctly from the beginning, it will only make the prepress and production process harder to get good results. Here are 10 design hacks to help you create artwork optimized for screen printing.

No. 1: Vector versus Raster Artwork

There are two types of artwork: vector and raster. Both can be used for screen printing, but the way they are created and separated are completely different.

Vector artwork is created with programs like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, or Affinity Designer. It is made up of lines and shapes formed by paths and points. This allows them to be scaled up or down without losing clarity or sharpness. The images are generally reproduced using solid areas of color, but halftones can be used to reproduce tints or shades of colors as well as gradients.

Raster, or bitmap, artwork is created in programs like Adobe Photoshop, Corel Photo-Paint, and Affinity Photo. Digital photos are an example of raster artwork. This type of art is made up of a series of dots or pixels in a continuous tone of colors. Raster artwork cannot be resized as easily as vector artwork and still maintain clarity. Greatly enlarging a raster image can result in a pixelated or blurry image, which will not produce a clean, sharp image when printed.

A vector versus raster image - greatly enlarging a raster image can result in a pixelated or blurry image.

A vector versus raster image – greatly enlarging a raster image can result in a pixelated or blurry image.

No. 2: Resolution and Size

One of the first things you need to be aware of when creating an image is the size and resolution. Since vector art is made up of paths and points, resolution isn’t a factor, and the size isn’t as crucial because it can be enlarged or reduced without affecting the quality or sharpness of the image.  Raster art, on the other hand, is affected by the size and resolution. Starting off at the right size and resolution is crucial for getting an optimal print.

If you are creating a raster image that will be printed at different sizes for different locations, such as a full back and left chest, it is always best to create the art for the largest size first. In general, I usually set up my document size at 14” wide X 16” high, providing me enough margin all around to create a full-size image of approximately 13” X 15”. When the image is complete, it can then be reduced for smaller applications like a left chest.

A general rule of thumb on determining resolution for a screen-printed image is to go no lower than one-and-a-half to two times the line screen you will be using. So, if you are using a 45 LPI halftone, two times that would be 90 PPI. However, to ensure the printed image is as sharp and clear as possible, 300 PPI is recommended. This is more than enough to hold details without making the file size too large to work with on your computer.

No. 3: Color Mode and Profile

When it comes to color and setting up a raster file, I use the RGB color mode and the Adobe RGB (1998) color profile. RGB provides a higher spectrum of colors than CMYK, providing a better range of colors that are brighter and more saturated. The Adobe RGB (1998) color profile provides purer color and richer blacks. Using these two settings will provide the best and most color information, which will help when it comes time to separate the image for printing.

No. 4: Transparency

Always create your art on a transparent background.

Always create your art on a transparent background.

Always create your art on a transparent background! Like size and resolution, transparency doesn’t affect vector art like it does raster art. When setting up a raster file, you want to make sure you set it up with a transparent background. You don’t want to paint on a colored background or flatten your image because it will affect your separations.

Any color in the background will be included on the corresponding separation. If you were to print the separations, the solid background color would print on your garment as well. By working on transparent layers, there is no background color to interfere with the separations. You can always create a layer underneath the art layer(s) and fill it with a solid color to match your T-shirt color so you can see how it will look, but always remember to turn it off or delete it when you save your final file for separating.

No. 5: Line Thickness and Detail

As mentioned, vector art can be scaled up or down without it affecting the quality of the image. However, there is one caveat to that. If an image is reduced too much, some details may become too small or thin to hold on screen and therefore will not print properly. The same goes for raster art.

When designing for screen printing, the mesh count and halftone screen you will use play into the amount of detail you can successfully maintain. Lower mesh counts and larger halftone dots do not hold small details, thin lines, or small type well. You may need to use thicker lines and spacing, or a larger and/or bolder font to make sure you can maintain the integrity of the final printed product. With that being said, once you reduce your image, it’s a good idea to print out the separations on paper to see if areas may be too small to print. If so, modify the art accordingly.

One way to help you determine what, if any, detail you are losing is to create your own registration marks using .5-point, .75-point, and 1-point lines for the crosshairs and circle, colorized with registration color. If any part of the registration mark falls off when printed, you’ll know the minimum line thickness you can use to maintain your image.

No. 6: Color Count

Unlike digital printing methods, the number of colors that are needed to print your design will affect the cost. Each color requires its own screen, so you have the added cost and time to expose, set up, and print that screen. It’s always a good idea to consider how many colors you can print for a job before you begin. That way you can plan your design accordingly. Even for full-color designs, if you know the number of colors you can print, you can modify the colors you use when painting your image.

What colors can be created using other colors? For example, if you have red and yellow in your image, you can use orange in your design as well, because you can use red and yellow ink to recreate the orange. You don’t need a separate screen just for the orange.

It’s always a good idea to consider how many colors you can print for a job before you begin.

It’s always a good idea to consider how many colors you can print for a job before you begin.

If you only have the budget to do a two- to three-color design, think outside the box. You don’t need to use standard black line clip art. Take a full-color raster image and turn it into a grayscale image. Print it as one-color using halftones. Add an additional color in the type or any additional graphics you may use to complete the layout.

The shirt color you use will affect the color count. Knowing this up front will help you plan. Dark colors will require a base white, so you can include that in your count. If you are using a colored shirt, can you incorporate that color in your design to eliminate a color for printing? Knowing this kind of information can help you plan your design better in the early concept stages, instead of having to make changes later.

No. 7: Optimizing

When you finish a raster design or you receive one from a customer, it may look great, but there are a few steps you should run through to optimize the image further. Using the Selective Color Adjustment to adjust the neutral colors will help pull out gray information in the colors to make them as pure as possible. Saturation, levels, brightness/contrast, and sharpness should all be adjusted as well.  These steps not only help clean the image and make it look its best, but will also help during the separation process. Colors will be split into individual separations with less residual information from secondary colors, reducing the amount of time to clean and tweak all the seps.

10 Design Hacks for Creating Artwork for Screen Printing

When you finish a raster design or you receive one from a customer, it may look great, but there are a few steps you should run through to optimize the image further.

No. 8: Halftones

Because raster artwork is made up of continuous tonal information, halftones are required to reproduce the image. Even vector artwork may require halftones, if gradients or tints of color are used. While desktop or inkjet printers can print halftones, they may not be set up to print a larger halftone screen required for screen printing. Because images are recreated using screens made of mesh, halftone dots need to be large enough to hold. The default offset printing halftones that most printers can output are way too small to hold on screen. If your printer does not support larger halftone dots, you will need to get some kind of RIP software that will take the information from the computer and interpret it for the printer, allowing it to produce larger dots.

The halftone screen that I recommend is 45 DPI, 61-degree angle, and elliptical dot shape. Since the screen mesh runs horizontally and vertically at 90-degree angles, using a 61-degree angle helps prevent dots from being clipped and creating an unsightly moiré pattern like you might get with a 45-degree angle. Elliptical dots by nature are slightly larger than round dots, allowing for more information to be held on the screen and resulting in a better print.

No. 9: Registration Types

Registration refers to how two colors lay next to each other when printed. When setting up vector art separations, there are three types of registration to consider.

Butt registration is the most common. Two colors touch each other when printed without any gaps or overlaps. This prevents any bleeding or mixing of the two colors. It requires exact precision of your press.

If you have difficulty registering colors exactly and end up with unwanted gaps between colors, or the base white peaks out from under a color, you may want to use trap registration. With trap registration, a stroke or outline is added to the edge of shapes of one color so that it will slightly overlap the other. A .5 overlap is usually sufficient. It’s enough to fill in gaps, but not so big that it will bleed with the other color and affect the sharpness of the design.

The final type of registration (and least common) is gap registration. As the name suggests, a gap is created between the two colors. This type is generally used for specialty inks like puff or any inks that expand and require extra space for the ink to fill in.

No. 10: Specialty Inks

One of the cool things about screen printing is the specialty inks that are available — gels, glitters, blowing agents, and so much more. Consider adding that little extra pizzazz to your design with a suitable specialty ink. It’s a great option to add value to a design with limited colors. A one- to three-color design can be elevated just by making one of the colors a specialty ink. While it might cost a little more to produce, the special ink allows for a higher price point on the cost of the shirt, so you can easily make up the cost difference.

Keeping these tips in mind when creating your artwork, or even adjusting a file provided to you by a client, will get you off on the right foot. Properly creating and preparing your artwork will make the prepress and production processes run smoother saving you time and money and get awesome results your customers will love!

Dane Clement has been an art guru for over 20 years and his passion for educating is no secret. This webinar was created to help you break through design hurdles and have you producing the ultimate artwork for your customers with ease! Dane will give you tips and tricks and share insider secrets that help you create killer designs from the very first print. Create the art you want — quickly, efficiently, and with confidence.

  • Learn how to create clean, scalable art — any size and any output
  • See why Photoshop® is the industry standard in digital art creation
  • Easily identify your customer’s art file type
  • Discover the difference between hi-res and low-res
  • Prevent banding in your art

If you’re new to printing DTG, don’t miss out on Dane’s newest book, Artwork for DTG. This book expands on even more details and ways to create art for DTG printing, with easy referencing — right at your fingertips!

No matter your printing method, Dane has you covered! Check out the other available resources and get ready to build your skills.

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out already, industry expert Dane Clement has a featured article in this month’s Impressions Magazine. The article, titled The Importance of Artwork, walks you through understanding artwork trends and breaks down how to create great art for use with various materials and processes.

Artwork trends come from many different areas and paying attention to these trends – keeping your finger on the pulse – is important to your long-term success. As a decorator, you want to offer your customers what they want when they’re ready to buy it, and not have them go elsewhere to find it.

But on top of understanding and staying on top of trends, Dane stresses, “It’s important to realize how each decorating method requires you to think differently about the art you will design so that embellishing products is an easier task.”

Knowing what kind of art you need and where you’re going to put it is probably the most important thing to consider. The type of fabric and garment color affects how artwork is prepared and which artwork you’ll choose. In this article, he walks you through the types of printing processes available and what goes best with which material.

For example, Dane mentions “each decorating process has its own strengths and weaknesses, with vinyl cutting being the easiest and probably most versatile.” He then goes on to discuss the two popular trends of polyester and performance materials as well as the new trend of water-based, high-solid acrylic inks.

You’ll definitely want to check this article out if you’re looking for more information about artwork trends and how to create great art on many different materials.

Heat printing equipment? Check. Excitement for an apparel decorating project? Check. What else would you need? Why, awesome artwork!

In this business, artwork can prove to be a top challenge. Factors to consider when deciding on the right design include cost versus quality and the complexity of the design.

More often than not, the cost of artwork is dependent upon how long it takes to create it. An experienced designer may charge more for their services but require less time; whereas a designer that has less experience may take longer, but ultimately cost more. Customers can also play a role in the cost of artwork by wanting a design that is very detailed and/or unique. Money can be wasted trying to fulfill a customer’s wish. To avoid this, be sure to ask a lot of questions, provide a lot of examples, limit the number of revisions, and get the customer’s artwork approval in writing.

Having an understanding of artwork categories can prove to be invaluable. These categories provide a guideline to use when determining what level of artist you will need and how much the artwork will cost. Here’s the breakdown:

Category 1:         The budget-conscious customer needing a simple line art design using one color.

Category 2:         A customer needing multi-color artwork.

Category 3:         A customer that takes Category 2 to the next level by needing a series of complimentary designs or multiple versions of the same design.

Category 4:         This customer needs a lot of detail and process colors in the artwork; this is the most expensive of the four categories.

It’s vital to know what you need and how fast you need it when choosing artwork that works best for both your business and your customer. Click here to read the full article from Printwear magazine.

Figuring out where the artwork comes from and how to properly convert it to be used by the desired output device is one of the first steps a decorator must take for imprinting apparel. With digital printing, artwork is sent to a printer and either printed directly on a garment or on transfer paper which is then heat sealed to the garment.

There are four types of printing processes:

Digital Transfer (sublimation, inkjet, and color laser printer) – This is an indirect printing method where the artwork is printed onto a carrier paper to create a transfer. The transfer is placed on the garment and heat pressed to seal it.

Digital Direct-to-Garment (DTG) – With this method, the artwork is printed directly onto the garment with an inkjet device.

Vinyl Cutting – This is an indirect printing method that requires a vinyl cutter. Sheets or rolls of vinyl are inserted into a cutter and a blade cuts out shapes that make up the artwork. These shapes need to be weeded (remove the excess vinyl from the design) then heat applied to a garment using a heat press.

Printer/Cutter – This printing method combines the process of a digital transfer and vinyl cutter. A design is printed onto material and then cut to the contours of the design.

Raster art is recommended for digital printing. Vector art can be used, but avoid using vector art when the design has any large solid areas. It’s also recommended to use RGB color mode versus CMYK. The size and resolution for digital artwork is the same as screen printing. Typically, the artwork should be prepared no smaller than 300 dpi at 14 x 14 inches; this is considered a high resolution file. When the artwork is created, it should be done as a mirror image. Otherwise the text/graphic will appear backwards once applied to the garment.

A best practice is to avoid designing anything with a solid flat area of color, which can sometimes result in banding or streaking when using an inkjet or toner drum. This can be very obvious and take away from the desired design. Another best practice is to remove edges and background areas around the perimeter of the design so you don’t have a solid border around the artwork; this creates a more free-flowing look.

Vinyl cutting is a great way to achieve a layered look, however, limit yourself to three layers to avoid a heavy-handed design. Also, use graphics and text that are weed-friendly so you don’t have to struggle pulling out non-essential pieces of your artwork. A tip for creating artwork that will be cut with a vinyl cutter is to include little “connectors” from one part of the design to another so the excess can be pulled off in one motion. Try to limit the amount of cavities within your design to make weeding less tedious. If you have lines in your artwork, make sure the line weights are thicker so they stay on the carrier and don’t curl up when you are trying to heat apply. To cut your design in a continuous outline, make sure to merge separate elements together.

Regardless of the printing process you choose, there will always be some trial and error. But with the tips above, you now have a head start.

Click here to read the full article featured in the Fall 2017 edition of the SGIA Journal.

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).