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.

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.