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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

How To Get The Best Screen Printing Results from your Art Submissions

Einstein on a tank top

When you're ready to place an order for custom screen-printed t-shirts to get the best screen printing results from your art submissions we have a check list of best practices.

Vector

We highly recommend vector based art or high-resolution images for submission. Why? Vector files can be resized to any scale without losing detail. This is because vector art is based on mathematical equations of magnitude and direction and can be lines or curves. Vector based art is also extremely clean in terms of color assignment. The artist needs to make a decision on every segment during the design process. Vector art is not a visual stylizing of the design so to simply save a file created in Photoshop with a file extension like pdf doesn't make it vector art. It's based upon the program used to create the original art. Vector programs are Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator, or Inkscape although there are others.

Raster

On the other side of the coin is raster art. If created correctly from the beginning, this file type can be used successfully for screen printing. Raster images are made up of pixels instead of lines so starting off with the correct DPI when creating your original work is paramount. If you typically design for the web, this is a step that is really easy to overlook since images for the web look great at 72 DPI. For screen printing artwork, you need a minimum of 300 DPI for the output to look crisp and clean. Ideally, you'll also create the artwork at the size you actually want it to print. Remember when creating t-shirt art if you're using bitmaps instead of vectors, you can always shrink the art but never scale up without losing clarity. Raster art is commonly created in programs like Photoshop or Gimp but there are others.

Closeups of Raster vs Vector art

If you're fascinated by the differences between vector and raster data models, here is a very scientific explanation of the two and differences for uses in applications.

For screen printing, highly defined artwork is critical to achieve a fine quality print. Sometimes when customers aren't sure of how their art will print or want to test our printing quality before ordering in bulk, they will order a single t-shirt print on our no minimum required products. However, doing this will not be a true measure of the quality of our screen printing. That is because for single prints, we use an entirely different method of printing which is direct to garment printing or digital print. It's a completely different application method. It is something to be aware of when ordering a test print since our website will automatically default to the lowest cost method of printing for our customers. Ordering a single test print using screen printing however is quite expensive. We do understand the need to evaluate our quality before committing to a large order so if you do order a test screen print, we will deduct the initial cost of the setup from the bulk order when it's placed. However, if a bulk order is not placed, the cost is the cost.

If you're stuck with art that is not ideal for screen printing, in many cases, we can recreate the art for no charge if it's relatively simple. In fact, our artists review every order submitted to ensure clarity of the image, check for unintended misspellings, and accuracy of placement so that the design elements are aligned. That service is free with every order. If your art is complex and of poor resolution, we do sometimes require a fee to recreate the art, but that is evaluated on a case by case basis.

Sometimes when art is uploaded through our t-shirt design studio, the art may not look as you expected. This can usually be attributed to limitations of the website. Some of these issues include white jagged edges outside of the art. Don't worry, we've been doing this long enough that no member of our art team would allow your design to be printed this way, in fact, if there are any issues at all with your uploaded art, our customer service team contacts you to clarify and to make sure we deliver the best printed products possible.

Other concerns we hear from users is the need for assurance that everything will be centered and lines of text evenly distributed. If you have uploaded your own graphics and don't add any print or design notes to the contrary, we always size and place the design to make the final product look like the mockup but perfected as far as centering and placement. If you create a hybrid of uploaded design and our clip art or fonts for text we do the same.

If you do create a design that is intended to be off center the best way to ensure the final printed product will adhere to your design vision is to include these specification in print and design notes which are available in the cart checkout area of our website.

What happens after you've processed your screen print order? We prepare the print files for production by creating separated layers for each color. This is required because is each color will be a different screen. Depending on the design and t-shirt product type and color, we may have an additional layer or base print which is something we do to make sure the final image is vibrant.

These screens will then be sent to a screen printer who will set up the press to apply ink to the various layers of the design using a squeegee that pushes ink through to t-shirt product. Once all layers have been applied, the pieces go through a dryer to "set" the ink.

Finally, your custom screen print order will go through our quality check team to examine each piece for print and any defect in the garment that may have been missed. They sort according to size and place in boxes to prepare for shipment.

When requesting a proof before print, understand that we have two versions of this. If you want to see what your design will look like after one of our artists reviews and cleans up any issues, this will be a mockup proof that will look almost identical to the original mockup in the design studio.

Design studio mockup

This is not a proof of the actual print before production. If you require a true proof of the screen-printed t-shirt, we can do this and it can be communicated in print notes as "photo of first shirt required." However, when requesting this, you as a customer must be available to coordinate with our customer service team as we will have an entire press setup to go with the rest of the run. If you're not available for approval at the designated time, we will need to add on additional setup costs to set the press up again at a later time.

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