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Art Meets Automation: Streamlining Prepress

(August/September 2017) posted on Tue Aug 29, 2017

Shops don’t often look to their prepress department as a place to become more efficient, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.


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By Thomas Trimingham

Automating Art Separations
It’s still common practice for shops to do their separations manually, but some software scripts are available that can produce successful output. Most of the time, these systems rely on separating files for a fixed set of colors that are included in the presets, so there can be issues separating colors that lie outside that range.

A different way to tackle automating the separation process is to break it up into pieces. This allows the artist to make the best use of automation in areas of the design where it makes sense, and adjust other sections manually instead of trying to force commands where they don’t fit.

Before separating any file for screen printing, it’s important to discuss the basics. The main reason to automate separations in the first place is that the artwork is fairly complicated – and it is a bitmap (or Photoshop) file and not a simple vector file that could be rapidly output. The next consideration is that the file should be properly prepared for the separation process. This includes checking the file resolution to make sure it is adequate and removing any background from the active image elements in the file. Making sure the file is prepared correctly will ensure that your scripts will influence the file in the right way, without unexpected outcomes. It’s important to always create a duplicate file in a backup folder prior to running any automated processes, just in case something goes wrong and you need to start over.



In Photoshop, you can program a group of commands by recording them with the Actions palette. Although you can record a lot of commands in a row this way, the process does have limitations and it takes quite a bit of trial and error to create a fully functional and versatile script. Fortunately, the time invested will pay off in a big way over time.

Once the file is prepared, you can then apply different scripts depending on the type of artwork and garment. Here are a few of the most common scripts that can be applied to popular design styles.


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