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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

Underbase scripts A good underbase script will place white under any bright, primary colors in the design while leaving any solid black areas out of the screen. It’s good to have different densities available inside this script so you can properly address a black shirt, which requires a little less underbase in neutral tones and darker colors, or a brightly colored shirt like a red or royal blue, where the underbase will need to be very solid so the shirt color doesn’t damage the image hue.

Black outline scripts These define a black outline in the image and create a knocked-out background so that other colors can be trapped by the outline. Obviously, not every image has a strong black outline in it, but when it does, this script can come in handy.

Color recipe scripts These scripts are popular separation sets that can be quickly applied to designs that have similar color requirements. Designers would choose the recipe that matches the most prominent colors in a design. It can be particularly useful to have a recipe for flesh tones, metal, wood, bright neons, and different tonal color hues that can be time-consuming to address individually. A lot of shops that use the index separation method use color recipes that are saved as custom color tables, and that enable designs to be split in less than a minute. Depending on how the color table is applied, these scripts can allow the files to be revised quickly as well if a few colors seem a little off.

Tonal color scripts In Photoshop, you can apply a script command to images that are based on the same color family. A good example is an “Old West” sepia tone image that is applied to a wanted poster photograph, turning the design into a bunch of reddish brown shades. This tonal image can be rapidly separated using the color table/index separation method, or using the QuadTone commands. Either of these methods can create a fast separation using a tonal script that is preprogrammed into the software for a specific color blend.

Highlight white scripts These scripts pull a highlight white screen out of an image and save it as an additional color channel. Although this is a simple enough thing to do, it can save 30 seconds to a full minute. Minor savings add up if you’re separating a lot of files.

Four-color process scripts These can be saved versions of four-color process separation commands that you can reuse depending on the type of image that is being separated. You can have one four-color process separation script for a design that has a lot of pastels, and another for art that has a lot of rich primary colors. Some separation experts will also use an expanded gamut process separation script so they can minimize dot gain in lighter colors (for a five- to seven-color process image, for instance).

The key thing to remember whenever you’re attempting to automate your shop, whether you’re addressing art intake, approval, or separation: Learning how to execute a series of commands in one step is a learning process that takes patience. It will yield the best results only after you have practiced using the solution many times on a lot of different artwork. But once these shortcuts are working and in place, the time savings will start to build and can become an enormous benefit.

Read more from Thomas Trimingham or check out the rest of Screen Printing's August/September 2017 issue.


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