Reaping the benefits of digital imaging on apparel requires command of art preparation. This article describes how to set up garment graphics for inkjet printing and examines the variables associated with this method of decoration.
Every new technology you approach has a learning curve. The steepness of that curve depends on your ability to adapt and modify existing work habits. Those who are interested in direct-to-garment (DTG) inkjet systems are often lured by the notion that they won’t have to separate artwork for it to print; however, any gains realized by stripping away file separation can quickly be lost by spending a significant amount of time testing and adjusting the file to get it to look good when printed.
Preparing artwork for printing on a DTG inkjet can be simple when you develop an understanding of the technology and take the steps to adapt an image file to meet its demands. Creating an efficient method of working with artwork for this new printing process is essential, and the results that you’ll achieve with the garment inkjet printers will flow from the steps that you take in systemizing and standardizing art preparation. The risk in this technology is to become enamored with the time and equipment savings, while not considering the steps that are necessary to create output that is attractive, consistent, repeatable, and profitable.
The best way to harness any manufacturing process is to test and record best practices that you can adjust and improve over time to create the most profitable system. The following is a set of fundamentals that you’ll need to address for the process to become controlled and consistent in your shop, whether you’ve just ventured into the field of decorating with DTG technology or are considering it in the near future.
Know your monitor-to-DTG gamut
The gamut is the color range or color space that you can achieve with your printing process. We simply can’t reproduce all of the colors that are displayed on our computer monitors, which means the color gamut of a printed piece will have fewer colors available than the on-screen image from which we print. One important step in the DTG process that you can take to better determine gamut is to use a reference to help guide you as you prepare artwork for the printer. There are several ways to produce a reference, the simplest of which is to print out a selection of common colors onto a shirt. You can create another useful reference by printing out several groups of commonly used PMS colors as well (Figure 1).
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