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Grayscale Magic

(July 2012) posted on Tue Jul 24, 2012

Trimingham describes how to build incredible looking grayscale prints on dark garments

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By Thomas Trimingham

There are lots of ways to create separations for prints on dark shirts, but very few really make the graphic jump off of the garment with the least amount of work. The best prints on dark garments use the garment to a degree to darken the shadows in the image, and it always is a bonus if the printed area feels light to the touch.

Without printing discharge or water-based inks, the best way to create a softer feeling shirt is to change the printing order on some of the separations so that there is less ink going down and still a sense of brightness to the image. It is possible to achieve both of these objectives by using a style of printing and separation that many printers tend to avoid. This style is very useful particularly when printing and separating grayscale images on dark shirts because it can really help to create the deep shadows in an image with having the colors all be completely under printed with a white ink. The lower ink volume is what really gives the shirt its incredible look and feel.

The trick to building an unconventional grayscale print on a dark garment is to follow a simple three-step process. First, you extract the grayscale base part of the image. Second, you decide if you need a bump plate or color overlay. Finally, you pull out the highlighted white areas and review the work in a digital proof.

Before you start
The same process that is used in high-end, detailed separations in multiple colors when you begin the file preparations is also used for quick grayscale separations. It is critical to check the file to make certain it is the right size (actual size of the final output) and a decent resolution (at least 150-300 dpi) prior to starting the separation process. If you need to adjust other things about the file, it is always better to do so prior to separation—examples include typography, edge quality in the design, and the overall tonal range. Once everything is adjusted or clarified, then the separations can be started.


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