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How to Make Stock Art Sizzle

(January 2007) posted on Mon Jan 15, 2007

Transform clip art from amateurish images into amazing garment graphics.

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By Thomas Trimingham

The background halftone pattern looked really good so I started to test the red glow in the lettering and eyes. I chose a conventional halftone pattern from Photoshop, a 15-dpi elliptical dot at 45°, and brought the effect back into my original design by converting a duplicate file of the red glow to a black-and-white bitmap halftone, resizing it to fit back in the original file, copying it, pasting it as an Alpha channel, and then quickly using the channel to make a selection that would be filled on a new layer. This process was one that I often used for including custom bitmaps into otherwise rendered images when I needed to create them in completely separate image files. I always save the conversion files as well, just in case I might need them in prepping the file for the separation stage of this method.

Prepping the file for separation

Conflicting resolutions, edge quality, and overlapping halftone patterns/moiré are the areas I concentrate on the most when I prep a file that has custom halftones for separation. Addressing conflicting resolutions is especially important when using a combination index separations and conventional halftones. The final resolution must be able to work with all of the halftone patterns.

The edge quality of a custom halftone is a direct result of the resolution. It boils down to how many pixels are available to make a dot that looks round. If I generate a medium- to high-resolution halftone from a low-resolution file, I end up with really fuzzy halftones. Likewise, if I generate a high-resolution bitmap halftone and then convert the file to a low-resolution grayscale image for resizing, then my edge quality will suffer. The trick in these situations is to know what resolution will work as a printed separation and what won't. To make a good separation dot, you should have at least twice the resolution in the image file as in the final separation. A custom halftone's resolution often needs to be much higher than that or the edges of the smaller dots will not hold up.


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