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Separating for a Fine-Art Look

(October 2013) posted on Wed Nov 06, 2013

Use index separations to make shirts ready for the runway.

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By Thomas Trimingham

The last piece was my underbase. All I had to do was go back to my original file and then create a grayscale knockout of my glow that I wanted to combine with my underbase file. I created this by control-selecting on the active layers and then creating a layer on top of them and filling them with white. I then converted the layer style from a white glow to a black shadow. I then flattened and saved the file under a different name (glow_tiki.psd).

Recombining, proofing, and outputting
The final step in the separations was to go back to the index file, open the color table, and convert each color that was separated in the table to black one at a time and all the other colors to white. Copying and pasting the resulting file into a digital proof mock allowed me to see how the colors would stack together. When you do this, make sure all working files are of the same resolution so you can import and save the art without any quality issues.

I could have saved the art files without the extra digital proof, but I always like to check files by quickly viewing each separation in print order. I copied and pasted the file from the color-table revisions into the digital proof and then, through the Channel Options menu, changed the color of the channels to match the ink colors. This way, the channels could be turned on and the separations viewed in print order, with the underbase first. Another bonus to recompiling the separations into a digital proof was that the separations could be tested against other shirt colors just by changing the first color in the separation set that blocks out the image channels.

The index advantage
A final note on to consider: Once the file was separated and recompiled, it could also still be used as a finished, compositional element to place onto shirts because all of the colors were 100% opaque—essentially spot colors. The design could be placed onto some mock-up fashion T-shirts with a sleeve-print accent—a perfect presentation piece—while being already separated and tested for printing (Figure 6).

The index-separated file could also have been imported into Adobe Illustrator and the spot colors in the separation files used in some overlaid vector elements or typography to create an art template that could be reused for different clients. The final art would already be separated, because the spot colors would import with a selectable palette of colors. The final artwork would not need a RIP processor unless the spot colors were blended in Illustrator, so the whole finished product could be comped up, sold, and sent to films from the same source artwork.

The index style of separations works well with fashion prints of hand-drawn artwork and it prints wonderfully on a wide variety of garments as long as the printer has the experience to use the smaller dots and the patience to practice and develop the specific qualities that this separation method uses.


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