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Separating Fine Art for Screen Printing

(December 2008) posted on Fri Dec 05, 2008

Reproducing fine-art designs on garments requires some careful decision making about how the images are captured and separated.

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By Thomas Trimingham

On the other hand, if the artwork was created with very smooth, airbrushed gradients, then it will probably need the subtlety of traditional halftones so that the graduated fades and shadowy effects can be recreated with the most precision and the image won’t look flattened or choppy (see the sidebar on page 25). A challenging style of artwork to recreate in screen printing is a pen and ink drawing with watercolor accents. The reason that watercolor poses such a challenge is that the soft blending and graduations in the imagery are very hard to duplicate without experiencing hue shifts and dot gain. The piece that was separated for this article consisted of a pen and ink design that was illustrated for a wildlife collection (Figure 1). The client wanted this image to be printed on several different colors of shirts which added to the complexity.


How is the work captured for reproduction on the computer?

The largest issue with the capturing or scanning of fine artwork usually comes to the screen printer from digital files supplied by the client. Client-supplied work can be very poor in resolution, lighting, and/or clarity. If this is the case, the first step is to always try to get an original scan or high-quality photo of the artwork. Few frustrations are greater than unhappy clients who bring in the original, low-quality work after you’ve done the printing and say that the shirts look completely different. They usually aren’t any happier knowing that the art matches the poor quality of their image.

Another common issue is art that’s too large to fit onto a scanner. The choice at this point can be to scan and tile the image together or to set up a photo box and do a shoot of it. If you end up having to photograph artwork for reproduction, consult a pro if possible and rent or acquire some good lighting because it’ll make all the difference.


What’ll the final shirt look like?


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