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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

This question relates to the color or colors of the intended garment and the effect it’ll have on the separation process. Covering the gamut of shirt colors within one separation set is nearly impossible, unless using a solid underbase and flashing every color is realistic. But even if it is, no one likes to wear this kind of shirt. The design in Figure 2 was intended for a tan and army-green shirt. It is critical in the communication process for the client to understand that the shirt color must be finalized before color separation. The biggest nightmares that production artists have are ones where the customer changes the shirt color at the last minute or decides to throw in a couple dozen purple shirts with that order of natural-colored cotton garments. Proper separating technique flows backwards from the final shirt color(s).


Separating the artwork

You have to strike a balance in the effort of separating a piece of artwork for T-shirts. The main consideration is that most clients don’t want to pay big dollars to have every detail captured for T-shirts; therefore, screen printing has to remain an economical process for both the client and the printer. However, the print should look as close as possible to the original. Striking a balance in separation time often involves the decision of how spend the majority of the separation time.

The best way to recreate fine artwork is to split up each element and isolate it so that you can carefully extract each selection of color. On the opposite end, the colors should work together and balance each other so that they form a support for multiple colors and can even be used to create additional colors without the need for extra screens. Achieving a balance with this dual-separation mentality means that only the most important elements are isolated and only the most saturated colors are blended. This compromise allows for the largest gain in accuracy in the shortest time.


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