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Separations in Screen Printing for Variable Data

(June 2011) posted on Tue Jun 21, 2011

Trimingham explores techniques that allow printers to satisfy different clients with the same designs.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a way to create multiple orders from a single set of separations with only one screen that has to change? Of course this can be done the old-fashioned way, where the client has his name unceremoniously slapped underneath the design as an afterthought. But what about a creative layout wherein the client’s name is the highlight of the design?

This is possible through the creative use of a process with a fancy term called variable-data printing. Any print can be considered variable data if multiple clients use it during the same print run, but the real challenge is to make it creative looking and not an obvious, boring name drop so that the clients love it and the shirts sell quickly. The term variable data, as it applies here, means creative ways to use one design for many different customers. A simple way to make this style of printing successful is to print a design that has a name drop on it and then integrate it with a complete system. This way it can become even more visually attractive and profitable by combining multiple clients into one large order that doesn’t look like a name-drop print.

A structured method is important to use for variable-data printing because any time work is done in parallel (for more than one client at the same time) it will magnify not only profits, but also problems. It is possible to minimize issues by creating a process that is controlled from the beginning during the design stages. One effective way to create variable-data screen prints is to start with the design template and then develop the artwork around the printing solution. That will maximize the visual impact while limiting the on-press headaches. The graphic template will need to be created so that the separation method can be executed using the pre-planned process of name dropping, stenciling, or overprinting.


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