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The Search for the Supreme Separation Method

(August 2007) posted on Mon Aug 20, 2007

Explore common color-separation techniques, the ideal situations in which to use each one, and how to combine the methods for optimum results on press.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Have you found the best method of separation for your screen-printing operation? Has trial and error and the process of going through variables led you to a preference for a certain method of separating garment graphics? In my experience, the best separation method for a specific printer is the one that causes the least amount of trouble. And trouble can show up in any area of a company.

It boils down to the people factor in each department and how well the leadership for each division in a company rises to new tasks and adapts to change. One person’s trouble is another person’s challenge and chance to learn new ideas. Ideally, the leader of the art department should take the reins and dictate the best method of separation for the company by careful analysis of the average style of artwork. This determination is then converted into action and implemented in the other departments. Depending on the artwork, the art supervisor may decide to separate using four-color process, simulated process, index, or spot colors.

Let’s look at these four types of separations and the styles of artwork for which they’re suited. Each separation method has advantages and disadvantages that can dramatically influence production capacity and downtime. The important thing to remember from the beginning is that no method works on everything.


Spot color

Every screen printer prints spot colors at some point. Essentially, spot-color separations are colors that are not used to create other colors. They maintain their own color integrity in their own location (or spot). Most printers start out printing spot-color designs, and these are the bread and butter of many shops. Spot-color prints tend to be more opaque prints that try to simulate a specific hue in a controlled area (Figure 1). Which shops need spot color separations? Those that work on simple designs, without significant blending of colors or gradients, as well as athletic prints or images with flat areas of color and designs that have a lot of geometric or outlined shapes with fills of specific colors.


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