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The Top Five Mistakes in Separations

(August 2009) posted on Mon Aug 10, 2009

The most common color-separation problems often have very simple solutions. Read on to find out how you can overcome the issues you commonly face.

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Artists don’t like to think about mistakes, but the screen-printing process presents us with many opportunities to make them—even before we separate colors for our garment designs. Spelling, alignment, balance, word usage, and image distortions are just a few of the factors that move the art of separating colors to the backburner in regards to errors.

But can we really call something a mistake when we lack an established procedure to follow? Without standards, we’re more likely to accept and less likely to criticize or change things that don’t work. For example, one printer I know is proud of an 80% success rate with separations. This sounds pretty good on the surface, because the majority of jobs seem to work out fine in the first run. But if you look at it from a press standpoint, things are ugly. At that rate, one out of every five jobs is stopped on press because of problems that trace back to the films. That is a very expensive ratio! The most profitable goal with separations is to decrease the failure rate and thereby increase live press time. Working on the top five mistakes in separations gives the quickest boost to success rates and production efficiency.

A look at the top five
The type of digital file you use when separating influences the types of mistakes you’ll encounter. A design made of several colors may require some significant separation to be complete. Many of these issues are related to underbase printing as well, so more of these mistakes happen on prints for dark shirts. Light shirts tend to have more basic mistakes that are easier to predict. Your shop probably has its own top five that could be different from this list, but identifying and dealing with the issues presented here will increase available art and press time.


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