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Three Fast Ways to Separate Designs in Photoshop

(March 2014) posted on Sat Mar 01, 2014

Use the tips presented here to streamline the way you separate color for all kinds of garment graphics.


By Thomas Trimingham

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You can keep undoing results you don't like—and making changes to the table—until you have a good shift to index color without a lot of changes to the graphic. Even with several rounds of tweaking the index color table, this separation process tends to be very fast compared to traditional simulated separations that require curves modification or color selection from an image.

Your experience as a separator and the limitations of your press will dictate the degree to which you can refine the resulting color table and combine colors into final separations. If you want to divide the image into separation positives for output, just select the color that is to be separated, change it in the color table to black, and then change all of the other colors to white (Figure 4). Copy this file, save it as a separation channel in another file, undo this change in the source file, and pull out the rest of the separations using the same process. Don’t forget to copy the colors from the color table to use in the separation channels and to decide on ink colors.

Creating an underbase for the index file involves selecting all of the colors that need to be underbased, changing them in the color table to black, changing everything else to white, and then copying and saving the file. In some cases, you may wish to select the resulting channel (click on the image of the channel in Photoshop) and modify the selection by shrinking it a pixel or two if you wish to thin the underbase a bit in the final print. Doing so is OK, as long as it doesn’t affect the details in the image.

This whole process can take less than 15 minutes to do. It's a really fast separation technique that you can use when you are in a rush.

Method two: Quad-tone splits
Garment screen printers use the quad-tone split less frequently than other separation methods because setting it up can take a while. Its big advantage, though, is that once you create a recipe, you can save it and apply it instantaneously to another image with similar color characteristics.


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