Preparing Your Artwork

We know that artwork can be a real headache for the average customer, but we want to make sure it doesn’t slow down you or your order. Please call or email with any artwork questions or to get help with your design.


Here are a few topics of discussion that may help you better understand computer graphics.


There are basically 2 types of design files that we need to be concerned with. The first is a RASTER (sometimes called bitmap) image files. These images are composed of thousand of tiny dots, each of which has a specific color assigned to it. When you zoom in on a Raster image, you’ll be able to see these dots, but when you look at it from further away, you will see the image in it’s entirety, with smooth edges and flowing colors. Raster images are saved as files such as psd, tif, bmp, jpg, gif. These files are good for process printing (CMYK, used to print photorealistic images) and some spot color applications (used to print more basic designs with only a few specific colors. Most logos and basic t-shirt designs are spot color designs). Since raster files are the most common among the non-graphic design population, we accept any design as a raster file.


Raster Artwork


Raster artwork files (such as psd, pdf, tif, bmp, jpg, and gif) should be CREATED at 300 dpi and at actual print size. If you’re using photoshop, when you create a new file, you can enter the dpi (300+) and dimensions (something like 11″ x 13″ for the front of a shirt). Since each dot has it’s unique place in the image, you can’t just make a small file bigger by enlarging it. We often see 72 dpi files that have been simply enlarged to 300 dpi. This does not lead to more pixel data and can actually make the image worse for print, since it often makes the image blurry. Image 1 shows a typical design as it may show up on your computer monitor. You can then zoom in on a particular area of the design (image 2). Image 3 shows what happens when you take small image and try to make it bigger by just increasing the file size. In general, if you zoom in to 1600% and your file looks like the “BAD”, it won’t work well for print. Even though it looks fine at 100%, if it looks really blurry when you zoom way, it won’t print well. Good artwork will look like Image 4 when you zoom in. Crisp edges are the key to a great print. Again, the best thing to do is to make sure that the file STARTS at 300 dpi and at whatever size you want the print to be on the shirt. If you used text in a raster based file such as photoshop, be sure to “rasterize” the text before you send it to us. This will ensure that the file transfers to us correctly. If you’re working on a process, simulated process or design with gradients, it’s usually best to let us create the halftones to make sure that the appropriate angles lpi and dot shapes are used (unless the halftones are part of your design circa pop art style). What you should do is have each color (with what ever shading or gradient necessary) on it’s own layer or channel (in black and white if possible).


If you’re an advanced designer and want to get nuts with halftones, just make sure to keep it under 55lpi at 300 dpi (we suggest a angle of around 23 degrees with an elliptical dot). Don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll talk you through the steps to create a design the right way.


Vector Artwork


The second file format is called a VECTOR based file. These types of files (such as ai and eps) are composed of solid lines that make up an image. Unlike a raster file, the data in a vector based file is such that it can be resized infinitely and the image will still look the same. Vector files are great for spot color prints where there are solid colors, logos, text, etc., however, they do not work well for photorealistic images or some designs with gradients and shading. Use raster based program (like photoshop) for this kind of artwork. Programs that create Vector images (like Adobe Illustrator) are expensive, so many people don’t use Vector files, but if you’re a designer and you have your file as an ai (especially if it is separated with the appropriate trapping), you’re awesome! If you do submit a vector based file, be sure to “outline” any text used. Without the text converted to vector outlines, the font will not look right and we’ll have to have you re-send the design.




If you have any questions at all about submitting your file, or creating a file for screen printing, just email or call. We’re happy to help.