It is known for reproducing small details, but not being compatible with bulk T-shirt printing; using top-of-the-line technology, but employing only water-based inks; working like a regular inkjet printer, but being the most expensive printing technique.
We’re talking about direct to garment printing (DTG), of course.
Thanks to its ability to replicate intricate designs, this modern technology has revolutionised the way we print T-shirts. But in order to make the most of it, we have to know how to properly create artwork for DTG, and that is precisely what we’re going to talk about today.
* Keep in mind that for these screen captures I’m using Photoshop CS6 so the tools and processes may vary depending on if you own a different version of the software.
Artwork should be at least 150 dpi
We’ve mentioned this many times before, but we’ll keep saying it because wrong artwork resolution it’s still the number one problem when it comes to printing files.
If you’re not sure about the resolution of your artwork then follow these steps:
- Open your image in Photoshop
- On the drop-down menu, click on ‘image size’ (you can also use the command alt + cmd + i)
The new window will give you information on pixels dimension and the physical size of the document, but the one we’re looking for is the last slot which is the ‘resolution’. In the case pictured above, the resolution is way too low for it to print properly. 72 dpi images are designed for the web so they can download faster not for printing.
Adjust the resolution of the image
There are certain scenarios where you’ll be able to adjust the resolution of an image.
First of all, it is important for you to know that the resolution is always proportional to the size. Meaning that if you change a number of pixels in the image, the final size will change as well. In order to maintain the quality, the more pixels, then the smaller the final image will be.
In the above example, when we change the image from a 72 to a 300 pixels resolution, the image goes from being 50 cm wide to being 12 cm wide.
If the resolution of the image can’t be improved without making major damage to the original file or ending up with a teeny, tiny image then you’re better off looking for different artwork.
For more more information on image sizes and resolutions, head over to the Adobe Forums where they explain it better than I
Files should always be saved as CMYK and not RGB
CMYK and RGB are the ‘languages’ images use to tell their final destination how the colour information should be handled. These are:
It is a subtractive colour model used for printing. Its letters stand for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) which are the inks used to print in this process. This process is called subtractive because it ‘subtracts’ brightness from white.
It is an additive colour model used mainly on screens. RGB stands for red, green and blue. The combination of these tones creates the variety you see on screen. RGB can produce colours that are brighter and more vibrant than those of CMYK.
Changing RGB into CMYK
The reason why artworks for DTG printing should be saved as CMYK is that this is the preferred colour format for printing.
If you so happen to send an RGB artwork to a printer, then you’d realise that they’d still do their work. Is not like they would suddenly explode or anything. Any printer can handle them, but more often than the colours will end up looking dull and faded.
Thankfully, with Photoshop, it is very simple to convert an image from RGB to CMYK:
- Click on ‘image’ on the menu above
- Head over to ‘mode’
- Click on ‘CMYK Colour’
If your artwork has very bright colours this process might take the brightness out of them.
Calibrate your monitor
Even if the file has been carefully been handled as CMYK, there are times when the colours on the screen won’t look as the ones in print. If you want to make sure that the colours you see on the monitor are the ones that will be printed, then you have to calibrate your monitor.
Calibrating your monitor will ensure that the colours on the screen are loyal to the ones of the file and you won’t receive any surprises. ‘Surprise’ is the most feared word in the printing industry.
For specific information on how to calibrate your monitor, check out the following article by Digital Trends.
Make sure the image has got a transparent background
Open the image in Photoshop. If the background appears as a white and grey checked pattern then it is transparent, if not then it’s got a coloured background.
The easiest way to get rid of backgrounds is by using the Wand tool:
- Convert the ‘Background Layer’ into a ‘Layer 0’ by double-clicking on it (this will allow you to make changes to it);
- Activate the Wand tool by clicking on its icon or hitting the key ‘W’;
- Hit the ‘Delete’ key to erase the selected background;
- If there is still some background, repeat the process until it’s all gone;
- There are times where a few pixels will remain on the edges of the screen, if this is the case then you can zoom in and use the Wand tool again or change to the Eraser which will take you longer but will do a more precise job.
Often times after using the wand tool there will be tiny pixels surrounding the figure. Depending on how many they are they can make the final job look very botched.
As amazing as DTG might be, it is not a big fan of transparencies. Especially when it is done onto dark garments. Depending on the printer, this one might print a big white rectangle where the transparency is supposed to be and that’s not the final intention.
We understand as transparencies as:
- Drop shadow effect
- Faded edges
- Glow effect
- Reduced opacity
These are all pretty popular effects that can be achieved in Photoshop which is why people might be tempted to apply them, but just because you can it doesn’t mean you should – especially when it comes to DTG!
Again, another one we talk about very frequently around here but bears repeating because a lot of people still get it wrong! The main reason to rasterize layer types is so that there are no ‘surprises’ with the final work because if the final printer doesn’t have the same font as you, their software will automatically replace yours with a default one – completely changing your design.
How to rasterize a type later on Photoshop:
On Photoshop, it is really easy to do. Just click on ‘Type’ in the main menu, click, and click again on ‘Rasterize Type Layer’. It’s that simple.
Finally, artworks that are created on Photoshop and meant to be printed via DTG must be saved as either EPS, PDF, PSD or PNG.
If you want to prepare your DTG artwork with Photoshop, remember that the artwork must:
- Be at least 150 dpi
- Use CMYK colour mode
- Have a transparent background
- Have no effects like ‘Drop Shadow’ or ‘Glow’
- Have all types rasterized
- Saved as either EPS, PDF, PSD or PNG
We hope you have a wonderful time preparing your DTG artworks and if you have any questions, don’t forget to leave them in the comments below.
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