We see this question a lot...... I want to create artwork or a drawing for imaging onto t-shirts, apparel or other clothing items, Where do I start? I also see a lot of Fluff articles and answers talking about "thinking of the message you want to convey & typography. But that is for corporate advertising campaign shirts and not a common person just wanting cool artwork or custom image on say a hoodie. If you are wanting to get your art on a garment these are the questions you need to answer and the things you will need to know........ First off, it is my experience that most people asking this are going to attempt to do the art, Illustration or graphic on a personal computer. This is because most people know that the graphics and reproduction Industry has probably experienced the greatest advances from the use of computers. So let me start by saying that you can do the art or design however you want. Be it drawing or painting on paper and canvas or sketching on wood.... all of this can be scanned into a digital file format.
The first and most critical question is.... How will the art be reproduced ? What process will be used to image the garment? This dramatically effects the type of File format needed, Here are the options you will find...... *
Garment Screen Printing ( this process has been around for thousands of years and is the preferred method for quality textile printing & Imaging.) • Transfers ( Ether screen printed direct onto the transfer or images onto the transfer paper by Lithographic press or your PC inkjet printer. then Ironed or heat presses onto the tee) • Flexography ( this uses a rubber plated press to image your art onto a vinyl decal that is then applied to the garment.... I'm not even going to recommend this process.)
Hand Painted ( That's right, you just use the t-shirt cotton as your canvas and hand paint it. weather by airbrush or Stencil pouncing or any other art technique.) * Direct Digital ( Last but not least, this technology has com a long way. it is refereed to sometimes as print on demand... it uses a large bubble or ink-jet printer to print right on the t-shirt. BASF has developed a White ink and so colored garments can now be used. While it is not near the Quality of silk screening, the lack of screens and (set-ups) makes it cost effective for doing small runs like One shirt. The second most important question is.... What color garment are you going to print. this is a multi-part question to ponder as the art is going to be either a Negative or positive image. Also , as well as using the garment Contrast and Value, the color itself can be used in several ways to make the most striking Custom t-shirt design really POP! using Color theory and color building or (tertiary) color mixing to achieve amazing art effects. The particulars of Digital art files as applied to the above reproduction processes for Garment and Clothing decoration and imaging....... Let's start with Direct Digital as it seems to fit the needs of most common people wanting to design their own custom apparel...
DIRECT DIGITAL Pretty much any digital file can be used as long as it is saved to a graphic standard like .png ( Portable Network Graphic) or .jpeg ( Joint Photographers Expert Group) This art is going to be a Bit-map or Raster based Image ( pixels or squares of color and value information) so it has to be to a specific resolution ( number of Pixels per square inch or PPI). Keep in mind that the file has to be scanned in at or created at the proper resolution, It cannot be given more pixels or enlarged without destroying the clarity of the art. The most Common resolution is 300 ppi with the art being the finished physical size like 12 X 12. this will be a large file even with the jpeg compression. It is important to keep in mind that RGB ( red Green Blue) Color values CANNOT be reproduced with this method as it uses the (cmyk) Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black) Like that of your desktop printer... RGB values are bright like Neon's and have to be Screen printed with specialty inks.
HAND PAINTED What you see is what you get.... Have fun! There are no rules here.... Try painting black ink onto a black tee then spraying bleach over it and washing or wax batiking! HEAT TRANSFERS I'm not even going to discuss this as 99% of the people who try this or even get it professionally done are VERY unhappy with the results. Unless Direct screen printed transfers are used a window of plastic transfer plastic is left on the garment unless trimmed prior to applying with heat.. the screen printed method is of course for Large Quantities of the same image. Lets just say that this process makes Wall-mart shirts seem like Million dollar goods. FLEXOGRAPHY I'm So sorry you let some bumper sticker sign printing company convince you they do apparel imaging, :-O I'd ask for my money back! Seriously! Unless of course you like having a plastic bullet proof patch that makes you sweat cause the cotton can no longer breath, scratching your skin. :-(
SILK SCREEN PRINTING Very last and NOT VERY least..... this is the method used for almost all apparel decoration. from your Pink Floyd concert shirts to Wall-Mart & the St. Patrick's day "Kiss-Me" shirts they throw off the Parade floats. The technique was invented in the orient almost 4000 years ago, and has come a long way... there are hundreds of specialty inks that can be printed like, Glitters, shimmers & metallics, to Puff inks that raise and glow in the dark, or change color with ultraviolet sunlight or heat. even Clear inks and foils... This is probably what you are after and therefor the meat of this article.... Silk screen printers use professional equipment and require professional art files to produce imprinted apparel. So if you are going to create an image for screen printed tee shirts or garments Be aware that while the Computer graphics revolution has indeed revolutionized the industry, the standards for the actual production art mechanicals is still much the same as it was when the first tee shirt was printed back in the early 1960's What does this mean to you? If you do your art on paper or canvas scanned to digital format or as a bit-map pixel image, a screen print production artist will need to get it ready for production, this is doe to the fact that most times SPOT color art is used and not CMYK that the digital PC equipment is set up for. And While there are some computer scripts called software that attempt this, the only expect-able results are from a professional artist manually doing it via computer. A single film positive is required for each ink color being printed! If you are creating the design, Illustration or art on the computer, it can be made production ready by following a few rules..... Here they are. VECTOR or Post-Script art is the needed format..... this is done with drawing programs not Photoshop! the programs used are Adobe Illustrator & Corel Draw. There are free ware programs that create Vector art like Inkscape, Skencil, Xara Xtreme, Gill and a host of others. Vector graphics are resolution independent, using mathematical lines and curves, they can be scaled to any size with no loss of detail. The Vector Graphics Rules for Screen Printing....... Spot colors must be used..... Not RGB or CMYK! Don't forget to make the white spot or it will not produce a film! All type and fonts must be converted to vector curves or outlines.!! with the billions of fonts the printer has, it will probably be one of thousands of different TIMES ROMANS then you used, and they do not need hundreds of more corrupt fonts sent their way :-O this is industry standard for all graphics! Be leary of using transparency effect with spot color. be leary of filters that may blend spot colors with process or cmyk results. When doing color percentages, gradients and color blending, The Industry Standard for dot gain is 29 percent or better on a hand press... Stay away from percentages that are more then 70 or they will become 100 percent on press. Also percents smaller then 10 may not image depending on the silk screen mesh count used due to thick ink colors like white! Tertiary color building ( making red and yellow mix to orange or red and blue to purple on press) is done with a blend or color overlay.... Make sure to select OVERPRINT! Be leery of placing screened text or type on top of the same solid color..... stoke it or dot can will make the Butted lines disappear. Those are the main rules which will help you create a Custom tee shirt design, Screen ready with no art charges from the printer..... Now for those Millions of people out thee who have a bootleg copy of Photoshop and enjoy it's power for creating photo collage's and painting..... this is why your art wont produce a quality screen print. Other then it is a jpeg you got off the internet and therefore is WAY to low of a resolution..... No matter What resolution file you create, Say Six terragazzillion pixels... the colors will never Butt register as will as Post script. so don't do Solid graphics in a PHOTO program. If it used gradients and or halftones ( like a Photograph.... the edges of clean art , line-work and type will get the Ragged dot pattern of the screen printers halftone for reproduction of said gradients or tints.. Please ... Photoshop is the definitive answer for Photo type art, NOT GRAPHICS for reproduction other then the web and computer monitors!