What is the best computer file format to send to a silk screen printer ?

The Simplest answer is….. Any that can be viewed with out

specific software! Let me explain….. If you create your “artwork” in a program like Microsoft

Publisher, Word or Megasystems Monkeypics and the screen printer does

not have that software, then they will not be able to open it. Use a

common graphics file format like jpeg, gif, png etc. Here is more


Many people know that Personal computers are great for creating graphics, photographs and artwork, and want to use their PC to create a custom image

themselves, expecting that it can just be reproduced onto t-shirts and

other products. Please be aware that the personal computer is just a

tool used by artist and designers to create Professional graphics. And

that most of the graphics you see on your computer and the internet are

designed specifically for the computer monitor and NOT any other form

of reproduction. this is due to many factors.

So, What am I saying?… Keep in mind that even seasoned Graphic

designers rarely understand the limitations and file structures

used for the silk screen printing process. So Unless you are

inexperienced knowledgeable computer graphic designer, anything

you do will most likely need to be re-created for Quality tee shirt


“Does that mean I can’t or shouldn’t create my own art for t


Absolutely not….. Just

don’t expect that a printer can take any file and reproduce it. I’m

telling you this because many people spend thousands of hours on a file

only to find out it is only good for viewing on a computer monitor.

Most real graphics can only be viewed with the appropriate High end

expensive Computer graphics software like Adobe Illustrator. then they

are saved to a jpeg format so the client can see them. This is

something to keep in mind because many clients get these jpeg (

Previews) from a professional and then assume that it can be sent off

for professional printing.

” What about photographs I have that I want printed

onto t-shirt, hoodies and other apparel or garment?”

The easy quick answer to this without getting into to much techno babble is… … ….. ………

Ok, Maybe there is none with out a little understanding of Digital imaging

Digital photography and photographs digitized to be on a computer

are comprised of many small squares of information called Pixels The more pixels

per square inch, the smaller the pixel is. What’s this mean? Well, the

smaller the pixel, the more the resolution or the finer the detail.

Please see Wikiinfo.

Now, with this in mind please remember that most digital cameras are

designed to produce a 6X4 print. Thats pretty small for the front of

even a small child’s t-shirt. However, the screen printing process for

textiles in the imprinted apparel industry uses a much lower resolution

the say offset printing for cards and magazines. These means we can

enlarge the photo some with out it getting to Pixelated or Blurry.

It is also good to know that jpegs ( Joint Photographer Expert

Group) files are also Pixel based images. This means that if you

computer file is High enough resolution it might be used. Keeping in

mind that the color structure is always RGB or CMYK. Let me

explain. RGB or red, green blue refers to the three colors of the

light emitting diodes of you monitor.More Wiki

These may have very bright colors that only a neon ink can

get close to reproducing. and the file is ONLY for computer

monitors , cell phones or TV’s etc.

Cmyk refers to the four colors used like those in your bubble jet

printer. ( Cyan-Blue, Magneta-Red, Yellow and K for Black) these are

the four primary colors and between them can miz to create orange,

green, purple and brown. Then with a percentage of ink or inks they

create tints and tones like Pink, gray and teal. see wiki.CMYK

Having said that, Understand that while screen printing can do

four color process printing, it is difficult and expensive to do an so

usually reserved for large quantity’s of shirts with the same image.

Also the screen print inks ( Plastisol) have a

reduced Gamut.. See Wiki on color gamut

and are subject to color fading with time and laundering.

Most screen print art files use Spot color. This is where every

color produces a separated film for each color of ink. and each

individual color is printed onto the garment.

I hope this has answers you basic questions about having

your artwork printed onto apparel and sportswear with the screen print

process. In my next blog I will cover computer file formats for Direct

Digital printing on apparel. This uses a Bubble jet printer to print

directly onto the garment. As well as heat transfers.

I will do another blog entry for graphic designers who understand

the two types of computer graphics……

Vector also called Postscript&

Raster also calledBit-map.

This will

include such topics as Spot color, tertiary color, duo tone, halftone,

traps, chokes, underlays, dot gain, moire patters, butt registration,

flamingo printing, mezzo tint, tints VS. tones, negative positive

images and much more