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Creating Artwork for DTG

(April 2014) posted on Tue May 07, 2013

Optimize your apparel designs for digital direct-to-garment printing.

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By Thomas Trimingham

White underbase
The addition of the white underbase on a digital print is a relatively new concept (compared to screen printing) that allows the design to be imaged on a variety of dark shirts and prevents the design from changing color or fading out. This additional print is typically an extra step that takes place before the colors in the design are printed. Depending on the printer, the design file will probably have to contain an additional layer or channel that will dictate which parts of the design are to be underbased.

Different printers have software that will produce an underbase for you, or they will have suggested processes to follow in Photoshop to create one. In either case, it is common for the printer to have to adjust this layer or channel in the artwork prior to final output. Ideally, the black in a design shouldn’t be underbased, and if the design fades out into the background of the shirt, the underbase will have to be smaller than the top colors to avoid an awkward transition to the shirt fabric (Figure 4).

An additional concern is when a design has colors in it that need a certain density of white to be bright enough. If a graphic has really bright reds, blues, and yellows, then the underbase may need to be boosted in these areas, depending on the production method used.

A common way to create a quick, working underbase in an image to be digitally printed is to take the extracted design—with the outside border removed so the active image area is floating in a layer in Photoshop—and then make a solid, black layer behind it, duplicate it, and then convert the image to L*a*b* color. The resulting image can be used for an underbase by going into the Channels menu, selecting the Lightness channel, and copying it and then pasting it back into another version of the image as an underbase file.


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