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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

An easy way to break up solid colors so they are easier to reproduce digitally is to add some shading, gradients, and possibly a distressed overlay to the artwork (Figure 6). Not only does this give a cool rendered or vintage appeal, but it also makes the print a lot less likely to show any small shifts in color banding or registration. If you can talk the client into doing a worn-out look, then see if you can make it into a more tonal print on the garment. The print can then be produced more profitably because you’ll be using less ink, and it should print more efficiently, too. Obviously, there are many times where you can’t adjust the artwork, but having some examples to show will increase the chances that customers may decide to change the art for the better.

Converting the artwork
Big advances in quick image creation and manipulation over the past few years have given customers lots of sources images to use in a design. With this wide variety of graphics comes a big assortment of image-color modes, saturation levels, and gamut ranges. Although modern digital printers are better at handling a variety of changes to graphics, there is still a question of how the artwork should be adjusted prior to prepping it for DTG printing. Some images may run well with no changes or adjustments, and others may require extensive color-mode and saturation changes to prevent colors from shifting unpredictably.

The first step is to use all of the information about your specific printer and its ink system in comparison to the gamut of the images provided. If you have CMYK inks, then you will have quite a few colors in images that won’t print correctly and will need adjustment. Other printers have RGB printing systems with expanded-gamut colors to handle more saturated colors, but the image may still need minor adjustments if the colors have a lot of different combinations of hues. The best thing to do is to test colors with a few different color palettes and then see what the final Photoshop values look like when the colors are printed on the final shirt.

Creating and editing artwork for a DTG printer doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to estimate, test, and then edit your files properly to compensate for the DTG’s variables. Using a couple of standard procedures to prep artwork prior to production can make all the difference when it is time to print your next rush job on a DTG system.


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