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Increasing Profit by Crunching Colors

(December 2007) posted on Mon Dec 10, 2007

This month, Trimingham describes how to reduce costs and presssetup time by determining the fewest number of colors required to produce a garment graphic.


By Tom Trimingham

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How many screens must a garment printer use to produce artistic images? The answer to this question has fed an ongoing battle between the art department and the production staff for a long time. But the one thing that everyone agrees on is printing fewer colors to achieve the same result makes more money. The tricky part is effectively combining or eliminating colors in an image while still maintaining the same quality as the original. What good is it to save money if the image is too far from the original and doesn’t appeal to the customer?

Achieving a balance between cost savings and visual reproduction is a goal in both the art and printing departments. The final result should be a win-win between satisfying the customer’s desire to have a bright, vibrant reproduction and a safe use of the necessary colors in the design to produce as many colors as possible.

The tools in Adobe Photoshop provide a perfect threestep solution to the issue of reducing the color palette in an image. All it takes is careful analysis of the image, controlled selection of specific colors, and then replacement of the colors with a simpler palette. It’s surprising how these simple steps can significantly improve an image’s printability and make the design far more appealing in the finished garment with fewer colors and higher profit margin. For some reason, many companies don’t take the time with simple pre-separation image enhancements, because they prefer to deal with images on press and leave any adjustments to the original artists who created the designs. The problem with this is that creative artists who develop designs for screen printing rarely create their work with profit margins and limited color palettes as a consideration. As a result, the artwork provided to garment screen printers is never truly optimized for the printing process.

Editing an image or design that wasn’t developed in house can sometimes be touchy. You need to make sure the customer is aware of the changes and that the reasoning behind the corrections is approved. You can use a generic piece of art that shows what a garment graphic looks like before and after correction to describe the necessary changes and how you make them.


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