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Separating Fine Art for Screen Printing

(December 2008) posted on Fri Dec 05, 2008

Reproducing fine-art designs on garments requires some careful decision making about how the images are captured and separated.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Recreating fine art on garments is a popular trend in screen printing, and the demand for fine-art garment graphics has really boomed in the past couple of years. Printed art that looks hand-done has expanded through all of types of graphic media and has especially become a big seller for T-shirt companies that have the ability to reproduce this challenging style of artwork.

Fine-art separation can be particularly problematic, and a lot of variables depend on things such as how the artist created the work, how the work is captured for the computer, and how the final print on the garment is intended to look. All of the answers to these questions can affect the way he handle the reproduction process. The best way to tackle this sort of a job is to take it one step at a time and be realistic about the printing capabilities and separation methods that are available. You may be tempted to say yes to great looking fine-art design because it is a fun challenge, but it may end up being very costly and unpro-fitable to reproduce if the final print needs excessive handling in the separation or printing stages.

The nature of fine artwork is about originality and diversity, so any formula will be more likely to work for artwork that has similar attributes and will be printed on similar garment colors. The important point to remember about the theory of recreation using fine artwork is that the methodology can be adopted for other styles because the fundamental concepts will be similar. The following is a compiled list of steps that can work for a selection of fine artwork that’s destined for T-shirts.


How was the work created?

The first step in recreating fine artwork for screen printing is to consider how the artwork was originally created. The reason this is important is because the tools and elements that make up the artwork will commonly suggest a good way to capture the artwork in a separation set. For instance, if the artwork was created with graphite, charcoal, or pastel on a textured paper, then it can work well to consider an index-separation method because the grain of the paper and the drawing media has a pattern that is similar to the random dots in an index pattern.


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