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Standardizing Separations

(October 2010) posted on Tue Sep 21, 2010

Steps a screen printer can take to standardize production to increase consistency so that time is saved and press set ups can go quickly


By Thomas Trimingham

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A couple of keys to creating consistent separations can make even shorter work of the process of splitting a design into a set of positives: Adjust the original file to average and combine stray colors (some call this color crunching); boost edge quality and contrast; then create a digital build of the artwork to define a system that will work time and time again to create separations that can be relied on to replicate a design.

Adjusting the original file is simple enough. The hardest part of any color correction is to select the color without affecting the rest of the image. One fast way to save a lot of time and avoid making paths is to use the color range tool, make a color selection, then squeeze the selection using levels on a saved channel version of it. This channel can then be used like a path. Just control or command click (Mac) on the channel picture and then you can select the color from just those areas in a snap. I commonly use this process on faces or skin areas in images to average the hue.

I average the hue on a drawing by creating the previously mentioned selection channel, then copy and paste just this area of color as a new layer. This new layer can then be set as a color adjustment layer by using the hue/saturation dialog and selecting the colorize option in this menu (Figure 5). This will force the color in the layer copy to be averaged to the same color family. This layer can then be merged down and saved as a final. Using this method can tremendously help standardize separations and also assists with forcing a design to work with specific ink colors that are in stock.

There are only a few ways to really boost edge quality. A favorite way of mine is to make a duplicate of the black channel and then use a sharpened/unsharpened mask on it at a low setting to clean up the outline edges in a design. This cleaner black can then be recombined with the image or overlayed as a modification layer in Photoshop.

The final and most important way to standardize separation methods after the support systems are in place is to always create a digital proof of the separation positives in Photoshop. A channel is created that will represent the shirt and block the image channels. Then the separation channels can be viewed as they are made visible by selecting the eye button in the left of the channel box. If the right color has been put into the channel options to simulate the ink color the digital proof should show a fair example of what the final print will look like on the color garment that has been placed into the file.

If these systems and steps are put in place to support each other, then it should drastically improve the consistency and quality of the final separations. With practice and careful observation, each area of a printing shop will improve in productivity and efficiency when support systems are in place.


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