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The Best Halftone for Different Styles of Artwork

(October 2012) posted on Mon Nov 19, 2012

This overview discusses halftone styles and how to match them to the designs you print.


By Thomas Trimingham

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Moving up in printing quality requires clear, honest, self-assessment and willingness to address and standardize procedures in production prior to developing new art and separation formulas. Once the printing variables are in place and halftones can be reproduced consistently on press, the hard part of moving a company to a higher level of printing is already done.

Now that the production department can produce well defined screens that print good quality halftones with minimal dot gain, it is time to address the art department and see if some new styles of halftones would benefit and improve both separations and final prints.

First, it is a good idea to review the different styles of halftones so that each type of dot can be clearly identified. Then the halftone styles can be looked at for how each type is best suited for different styles of artwork. Finally, the specific limitations of the dot types can be discussed to demonstration what to look out for with possible problem areas that can occur. The common types of screen-printed halftones are traditional, index or stochastic, and alternative styles.

A quick review of common screen-printing halftones
One relevant note is that halftones that work certain ways on garments may have different results on flat stock. Printing on the uneven surface of a T-shirt has always been an extra challenge for reproducing good halftones, so it is considered to be more difficult to standardize due to the changing nature of the uneven surface. This breakdown of halftones is meant for garment graphics only, so there isn’t confusion about what might work best on other substrates.

Traditional halftones
Traditional halftones are typically round or elliptical (Figure 1). The hallmark of standard halftones is that the dots form a pattern that has both an angle and a density (dots per inch or dpi). The specific property of a traditional halftone is that the dots shrink or expand in size depending upon the value of the image being reproduced. In other words, you have the same number of dots in a square of halftone but the dots just become larger and touch, overlap, or even become a solid area when the value approaches 100%.


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