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Three Fast Ways to Separate Designs in Photoshop

(March 2014) posted on Sat Mar 01, 2014

Use the tips presented here to streamline the way you separate color for all kinds of garment graphics.


By Thomas Trimingham

click an image below to view slideshow

Setting up a quad-color image requires that you have some experience with the Curves menu in Photoshop and you know how to separate a design with it. Here's a really easy way to learn how to separate using the Curves menu in Photoshop: Start with a grayscale image, extract different levels of gray, and then save each level as a channel until you have rebuilt the image in the Channels menu. You just extract a black, a dark gray, a lighter gray, and a white. Once you're able to complete these steps, the next logical process is to create some quad-tone channel splits. You can then apply the splits to parts of your image for quick separation.
A supplied graphic that's a good candidate for quad-tone separations is one in which the gamut is in the same color family and just changes in value (Figure 5). For this design, the easiest way to create fast separations was to convert the image to grayscale (>Image>Mode>Grayscale) and then bump the grayscale image with the Curves menu so that the blacks were 100% and the whites were 0%.

The next step was to apply a quad-tone preset. In this example, I had a quad tone saved as Quad Blue, which I applied to the image. This converted the entire image to a blue-toned design and allowed me to then create a multi-channel from it (>Image>Mode>Multi-channel) for separations. This image had essentially two different quad tones in it, so I repeated the whole process for the quad-yellow separations in the design (the eyes and bottom lettering).
When both of these separation sets were finished, I then created a mask as a channel of just the eyes and the bottom lettering. I erased this information from the blue-quad set and left only these areas on the yellow set. I could then combine these separations quickly, knowing that the standard underbase would work for both separations without using the mask.
This process is one of the fastest possible separation methods, assuming the image fits the right color models and you have a good recipe saved already. The time that it took to separate this design was two minutes, except for the masking and combining the artwork, because most of the work was already done.


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