One of the most important aspects of getting the best looking vinyl and direct to garment (DTG) print is having good artwork files. There is an old saying that goes “junk in, junk out.” This principle has held true since way back during the early days of commercial printing and still holds true today. Even in the advancing world of DTG printing with all the technological advances, you still need to have good artwork. Otherwise, your print will not look good. Whether the customer provides artwork to you, or you create the design yourself, here are some helpful tips for how to get the best art files ready for vinyl & DTG printing.
Digital Printing vs. Screen Printing Art Files
One of the advantages of digital printing vs. screen printing is the drastic reduction in time it takes to prepare the artwork. There is no need for color separations on different screens for multi-color jobs. With digital printing, an image with ten colors takes the same amount of time to prepare as a screen print one color image. The term “digital printing” covers several different types of printing, but they follow the same technique: a computer generated art file and either a printer or cutter to create a print for application on a t-shirt. Some popular digital printing options include a direct to garment and vinyl cutting.
The exception to this is when you are sublimation printing. It is impossible to lay a white underbase; liquid sublimation dyes work by binding directly to your shirt fibers and a underbase would create a barrier. Its best to use sublimation printing on white or light colored fabrics that have a high percentage of polyester.
Raster vs. Vector Images
Raster images, as opposed to vector images, are recommended for digital printing. Raster graphics are created by using a grid of horizontal and vertical pixels to make up an image. Vector images, by comparison, use a series of lines and curves. This often produces a large solid area. These large solid areas tend to be unforgiving when digital printing, which relies on creating their images line by line. Often, printing big areas like this can result in unevenness and streaking – or “banding.”
Corel Photo-Paint and Photoshop are two popular programs that will allow you to create images suitable for digital printing. There are advantages and disadvantages of both, and often times it comes down to preference. Typically speaking, Corel is more common with those who have a screen printing background since it is great for spot color work. Photoshop is great for photo-realistic images.
Vinyl cutting is a great option when printing on non-traditional materials, like leather, nylon and spandex. You can also print an image on vinyl, such as the HotMark Revolution Vinyl, and then cut and weed it. Weeding means after the image comes out of the printer, someone must touch-up the piece by removing the unwanted vinyl. This process can take some time and can be tedious if the image is intricate or has a lot of small shapes and letters.
As opposed to digital transfer printing, it is best to use a vector graphic when using vinyl. This will give you a sharper edge, which will make weeding faster. “Weed friendly” images have limited unwanted vinyl, or connects the unwanted pieces through a series of connectors. This means instead of pulling up lots of separate tiny pieces of vinyl, they will come away as one piece, connected by a small vinyl section. If you have overlapping images in your artwork, it is imperative to “weld” or “unite” the images before printing. This just means that the overlapping images become one image, making it simpler to cut and weed.
An ideal vinyl cutting image will be simple, with crisp edges and wide lines. These factors will keep the image from peeling off of the backing, and make your weeding and prep a simpler process.
Digital printing is an efficient and economical way to give your customers what they want. By preparing artwork that compliments whichever technique you are using, you can ensure you are giving your customer the best product you can.