Sunday, July 6th, 2008

The 5-Minute Guide On How To Prepare Your Artwork For Screen Printing

When designing and preparing your custom artwork for printing on a t-shirt, sticker, vinyl banner, hat, CD, hoodie, or other garment you must take a few things into consideration in order to ensure it will print properly. While this may seem like a daunting task, here at we aim to simplify the process for our customers with this quick intro.

1) Make Sure Your Artwork is 300 DPI. Dots per inch, or DPI, is the number of holes per inch an area, such as a screen, contains. It works in a similar way to a TV or computer monitor, the higher the number of holes, the greater and more high quality the image can be displayed. While with screen printing one can get by with less dots per inch since most silk screens are less than 300 DPI, we suggest that when you set up your designs in Photoshop, use 300 DPI resolution. Please also be aware that scaling up an existing design from 72 DPI to 300 DPI in Photoshop does NOT cut it and will cause your final artwork to be pixelatted – and we see this ALL the time. So just keep it simple and remember that all artwork needs to be created in 300 DPI from the start.

2) Keep Your Design To 6 Colors or Less. When designing artwork for screen printing we recommend looking at some old band t-shirt, stickers, or other similar screen printed items. Notice that the design only uses a few colors, often between 1 and 6. Notice how some designs actually use the color of the shirt as an additional color. Screen printing is completely different than another type of printing called 4-color process, which can blend colors to product shades and is often seen when someone wants to duplicate a photograph. 4-color process is a completely different printing method than screen printing and costs about 4 time as much. Our advice at is to stick to traditional designs between 1 and 6 colors. It'll save you a boatload and it's the standard for bands.

Just one more quick note about your design. All too often bands send us artwork created by a friend, drummer, or other non-designer by taking a photo or other image found on the internet and slapping their band name across the front of it. 99 times out of 100 this artwork cannot be used for screen printing firstly because it isn't 300 DPI resolution and secondly because a photograph cannot easily be separated into 4 or less colors. While our designers can assist you in creating a suitable logo based on your initial concept, this does usually cost somewhere in the range of $75-$250/logo.

3) Color Separate Your Artwork. Now that your artwork is 300 DPI and limited to 6 colors you need to make sure each color you wish to print is on it's own Photoshop layer. The process of doing this is called color separation. When color separating, be sure to make sure that the background color (i.e. the color of the shirt) is on it's own, separate layer as well. While this seems simple, be careful to make sure that any strokes or other Photoshop effects you are using are broken out from the inside color. For example, if you used a black stroke around green lettering, you need to make sure the black stroke is on a separate layer from the green. Remember, our designers are always ready to help with any color separation issues you may encounter so just let us know if you have any problems.

4) Sizing Your Artwork. All artwork should be sized exactly to the dimensions you want to print. If you were designing a 2”x6” sticker, you would want your artwork to be 2 inches by 6 inches at 300 DPI resolution. Likewise, if you were printing a 2' x 6' Vinyl banner – make sure your artwork is 2 feet by 6 feet at 300 DPI resolution. Be aware that with our vinyl banners we use a digital print method and you do NOT need to separate your artwork or limit yourself to 6 colors.

5) Saving and Submitting Your Artwork. We prefer all artwork to be in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator formats. We also accept PDFs and EPSs as well. If it is a large file (10Megs or more) you can zip it up using Winzip or Winrar and submit it that format as well. When you are ready to submit your artwork you can either email it to art [at] or go to and upload it directly to our server. Just be sure to drop us a line letting us know it's there.

Preparing artwork for screen printing isn't a difficult task, however there are several things that must be done correctly to ensure a high quality and professional print job. While we hope this guide will be enough to get you going we are always available to assist you with your designs, color separations, and other prep work. If you require any further assistance, don't hesitate to contact us at 732-701-9045 or email us at info [at]

Bret Morgan is an owner of and web developer for,,, and In his free time he enjoys surfing, ashtanga yoga, riding bikes (both motorized and foot powered), and reading. His beer of choice is 24oz Budweisers. He can be contacted at bret [at]