What are solid spot colors for t-shirt printing?
When we refer to solid spot colors with regards to t-shirt screen printing, we are talking about colors that do not have any gradients or shading in them. Solid spot colors are the best kind of colors for screen printing because solid inks are used to accomplish the printing. It is a direct translation from the design to print when it is a solid spot color going on the t-shirt, thus yielding more consistent, high quality results.
Gradients are when a color fades into transparency or fades into another color. When this happens, you are actually seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of colors in between the fade from one color to another. It is next to impossible with screen printing to exactly match a gradient change in a design as you see it on a computer screen. This is because on a computer screen you are using RGB values or CMYK values. Screen printing just doesn't have a way to match those color values exactly as a computer would. There are ways to simulate and come close as possible, but it will never be exact.
Shading is also difficult, and is really just a specific, common form of a gradient. It is typically grey in color and fades to other shades of gray or to transparency. In fact this type of gradient is often called a gray scale. We agree that shading looks great when designing artwork; however, the only problem is that when that artwork is translated into a t-shirt print the shading can potentially look very muddy and unclear with screen printing inks. Shading can almost be duplicated with a technique called halftones but it is a very difficult and unpredictable route to take.
The bottom line is that for optimal screen printing results it is best to use artwork that is in solid spot colors. If your artwork is not already in solid spot colors often it can easily be adjusted to be done in solid spot colors instead. On the other hand some designs, such as photographs for example, just cannot work as solid spot colors and for that reason do not make good candidates for screen printing.
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