Two Great Tutorials on Spot Color Separations for T-Shirt Printing
One of the most disappointing things that can happen to a t-shirt designer is for them to come up with a really terrific design, get excited about it, show customers how it's going to look - or maybe just show friends and family - and then when the design is actually printed....it turns out it's all wrong. So what happened? How did your cool design come out looking like an uncool mess?
Often times the problem is that the artwork wasn't submitted to the screen printer in a correct, ready to print format. One of the most basic things to do to ensure that your artwork is printed correctly is to supply your screen printer with color separated files. The problem is that for most people who haven't done it, color separation can seem like a difficult, confusing process. However, it need not be so intimidating. There are great tutorials out there that explain the task in an easy to follow, step by step process. Two such articles are, "How to Create Your Own Color Separations in Adobe Illustrator" by our own Blake Poutra which was posted at Vector Tuts as well as "Preparing Artwork for Screen Printing in Adobe Illustrator" which was written by John Rainsford and posted at Smashing Magazine.
Both articles use artwork containing three print colors for their tutorial but of course any number of colors will work. Naturally one of the most important aspects of color separation is simply knowing the colors you want. As Blake points out in his color separation article it's helpful to pick a PMS color since that will be more specific and as John suggests in his article conferring with the screen printer and asking to see samples is also very helpful. Now that you have your colors, it's important to name them in Illustrator and to do so in a way that is easy to understand and that will avoid confusion.
Once you have your colors situated it's an easy jump to grouping all the artwork of the same color together and then creating layers for each one. As both articles point out it's extremely important to check over your finished layers carefully. Make sure that you haven't missed anything and that everything will line up correctly when it comes time to turn each layer into a screen and print them. Another important caution is to make sure that you've converted all of your colors to PMS colors, and there are checks that you can do in Illustrator to ensure this.
These color separation and printing articles are a terrific resource which makes the color separation process easy to do. With step by step articles such as these there's no reason to fear color separation or to let a terrific design turn into a failed print. Check them out and practice on your own designs!