Videos > Gradient Color Separations for T-Shirt Printing

Gradient Color Separations for T-Shirt Printing

Color separation is a vital part of the screen printing process and yet it is something which makes a lot of designers nervous. Until you have done it a few times it can seem somewhat confusing. It usually becomes even more intimidating to people when they’re working with artwork that contains gradients; however, for such complex artwork it simply cannot be avoided. The good news is that it need not be such a frightening thing; with a little practice anyone can master the techniques of color separation with gradients. There are even tutorials out there to help make the process even easier. I came across one such tutorial recently which was done by Nick Steimling over at in conjunction with a text based article which is posted at the site.

In the video Nick takes us through the process of doing color separation with complex gradients and he does so in real time without editing out any steps a long the way. Nick is using Adobe Photoshop in this tutorial, which is the standard in the industry when working with artwork like this that has gradients. In the tutorial Nick is working with a 4 color design, but as he points out this process can be repeated with any number of colors. He starts out by making swatches on a separate layer and then creating halftones for the artwork. In the process of working on his artwork it was also necessary for Nick to open a new document in Photoshop so that he can copy and paste things from one document into the other.

In the next part of the process Nick creates a grayscale of the image which he can then flatten and turn into a bitmap image. Again using a bitmap image is the standard for printing this type of file. Next he goes through the process of putting each of the 4 gradients on its own layer. In the process he uses color overlays and converts his colors for each gradient from the grayscale back into their original colors. Once he’s done with everything Nick takes a few more moments to “clean up” the file for printing by doing such things as deleting his swatches and making sure that the only thing that remains on the file is what he wants printed.

All in all in this tutorial Nick takes a potentially difficult and confusing process, especially for beginning designers, and takes us through a simple, easy to understand tutorial which can be easily replicated for any similar design which contains complex gradients and needs to be color separated. This is an excellent video which should be kept on hand for future reference. Props to Nick for making it simple and easy to understand while still very thorough!