Preparing Your Artwork to Print With Us

We get a lot of questions about how to prepare artwork files for screen printing at Ocelot Print Shop. This post is a brief guide on some things to think about, and requirements we need from your art to make it compatible with our setup.

SCREEN PRINTING OVERVIEW

In screen printing, one color is printed at a time. Each color layer is burned onto its own screen. "Burning" is another word for "exposing," and it refers to the process of taking your image and transposing it onto a screen through a light sensitive process. 

printing the magenta layer on a 2-color t-shirt. did you know we print everything by hand?

printing the magenta layer on a 2-color t-shirt. did you know we print everything by hand?

In order for that light sensitive process to be successful, we need good transparencies. We use transparency printouts (also called "films") to burn screens, and these transparencies are black ink printouts on transparent film. The black ink on the transparency blocks the light in the exposure process. Since it's blocked from the light, it washes out in the rinsing process, leaving those areas open on the screen. Anything black on the transparency is what will print.

Transparencies for a 2-color design, laid on top of each other.

Transparencies for a 2-color design, laid on top of each other.

So we need good transparencies, and to achieve that we need good digital files to start with. Keep reading for more on that.


we love vector files

We need all digital art files to end up in vector format in order to print good-looking transparencies with our setup. We can print transparencies from a Photoshop file, but the edges will not be smooth. Since Photoshop creates raster files, the edges by default will always have a jagged edge, which will print that way (jagged) on the transparency. It won't make for a happy print.

We ask for vector artwork in Illustrator (.ai) or PDF file formats. We need the art to be truly vector, and not just opened in Illustrator and saved as an .ai file. Vector art has smooth edges that can be infinitely scaled up or down with no image loss.

Raster image vs vector image

Raster image vs vector image

One simple way to you can "vectorize" your artwork is by using the Image Trace function in Illustrator, which is under "Object" in the top menu.

If there is a font in your artwork, please be sure to outline the font before sending the file to us. We may not have the same font on our computers, and outlining the font prevents this from being an issue. To outline your font, select the areas with type and go to "Type" in the top menu, and choose "Create Outline."


SETTING UP YOUR FILE

Because we will print a transparency and burn a screen for each of your color layers, we ask that you send us your art with each color in its own layer. We will be able to print your job much faster, and you will be able to avoid a $50/hr art fee. If your art is not separated with each color in its own layer, we will have to separate it, and this may incur a $50/hr art fee (depending on the complexity of the artwork).

3-color Artwork in illustrator with each color in its own layer.

3-color Artwork in illustrator with each color in its own layer.

Please send us your art at the size you want it printed. That means when we open the file, and it opens at 11" wide, we will know you want it printed at 11" wide.

The maximum width for printing garments at Ocelot Print Shop is 14" wide.

If you're printing t-shirts or garments, you may want to mockup your design first to get an idea of what it will look like on a shirt. If you Google "tshirt template," lots of options come up.

To recap, this is what we need from your art files:

  • The artwork should be vector, in .ai or .pdf format
  • Each color should be in its own layer
  • All fonts should be outlined
  • The artwork should open on our end at the size it is to be printed

COLOR

When you send over your art, please let us know what ink colors we should be printing with. We are working on a standard ink list, but for now, just let us know roughly what colors you want to work with.

If you need a specific color, we can match Pantone/PMS colors for $15 each.

Use a pantone book for identifying specific colors.

Use a pantone book for identifying specific colors.


WORKING WITH halftones & PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGES

We can screen print photographic images. Using special software, we can halftone any photographic image, turning it into dots which makes it screen printable. When printed, it gives the illusion of being a photograph with shadows, midtones, and highlights, but is made entirely of tiny dots.

detail of a halftone screen printed photograph by jetsonorama, a photographer we work with.

detail of a halftone screen printed photograph by jetsonorama, a photographer we work with.

We need photographic images to be sent over in TIFF format at high resolution, at least 600dpi and at the size it will be printed.


NEED DESIGN HELP?

If you need help creating a design for screen printing, check out our list of recommended designers.