We love to create custom artwork for our customers, but about half of the orders come through the door with artwork already created. Of that half, roughly one quarter have followed proper art guidelines for screen printing and have artwork that is print ready. Insufficient artwork files require varying degrees of pre-press work to ensure a high-quality print.

Although we can make low-quality files work, they are not recommended, and the time we take to create print-ready artwork from low-quality images comes at a cost, sometimes equivalent to the time it would take us to make new, high-quality designs. The best thing to do is to be certain your artwork is created to our screen print specifications. Creating print-ready artwork on your own is actually quite simple, with the right design applications and knowledge, however we’ve worked with designers that have hired us because they have problems getting it right.

All artwork is preferred in vector format at full print size, as Adobe Illustrator or Illustrator pdf files, with all fonts outlined. Raster graphics must be created at full print size and at 300 dpi or higher. We accept the following high-resolution file formats: eps, ai, svg, pdf, psd, tiff, and high-resolution jpgs. Vector files and color-separated artwork is strongly encouraged. All fonts must be converted to outlines or the font file(s) must be included with artwork. If you have questions regarding the print readiness of your artwork, please contact your graphic designer or our art department. Please do not send any Microsoft documents for printing. There are no Microsoft programs that allow users to create high-resolution graphics for professional printing. If you do submit your artwork as low-resolution graphics, it will be subject to design charges necessary to re-create your artwork as a print-ready graphic.

There are a handful of design applications out there and people all have their preferences as to which works best for them. Placing a low-quality image into a professional design program and re-saving it does not turn your design into a quality, print-ready design file. The two biggest design programs are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Both of these applications have their strengths depending on what kind of illustration you’re working on, however they have one very large, fundamental difference, described below.

Photoshop = pixel based art
Photoshop deals with a pixel-based type of graphic. These are images comprised of hundreds of thousands of small, colored dots that create a graphic. This is where the term DPI—dots per inch—comes from. The higher the DPI, the more dots per inch, and the more detail you’ll be able to obtain. These are the types of graphics you view on your computer screen every day while browsing the web. Commonly seen pixel-based graphic types are .jpg, .gif, and .png formats. None of these file formats are ideal for screen-printing as they are all compressed, low-resolution versions of pixel-based regardless how high-resolution they are, and always need pre-press work.

With design graphics all images intended to be printed must be created at original size—not increased afterwards—and at an original DPI of 300 or more. Anything less will cause problems while preparing your artwork for printing. These graphics must be saved as an uncompressed file type, such as a .psd or .tiff, with compression disabled. All colors should be saved in their own, independent layers. Any file with artwork flattened or multiple colors within single layers will need pre-press work done to make it printable.

Illustrator = vector based art
Illustrator can utilize pixel-based graphics from Photoshop, but not edit them with the same ease. Instead, Illustrator creates vector graphics. These are graphics that are NOT resolution-dependent—like pixels—and instead are comprised of points and lines that connect in a variety of ways to create line art. This line art can then be filled with, or outlined with color. Since most screen-printing is a print method that utilizes spot colors, and not much process printing, vector graphics are the perfect source file type.

Vector graphics are extremely versatile and very simple to manipulate. Their size can be changed without any concern about pixelization or loss of detail. This is definitely the preferred method for creating artwork for screen-printing as it also gives us a nice hard line edge, resulting in crisper images on screen and ultimately on garment. Common file types for vector-based graphics are .ai, .eps, and some—but not all–.pdf files.

Picking the right ink colors for your design is important to the success of your design. Please take some time to choose your ink colors wisely. We have a full list of our standard and custom stock ink colors available with more information on the
Ink Colors page.