Preparing Art for T-shirt Printing

Adapting an Illustrator file for successful screen printing


You have a newly-designed logo to be used on t-shirts and mugs, in addition to the usual branding applications.

The design was built in the most efficient manner to develop the design quickly and satisfy the client.

Now the production phase begins and we need to carefully rebuild the artwork; it needs to provide the color separations for two screen-printed products, t-shirts and coffee mugs. Our task at this stage is the creation of the t-shirt files.

The screen printers require the art to be separated into the logo's two spot colors. They need a small amount of trapping where the two colors butt together.

The art must be sized to 11 inches wide to fit nicely on the front of our chosen shirts; one set of screens will print the small, medium, large, and extra large. The printer asked for a trap of 1point on the adjoining colors. The client wants black shirts, so you also need to create a white base color that will be printed before the two logo colors. This base color should be trapped to 1 point smaller than the logo to avoid any white peeking out around the edges.

Below is how the separations should turn out.


Why do this?

Sure, you could hand this art off to the screen printers and have them fix the file, but we want to learn how to clean up a complex vector file and make it ready for printing. In the future you will be creating logos, icons, spot illustrations, etc. that will be distributed to lots of users and they should be made "fool proof".

We will break down the Illustrator appearance effects into vector shapes, and we'll simplify the many layers of shapes into two spot color separations, and a base white separation to back up the color on black shirts.

To get started...

Review these resources:

A Smashing Magazine piece on setting up artwork for screen printing.

Also, have a look at this article on white base color techniques.

The Adobe version of the of trapping fundamentals..

Our tutorial on Trapping Basics.

Video tutorials for this project: T-shirt outline and T-shirt trapping

The exercise:

Steps to prepare the logo

Analyze your output needs.

Create your trapping

Real world hacks (not for this exercise)

Save your work into the AVA Classes>Dropoff>
T-shirt_Trap_Exercise folder.