Have you ever cranked out a t-shirt design for a client or yourself, only to find out the printer does not do 4-color process printing? If this has happened to you, you were probably left with a lot of lost hours without much to show for it.Â We want to clear that up for you and provide you with the information to avoid the same problem next time.
Four color process printing, or sometimes referred to as full-color printing, is the process of mixing CMYK inks to print a high quantity of colors on a t-shirt.Â It is much more common to see full-color printing on paper and that’s because the quality of the end result can be drastically better than on fabric.Â T-shirt screen printing is best accomplished when using single solid spot colors.
Here are some images of t-shirts printed with four color process:
Sometimes, 4-color process printing is unavoidable when you are dealing with a photograph or an image with a lot of colors and/or shades and gradients. While I won’t bore you to sleep with the printing side of the operation, I can suggest you ask the printer a few simple questions from a design perspective:
1. First and foremost, do you print 4-color process?
This is very important because not all printers do.Â The process is very much a science and printers are skeptical because the customers expectations are not in line with reality.
2. Is it screen printing or digital printing?
Screen printing, is the real deal.Â Digital printing is like T-shirt printing with an inkjet on steroids.Â Digital has come a long way, but still has quite a way to go.
3. How much do you charge for the color separations?
Believe it or not, you can provide a printer with a high resolution, high quality image, and they still charge you a hefty sum for separations.Â Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil, because the printer has to be comfortable with the screen angles, screen mesh, halftones, etc. All of this is accomplished in the color separations process.
4. Can you print 4-color process on dark colored garments as well as white tees?
Printing four color process on dark t-shirt adds even more difficulty to an already difficult job. It is very common to find a screen printer that will print four color process, but only on white t-shirts.
5. What format and DPI do you prefer to work with?
There is a wide variety of formats preferred ranging from a high-resolution tif to the original Photoshop PSD file with layers. Some printers prefer 300 dpi while others think that is too high.
6. Any suggestions or preferences that I should know about before I get started on the artwork?
I can’t even begin to tell you what the answer may be on this one because of different strokes for different folks. One thing I can be sure to make you wary of is to avoid lots of detail in the artwork.Â Some of it inevitably gets lost in the separations.