Why Graphic Layers Don’t Matter for Screen-Printing, But Do -BIG TIME- for Cutting
Artwork sent to production for different processes needs to be prepared differently. Recognizing these forms of output and their different requirements will help us in Cutting, Direct print, Sublimation, and in a much different way for Embroidery. I would like to focus on vector content, and the layering of vector art for our different applications in this article.
It is very easy for us to, as an example, place a mascot head right on top of an athletic character and print separations for Screening. As long as the design has the color limited, and specifically contained, vector areas visible on top. Your printer will only print the colors, layers, lines, and sections of those top visible portions of the design. But sending that same graphic to a cutter, will result in quite a heartache. Having many more lines than necessary (spaghetti art) can cause problems in many different output processes. Simplifying and Welding color layers (in your design software) are the best methods to use before moving to a cut process. Converting to a native color palette or scheme is the best method for outputting to a digital printer. Saving the entire design as a new solid layer bitmap (jpeg or tiff..) will give the best results for many offset and wide format printers.
Why Exporting as a Simplified Single Layer Image is Best for Digital Print
When printing for a digital process, such as sublimation or direct print, multi-layered graphics can be troublesome. Certain colors are seen as transparent by certain printers, and underlying graphics will show through. For digital print, it may be best to convert your final artwork to a digital image, making sure that it is all a single layered graphic, then to choose your resolution high enough for the end result, before sending to print / production. Though this may sound like we’re working ‘backwards’, it ensures that the digital printer is seeing a digital image before it processes the artwork itself (Raster Image Processing (RIP)). Saving / exporting your final edited artwork digitally will also show you on screen a more accurate representation of the results to come.
Why Punching Layers Through Might Be Necessary for Embroidery Output
Most modern digitizing (embroidery) software accepts vector graphics for a sort of ‘auto’ or ‘get you most of the way there’ for your necessary sew file. This artwork will often need to be simplified and / or welded based on colors before digitizing. This is much like setting it up for cut. Some digitizing software simply will not understand that some underlying elements need not be considered. Although a consistent underlay still may be necessary. By simplifying or punching through all the layers we show our programs only what we want them to consider. Keep in mind that you may want to re-insert, or past back into the design, a consistent colored background, such as the original back blackground. This first layer of the art can be re-inserted in order to help simplify or assist in editing. Additionally, when setting up our embroidery files for Applique processes, that original solid layer background is ideal to apply placement, tack-down, zig-zag, and satin stitches along the edge of our design. It is important to keep these options in mind as separate functions for multi-decoration garments or for applying the same design to multiple different kinds of substrates.
Having quality vector content can help immensely for ALL our output processes. The Imprint Industry survives on good starting points, relevant clipart, and vector designs that we can customize and apply to a variety of applications. Not just because quality vector art is so much easier to edit and customize. Not just because quality vector content is so much easier for our software to translate and convert. Not just because quality graphics impress customers. But also because the graphics are exactly all of the above: Extremely versatile. Not many of us only focus on one imprint process. Most of us have several pieces of equipment in our shops, some of which we use a lot, some not so much. By keeping a consistent method of design, editing, and purchase of future content (quality vector graphics) we can keep a consistent process(s) in our post production artwork steps.
Some of this may seem a bit confusing, especially to those of you who are a bit newer to the industry. Some of my verbiage may be slightly different to those veterans out there. But these overlying concepts, and your understanding of them can save a great deal of heart-ache in the long run with proper artwork preparation. My contact vitals are attached to this article, feel free to ask specific questions via phone or email (ClayB@ActionIllustrated.com).
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