There are other types of files that technically can be used, like .jpg files but they don’t garner the best results; .jpg files contain a lot of pixellation and artifacts and it can be very difficult to color separate. This can lead to lost crispness and definition in your design, translating to a fuzzy/jagged print.
If you don’t have one of the files listed above before you get started with your order, please contact us so we can help lead you in the direction to ensuring that you get print ready art files. Print ready files will make sure you get the best print possible.
Print ready files first and foremost are one of two things. Vector Files or 300 DPI or higher resolution files.
Vector images, allow a high level of flexibility. These files are built using mathematical formulas rather than individual colored blocks (pixels), vector file types like EPS, AI and PDF (not all PDFs are Vectors) are perfect for creating graphics that require any type of resizing, which makes them perfect for t-shirts and posters. It allows us to scale the artwork to any size to fit any product without damaging the integrity of the design.
So if not vector, why does it need to be 300 DPI or higher? Raster images (.psd, .png, .jpg, .tiff, etc.) are made using a fixed number of colored pixels, so they can’t be dramatically changed in size without compromising their quality. When you adjust the design to fit a space they weren’t designed to fill, their pixels become visibly grainy and the image distorts, creating a muddy or blurry looking print.
To correctly print an image on either a garment or a screen printed poster, it should be at least 300dpi (but 600 DPI is better), a much higher pixel density than the web will display. Resizing a low resolution image (something that’s 72 – 150 DPI) pulled from the web to fit the area you want to print won’t work because the same finite number of pixels only get bigger and begin to distort, you’re not adding more pixels, the ones you had before just expand. To explain, let’s say you want to print your logo at 3″ x 3″ on a left chest. If have a 72 DPI .jpg of your logo and it’s 3-inches by 3-inches, it would need to be “stretched” to more than 3 times its size to get it up to 300 DPI. That 72 DPI logo likely looks great on your computer screen, but when it prints on your product at 300dpi it will look pixelated.
Sized to print is one of the biggest and most overlooked aspects of file prep. Every file you provide for printing needs to be sized to the specifics you’d like us to print. Stretching a raster file to a size larger than it was originally created at will cause severe distortion. We’ve prepared three different images to show you why this is important.
Here you can see if the original source file is 3 inches by 3 inches, on the left, it will make a good sized left chest print and that’ll work perfectly. However, on the right if you take a 3 inch by 3 inch file and try to stretch it to 12 x 12 to fill the bulk of the shirt, that isn’t going to work. We know that the mockups above my not provide the best imagery for this, so we’ve prepared two others.
You can see in the close ups of the enlarged file how much blurrier and fuzzier the edges of the colors are. This will result in muddy prints that just look bad. Make sure that if you’re providing files that they are designed at the size you want them to be printed at. Unless it’s a vector format file, we cannot stretch a 3 x 3 file to be a 12 x 12 print.
Saving in “outlines” is a term that you will hear from us when sending files to print if you’re using vector files like .AI, .EPS, .PDF, or .SVG. If we don’t have a font you used in your design and the vector file is not saved in outlines then when we open the file the text won’t have the same look as it does on your screen since it will default to a different font. Saving something with “outlines” means you are locking the text so that it’s no longer a font but instead it is an accumulation of vector shapes that form your letters. This is important when sending graphics to print to make sure that you get exactly what you’re wanting in your final product. Saving a file in outlines makes your text no longer editable so we recommend that you keep an AI file as an editable master and then save another file as the locked final artwork which you’ll send to print to us.
In a raster file, you can rasterize the text too, which will turn it into pixels instead of a font. If you don’t know how to do these things in Illustrator or Photoshop, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
In Illustrator, highlight your text, then select:
Type > Create Outlines
In Photoshop, highlight your text layer, then select:
Layer > Rasterize > Type
There are two sizes of screens for apparel printing, standard and oversize. The standard screens can fit prints up to 14 x 17 and the oversize can fit prints up to 17 x 22.
The Pantone Color Matching System (PMS for short) is a standardized color reproduction system. By standardizing the colors, we can ensure that we refer to the Pantone system to make sure colors match within 2 shades of what you’re expecting. Every computer will show colors differently, even different programs on the same computer will often show colors to be different. This can make color selection troublesome for both you as the customer and us in production. This is why Pantone colors are extremely critical.
As a customer, the best thing you can do for color accuracy is make sure that you own a Pantone book. You can buy these direct from Pantone here. While they are on the expensive side, it’s going to be one of your best and most utilized tools in making sure you know what you’re getting when you open the box. As these colors are mixed by hand, they are extremely close but can vary ever so slightly, so we do allow a variance of up to 2 shades lighter or darker. In most situations, these variations will be virtually unnoticeable, but as they can and do happen, we want to make sure that you know about them in advance.
A lot of people don’t use Pantone colors when they design, leaving us with no option but to pick the Pantone color closest to the design for printing. This may or may not be really close to your file, so please make sure you’re mindful of Pantone colors when getting your file ready. Below you’ll see 4 examples of web colors on the left and the closest Pantone match on the right. Some are closer than others, some are farther apart.