Tips for Screen Printing, DTG and Heat Transfer

Mmm... cookies!

By continuing to use our website, you consent to our cookie policy.

Privacy Policy
Tips for Producing Quality Prints

Best Practices for Screen Printing, DTG and Heat Transfer

Learn how to save and print out your design properly and deliver quality prints that you can sell.

Print design
August 11, 2021
6 minutes


Does it happen that you work hard on a design but the printer turns down your work because it won’t work for printing? Keep reading to find out what you can do to avoid such instances and deliver quality prints.

Designing and printing a t-shirt are two completely different processes. But both need to work in coordination to obtain a fine quality t-shirt design. The method of preparing artwork for Screen printing, Direct-to-Garment or Heat transfer is similar with certain tweaks in parameters.

In this blog post, you will learn about some of the best practices that will help you in preparing artwork that will not be troublesome for the printer and also get a good quality t-shirt design.

Before we begin with the solutions, there are certain things that one must keep in mind before beginning to prepare the artwork.

Learn how to create small-format marketing assets

Get our Flyer & Brochure Inspiration Guide

T-shirt mockup

If you are someone who designs for a client, it is best to prepare a design and present it as a t-shirt mockup (it can be obtained using a t-shirt designer software) that will help the client understand what the outcome will look like. Once you get the green signal, you can simply continue with the artwork or you can optimize your design as per their requirements and that of the printer with a t-shirt design tool.

Design: It is recommended not to prepare designs over the seams, on the collar, over zippers as it is difficult to achieve a flat printing surface on those areas. Resulting in uneven and bad quality print.

Designing program: For screen printing, it is recommended to use a vector-based program and for DTG or heat transfer either raster or vector can be used to design your print art.

Sizing: Check with the printer and your client the size and properties of the garment to determine the size and scale of the design.

Colors: Try to achieve your design by using the least number of colors. CMYK is the preferred color model.
Printing onto dark garments: Always remember to have a bottom layer of white ink to maintain the vibrancy of the colors.

Common tips: Aim for a resolution of 300 d.p.i., always have a transparent background. Do not use any effect—‘drop shadow’, ‘glow’ etc. Save as AI, EPS, PDF, PSD, TIF, PNG.

Now that we have the basics clear let us look at some tips that will save you a lot of time and money.

1. Dedicate a layer for each color

It is advised to create layers for each color you use for your design. Each layer of color will have a different shape on it and hence, having a separate layer helps in getting a clean print of the design. Using Layers won’t affect the output of your artwork by your screen printer; it will simply make it easier for you to work on.

2. Create a temporary garment color layer

Having a layer of the garment color helps you choose and mix colors and layer them appropriately. You can delete this layer after you finish designing your print art.

3. Refine each layer

Work on each layer, removing anything excess or any object that doesn’t involve that color. It will help you in getting a clearer output of your artwork.

4. Outline every single stroke

It is a feature widely accepted to maintain the design. If the strokes aren’t outlined, then there are chances of it changing shape. Outlining it turns it into an element, avoiding a change of shape when resizing.

5. Convert fonts to outlines

Fonts are dynamic. If a particular font style isn’t available in a certain device, it will catch on to the next possible font style. It will become a huge problem if the printer’s computer doesn’t have the font you applied. By converting fonts into outlines, the computer considers them as an image and not text and fonts won’t be an issue anymore.

6. Create and apply a custom spot color

Inks behave differently than digital colors, hence it is important to create a spot color layer to avoid them mixing colors on the fabric. A spot color layer is usually used for a ‘trap’. It is a mix of two colors.

You must never mark this spot color as CMYK. Spot color needs its own separation during printing and special ink color. Spot color must match a specific color exactly, unlike CMYK color separations and matching.

7. Use knockout and trap

Knocking out is a technique that refers to creating a stencil or removing the color of the adjacent top layer, in the bottom layer. It prevents the design from getting opaque when different colors are used for overprinting.

Knocking out is used for a more vibrant output. Knockout is usually followed by ‘trap’ to ensure that you don’t have white spaces due to misregistration, but in cases where the bottom layer is a lighter color and the top layer is a darker color, overprinting works fine.

8. Setting objects to overprint

Overprinting means that one color gets printed directly on top of another color. When you want things to overlap, the object on top must be set to “overprint” instead of “knockout.” You can choose this feature if document registration is not perfect or you want a kind of effect on the design. However, be sure to check the overprint settings before sending it off to print.

See some of ManyPixels’ best design works

Get the ManyPixels Design Library 2022

9. Separations preview tool

The separations preview tool is a preview of how the colors will separate and interact with each other on the final print. In commercial printing, each element of the artwork is a mix of four standard colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, therefore separations in the form of CMYK will be shown for each element in the artwork.

As mentioned earlier, the spot color should not be marked as CMYK. A proper check of the separations will save you from a lot of misprints and substitute colors on the final print.

10. Run a final check

Checking a hundred times is better than a mistake so, before finishing and sending it off, recheck your separations, ensure that you have no CMYK elements in your artwork, and overall preview everything and save your file as PDF and send it along with either a JPEG or printed proof.

Wrapping up

Preparing artwork for Screen printing DTG or Heat transfer is not easy but is neither an impossible task. With the help of an online design editor software, you can easily create artwork even though you have no prior experience.

So, these were some great tips that would have surely covered a majority of the problems you face while designing a t-shirt artwork. Following these tips ensure a faster turnaround time and an accurate print.

Wait... there's more!

Enjoyed the read? Subscribe to our mailing list for all the latest tips, how-tos and news on graphic design and marketing.

Avatar (5).png

Guest Writer: Design’N’Buy

August 11, 2021

Abhishek Agarwal, CMO of Design’N’Buy, comes with tons of experience in web-to-print solutions & IT. With a mission to deliver the best and innovate new ideas in W2P, he and his team always deliver challenging and exciting results. Delivering the best and with utmost perfection has always been his life’s motto.