Screen Printing Artwork Guidelines

Screen Printing Artwork Guidelines

Your art is the most essential part of the screen printing process. In order for us to print excellent looking shirts for you, we need to start with good art. If you only have an idea of what you want we can still help with your design. Here are some guidelines to help it go smoother.

Design Guidelines For Screen Printing Artwork

Artwork for silk screen printing is quite different from web design logos or even business cards. In order to print your design on a tee-shirt, your artwork needs to be separated into individual colors. Special transparency film and a silkscreen then needs to be created for each color. For example, if your artwork has 3 colors, then 3 screens will need to be created. In addition to the number of colors in your design, the fine details also may play a factor in the printing of your apparel. The main rule of thumb to keep in mind is, the better your artwork is, the better your print will turn out.

Artwork Guidelines

Designing artwork for screen printing is a little different from other types of design. This is due in large part to the limitations of the screen printing process. Design effects that can easily be done on a computer like gradients for example can be tough to replicate or require multiple screens … but not impossible!

The Basic Rules For Submitting Artwork Are:

The art needs to be high resolution 150-300 PPI (Pixels Per Inch) / the color mode can be RGB or CMYK.

The higher the resolution, the better the print quality you will get! A small file or bad image like one pulled from the web will usually result in a lower quality screen print.

Preferred File Formats: .ai, .eps, .psd, .pdf, .jpg, .gif, .cdr file (Corel Draw – .cdr file)

All texts and fonts should be converted to an outline (Illustrator) or rasterized (Photoshop).

The maximum print size is approx 13×18 inches. If you would like to use a digital image, the usual file formats are: jpg .bmp .gif .png files and these will need to be a minimum of 150 PPI, with a preferred size of 300 PPI. We are Mac-based and use Adobe Illustrator CC and Adobe Photoshop CC for all graphic designs.

How Many Colors Can Be In My Design?

We are able to print up to 6 colors, so your design cannot contain more than 6 colors for one print area. This is something we can help with. Sometimes less is more with screen printing and breaking down a 5-6 color design can still come out looking great and save you money.

High-Quality Images

We like to print from the highest quality files possible.

This means that copying images from websites or just enlarging small images will require us to basically recreate your art from scratch using what you’ve provided as a guideline. If you can provide us with original,

high quality, digital files we can

prepare your art for printing quickly,

efficiently, and affordably.

Low Image Resolution

Low quality or small thumbnail images are the most common artwork issue we come across. Now we know that you most likely are not a professional designer so we can work with you on this as well. Some logos do need to be recreated and depending on the complexity of the artwork there may or may not be a charge for this.

Preparing Fonts & Type

If text or fonts are included in your design, they need to be outlined (Illustrator) or rasterized (Photoshop), if this is not done we may not be able to properly open your file if we don’t have the same font on our computer. In order to do achieve this with Adobe Photoshop, look for “Rasterize Type” in the layer options, for Adobe Illustrator: “Type-Create Outlines”, and for Corel Draw (convert to curves). If you want to use a specific font, just include the font file or the name of the font. If you are looking for a certain font style we recommend the FREE font website to find a font that will work with your design.

What If I Have No Clue About Artwork? That’s O.K., Just Send Us What You Have!

 We totally understand that not everyone is a graphic designer! If all this is not in your wheelhouse or you have no idea what we are talking about please just send us what you have, be it an actual design, some clip art, or just an idea. We love to design and are pretty darn good at it. We can also provide some free design advice in order to help you get the best-looking custom-designed apparel possible.

Complicated Art Or Designs With Lots Of Colors

Complex artwork that’s not color-separated or incomplete may be subject to an artwork fee starting at $35.00 to get it print-ready. We will send a digital proof before we start printing, so you will see what the final design looks like.

Saving Time And Money

The first hour of art design work is free. The less design work that has to be done the less expensive everything will be and the faster we can have your shirts printed. This means things like finding fonts, sending over pre-typed information, and providing quality images can really save time on our end and save money and time on yours. If you’re able to do any of this yourself then we can use your free hour of design to actually designing for you.

Here Are Some Tips

Send us the original files, in the format, it was designed in if possible. Try not to include computer graphic special effects like glows, bevels, drop shadows, blurring, or GRADIENTS (see further down). If your design has multiple colors please send us the design with the colors on separate layers. 

Gradients Can Be Tough!

It is extremely difficult to accurately replicate gradients when screen printing. If you want to have the background of your design look like a sunset and go from yellow to orange by gradient, the only way to print it would be to use halftones. This requires extra ink colors and screen setups to capture the different color gradients. Gradients are difficult to print and will add to the overall cost of the print job.

How To Size Your Print

If you know what size you are wanting to have your design printed, please create your art to that size or include the dimensions in an email. If you do not know what size you are wanting your print to be we recommend simply measuring the print size of a shirt you may already have at home. This also helps to get a more accurate representation of how your final print will come out. As a point of reference here are some standard print sizes:

Small left chest print (over heart) 3-4 inches wide and 1-3 inches tall.

Centered front print 6-12 inches wide.

Back prints 8-12 inches wide and up to 16 inches tall.

Sleeve prints 3-4 inches wide and 1-3 inches tall.

How To Get It To Us

If you have multiple files, it’s best if you zip or compress them first. Send art to and if you have any questions or need some help feel free to email or call: 619-354-9872

 Factors That Contribute To Higher Printing Cost.

Ordering a small number of shirts or having a lot of colors in the design. Screen printing is all about volume!  The more shirts you can print the less the cost per shirt will be.

The apparel that you choose will play a big part in the cost. The print cost does not change too much for different styles…but the cost for different types of apparel has a wide range in price.

Every print location adds to cost!  For example, printing the front and back of a t-shirt is twice as much as just printing on just one side of your apparel.

Also, every color in your design will add to the print cost and the setup. Keeping the design to the minimum of necessary colors will help in the final price and the setup cost. Each print color requires it’s own screen and setup which is $25.00 per set up.

Rush Charges

5-10 day turnaround: Regular price

4-5 day turnaround: add 25% to your total bill

3-day turnaround: add 50% to your total bill

24-48-hour turnaround (from the time final art is approved) adds 100% to the total

Turnaround Time?

Our normal turnaround time at Extra Graphics is 7-10 business days + shipping time from the apparel supplier. If you have a certain date that you need your order ready by please let us know as soon as possible. Rush orders are always welcome. If you follow our artwork guidelines and let us know exactly what you need we can have your custom apparel order will go fast and easy!