When placing an order for imprinted products, the quality of the final result depends on the quality of submitted artwork. Here are tips, details, and background for getting the best possible results.
How We Print
At StrombergBrand we primarily use screen printing for imprinting on fabrics. This means we have specific requirements to set up art files when orders begin production. Screen printing is also known as silkscreen printing, serigraphy, and serigraph printing. This versatile yet relatively simple form of printing has been around for over 700 years. Essentially, for each design/logo, a 'screen' must be created which is similar to a stencil. Ink is moved over the screen and pressed into fabrics (such as umbrella panels) to create a high-quality and long-lasting imprint. We use individual Pantone inks. Slightly different methods for screen printing exist, depending on preferred technique and equipment, so different companies will often have different image requirements. Please see below for StrombergBrand's suggestions.
If a logo uses multiple colors, a screen must be created for each color. We separate these colors into multiple files, each of which is used to make screens. Many people therefore choose to have 1-color versions of designs to reduce costs. But for anyone who wants 2 or 3 colors in the final product, it's important to keep these facts in mind. If there are overlapping elements in a design, the colors must be separated properly to eliminate/create gaps, and special care needs to be paid attention to ink color. Some inks will change color when printed over other inks. For example, when blue and yellow screens overlap, that section becomes green. We do our best to review art files and fix common mistakes, but submitting a quality art file increases accuracy.
What Vector Art Is
With most file formats (like JPG) it's impossible to have one art file where colors are pre-separated and print-ready. And since art often needs to be resized to fit the imprint areas of our products, we require that files sent to us be vector. Vector art can be resized without any loss of quality, because the graphics are created in programs (like Adobe Illustrator) which use mathematical formulas to determine shapes. This means the art is versatile, camera-ready, easy to edit, can have colors pre-separated into layers, and can be scaled infinitely while retaining quality.
Vector art generally uses the following filetypes:
If art is not vector, it's a raster graphic (bitmap). This is the most common type of digital image file. Raster files are the opposite of vector graphics: can't be resized without loss of quality, are often difficult to edit, and generally cannot be used for high-quality screen printing. This is because raster images are displayed with individual pixels, not mathematical formulas, and pixels are resolution-dependent. Resizing a raster graphic creates distortion and image artifacts. These types of art files must be converted or recreated using vector-art software like Adobe Illustrator, to ensure accuracy and high print quality.
Raster (bitmap) art uses many filetypes. This includes, but is not limited to:
StrombergBrand doesn't accept raster graphics, hard copy art, Word documents, or CDR files.
To convert non-vector art to vector art, please do not place or embed raster files in a vector file before saving with a vector file extension. That doesn't change the composition of the original file. The non-vector art needs to be professionally recreated or converted, not resaved. For example, if a JPG is placed in a new Illustrator file, and saved as an EPS, opening the EPS file will only reveal that a JPG is inside it. A vector filetype is different from a vector image. A logo can be bitmap even if the file extension is .AI, .EPS, or .PDF - it's the exact contents which matter instead. When in doubt, email your file to us for review. Additional charges may apply if submitted artwork needs to be converted into a file we can use. If an image appears fuzzy or distorted when zooming in, the image is not vectorized.
Raster graphic (left) versus vector graphic (right) after resizing.
For Best Results
For anyone with vector art files available, doing the following in Adobe Illustrator provides the best results when screen printing with us:
- Convert text to outlines or send us the font files along with your art
- Convert strokes to outlines
- Embed linked files, or send as a separate attachment, if external art is needed (with screen printing, this should not apply)
- Place non-printing elements (such as guidelines) on separate locked layers
- Convert colors to flat Pantone solid coated (colorize method: exact, combine tints)
- Do not add colors by placing a square JPG beneath a clipping mask, please instead use a standard Pantone swatch to fill paths
- 3 colors maximum per design, unless doing process color printing instead of screen printing
- If possible, having each color as a separate layer is helpful
- All elements (including blank space) should have a minimum thickness of 1 pt when at actual print size
- Convert gradients/transparencies to halftone (dot) patterns or solid 1-color elements (1 pt minimum still applies to halftones)
- For bitmap text, retype & convert to outlines instead of using Image Trace
- Use the pathfinder tool instead of clip groups
- Maintain trap in multi-color designs (Adobe PDF)
Additional note: because screen printing works by combining one ink per one screen, and due to equipment limitations, we cannot do tints/shades. Any logo which uses tints should be converted so that each visible color is its own Pantone color, and we use Coated inks (so any non-coated Pantone needs to be converted). For example: if an art file displays a 50% tint of PMS 368 U 3 green, the equivalent we would use is PMS 358 C to stand in for 50% PMS 368 U 3. (With PMS 360 C to show 100% PMS 368 U 3.)
The answers to many other common questions can be found on our General Info page. For process color printing, digital custom orders, and laser engraving, different printing guidelines may apply - please contact us for details. We'll be happy to review any art files emailed to us.
Thanks for your interest in StrombergBrand!