What is ‘good artwork’??

Hi, I’m Matt Spooner and this is my first ever blog!! Please be kind 🙂

Back in the day, before we even had computers, all artwork had to be produced as a hard copy, photographed on a massive bellows camera, and the developed onto acetate. it was a stinky archaic process which thankfully gave way to the digital process we know today, but many of the principles of yesteryear still apply.

I use a nifty little acronym to help explain to newbies what constitutes good artwork for screen printing. These points not only cover the rules on how artwork should be created but also some of the principles for output onto film for burning screens.


It stands for;



If you intend grabbing your image from a website, the chances are that it is a ‘low res (resolution)’ format. it might look great when you view it on your site but rest assured, as soon as you enlarge that bad boy for t shirt screen print reproduction, it will look like a closeup of a lizzard’s belly. So, make sure it is 300 dpi then print a hard copy at the required scale for your t-shirt, or zoom right in on on screen, and check the quality before sending it to see how good it looks. all ‘bitmap’ files will have some pixelation. That is the nature of their construct but it can be greatly reduced by increasing the dpi before starting (300dpi), or eliminated if you create artwork in vector programs like adobe illustrator. so, watch out for the knobbly bits, otherwise known as pixelation.


This one sounds like it shouldn’t be included as it pokes at the principle that ‘surely that’s just common sense’. well hold your horse!! you would be surprised how easy it is, when adding objects to existing artwork, to place it ‘off centre’. don’t just “bung” it in! always use your alignment grid or guides in your artwork program to make sure things line up all pukka. once it’s on a t shirt, there is no going back.


……or the ‘reg’ as we call it. if you have a number of colours in your design, the idea is that they ‘marry’ closely together when printed onto a t shirt, so your artwork will need to be carefully separated to fulfill this requirement. in reality this is not a consideration for a customer when supplying artwork, so we will say no more..


Shirtworks dislikes the word ‘re-do’ and we work incredibly hard in the pre-production phase to eliminate any possibility that something will go wrong. one of the problems that sometimes occurs is where customers have created their own artwork and not spell-checked it or verified how that one “complicated” name is actually spelled. cue, tears before bedtime and the dreaded re-do aaaarghh!!!! so, as every copywriter knows, go through with your fine tooth combe and spell check and test for grammar.


I will skim over this as it is an “output to film” consideration which the customer has no control over.xx



This is a good one. artwork is basically made up of objects, lines, dots and fonts. screen printing can produce a lot of detail but it has limits. Always make sure your lines are at least 0.5 of a pixel wide to ensure that it will burn correctly on the screen. Half tone dots need to be produced at 65dpi to give us the correct dot size and any serifs on fonts need to be checked for being too small. always check that artwork, which perhaps was originally designed to be fairly large, will also work when scaled down to the size required for a t shirt. If there are any lines etc… that are questionable at large scaling, they will almost certainly disappear when the design is reduced in size.


Max print dimensions are a little dependent on the job and the type of shirt we are printing on, but the basic rule is no bigger than a3 for a large chest/back print and about 9cm wide, max, for a breast print. A word of warning though! what works on an XXL adults shirt is not necessarily going to work on a xs!

These rules are pretty comprehensive and cover most of the pitfalls that might mean you send your printer dodgy artwork which is impossible to work with.

Remember– you can’t polish a poo, so best to start with something that looks it’s best.

Next time i will be discussing how to colour separate using photoshop. this is where it gets interesting as we divulge some trade secrets for screen printing. get your technical heads on for that one.

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