The initial process of trial and error is mostly error. I do not profess to have all the answers in screen printing and am not naive enough to assume I do.

What I do have is over 10,000 hours of troubleshooting and diagnosing problems and issues in the pressure cooker of high volume contract screen printing. The pie should be infinite when it comes to sharing knowledge. Along my journey in the art of decorated merchandise I have gotten amazing advice from other peers in the industry. I feel confident enough in my experience and ability to now share some of the insights I have gleaned from the sweat, tears and yes, blood from screen printing.

The latter coming from getting my arm stuck in a Challenger II while it was running at full clip, but that’s a story for another post.

The first piece of knowledge I’d like to share is how to efficiently and effectively match a supplied digital comp to the physical print.

The majority of our clients require photo approvals for the first run of a design. This can be a headache for our high volume production team when trying to keep up with capacity, especially during busy season.

Most of the supplied art we receive comes with a strike sheet of Pantones called out. We’ve found it’s best to not treat this is a step by step recipe, but more of a guide.

We live by the rule ‘don’t give me what I ask for, give me what I want.’

As long as we match the comp our clients are on board with any changes needing to be made. Another process we put in place to further build our client relationships is to send revised press instructions out with any changes made on press. This really helps our clients when they go overseas to print.

Here are 5 tips and tricks we’ve learned to help expedite this process:

Always check for a copyright or copy line. If our client supplied a Photoshop eps file and an Illustrator ai file, we open both. Oftentimes the copyright line will be in the Illustrator file as a vector to keep the fine detail. Missing this step can make a fabulous print a massive fail.
We always confirm sizing if there is a shred of doubt. We’ve found stocking the smallest sizes of common garments to be a valuable resource when maxing out designs. We also give our press operators a fighting chance when maxing out imprint size. The 1/2” in height we reduce from the literal collar to seam max imprint saves massive amounts of time on the back end and also helps with any variations in garment sizing.
If the supplied design is a Photoshop file we expand the canvas to check for any outlines in the channels that may not be visible at the current dimensions. Few things irritate our press operator more than needing to tape off a 2% dot rectangle around the design. In Illustrator we always check for spot colors in the separations preview window.
It’s all about the base when printing on dark garments. We really dive into the base channel. This lays the foundation to a great print. We don’t oversaturate the base plate because we trust our press operators to be able to lay down more color info with squeegees and angles.
We trust our gut. If something doesn’t seem right with the design, we reach out to our clients. We’ve found attaching screen shots of specific areas of inquiry helps streamline the process.

We are striving to be an asset for our clients, not a xerox machine.

Auditing the separation or design prior to production dramatically reduces the amount of down press time and allows us to become a trusted source for our clients. We understand the initial work put forth for each design might seem like extra work from the outside. However, we’ve found our attention to detail prior to press is what helps separate us from the thousands of other shops.

Next post I will dive into how our photo approval process really brings our client relationships to the next level.

I hope you have found this helpful, please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.


Cody Shelley

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