Art Separations: The Foundation of Every Great Photorealistic Print


Ever seen a screen printed tee that looked like it was printed digitally? It probably had great art separations!

Think of art separations as the foundation for a great print. It’s the process of separating the design into different layers by color, where each color layer is then burned onto its own screen. All of the layers print and blend together to result in the finished product of a beautiful image.


Spot Color

Spot Color separations are done for vector images like logos or graphics made in Illustrator. They are typically solid colors, although can sometimes include halftone dots to create a shading effect.

Four-Color Process

This process uses halftone dots of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) in which these four colors layer on top of each other to create a photorealistic image.

Simulated Process

This is the process we most commonly use for art separations involving photorealistic designs. Like four-color process, simulated process separations use halftone dots to create highly detailed and photorealistic images. The difference is that this process uses a large range of ink colors rather than just CMYK, allowing you to recreate complexities in photos like the shading and highlights in skin tones.


Starting With High Quality Artwork

In order to create good separations, you need to start with good artwork.

(View our official Art File Guide)

File Types for Best Quality: Vectors

.ai, .eps, .pdf, .svg, .psd

File Types for Standard Quality: Raster Images

.jpg, .png, .tif



DPI (Dots Per Inch)

DPI tells the printer how many dots per inch should print — therefore, the higher the DPI, the better the color range and quality of overall print. 300DPI or higher will yield best results.


Merch Culture, Ep 01: “Why Art Separations Are Important”

Watch the full episode on Youtube or listen on Apple Podcasts 


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