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Set up for What… Don’t you Just Press Print?

Are you new to screenprinting and unfamiliar with the setup procedure?

This month we have decided to talk about screen setup and how it affects your print run in regards to quality and cost.

Firstly I need to address the most common myth that we come across with screenprinting: YES it’s still an art! There is no one-way to complete a print and each step of the process is subject manipulation, ultimately being controlled by the printing team completing your job.

Unfortunately it’s not as simple as digital printing aka DTG (direct to garment) that works in a similar way to a conventional computer printer. You can press go on a machine and it will do all the work for you, therefore human interaction is not as big a factor to consider.

I am going to be covering all the steps we go through to prepare your artwork to hopefully help you understand the process a bit better, allowing you to make the best decisions for your work.

After all ‘knowledge is power’ isn’t it?

In order for us to setup your artwork this is what we have to do:

Print ready artwork

  • We receive your ‘print ready’ artwork that is saved as PDF / EPS / AI / PNG / TIFF. Usually JPG file is low resolution unless you have saved it as a high-resolution image. General rule of thumb is to make sure your image is created and saved at print size and a high resolution.
  • Remember!! Pulling off a low-resolution bitmap image of the Internet or anywhere and then saving it as one of the correct files shown above will not work, we will still need to redraw this.

Separating artwork

  • For spot colours designs it’s easy to see the amount of colour in the design and then separate it into screens accordingly.
  • For Photographic designs it can be a lot harder to choose the correct process as you can either use a CMYK process that works like a computer printer (mixing 4 colours together). This is a great cost effective way of creating a full colour image, however you are relying on the graphic designer to pull apart your image correctly making sure the colours and screens to sit together perfectly
  • Another process similar to CMYK is SIMULATED process that uses 2 – 12 colours in the same way to build up a coloured image. By using more than the 4 colours CMYK offers you are able to achieved brighter and more vibrant colours. It’s most commonly used for a vibrant full colour images.
  • Choosing and executing a way to separate your artwork is one of the most important stages of the process and is something that we want you to be a part of. We will make recommendations and let you know your available options, making sure that the print is going to look exactly how you hoped. This is the difference between getting what you want and getting what your hired screenprinter thinks is correct. We do NOT assume, so make sure you utilise our advice.
  • Remember… these separations of your artwork will be parentally on the screens that we keep for a recycling period of 6 months allowing you to reprint with no setup cost, so getting it right first time can save you heaps in the long run.


  • Each layer of your artwork is printed onto clear film with a high quality professional inkjet printer. It’s really important for this to be a very high quality printer as if the ink is not thick or consistent enough you will have a patchy print.
  • We print off the negatives to your design onto clear film ready to attach to the screens.

Making the screen

  • In a dark room we attach the negatives to a blank screen prepared with a special light sensitive emulsion that goes solid when exposed to light.
  • Our exposure unit encapsulates the screen and attached film, makes it air tight holding it firm, exposing it to light accurately.
  • Then we blow out the emulsion that had not been exposed to light leaving the positive image parentally left on the screen.

And that ladies and gentlemen is that… I hope we have allowed you to see a basic overview of the setup process. Demonstrating that it really does come down to the quality of the people and equipment used when setting up that will make your job perfect. As you can see there are a lot different areas during setting up that can directly affect the quality of the print.

Then the magic happens…