Jul 29, 2008

Anatomy of a T-shirt Design

Last week I wrote about how one should take precaution in designing shirts with an abundance of colors and gradients.

This week, I've contradicted that advice by designing a shirt with multiple colors and gradients, BUT

I will show you how I designed it in a fashion where it will most likely have the best chance for the separation artist to duplicate as closely the design with a little help.

There are a few unwritten rules in creating a design with separations in mind.

1. Using the shirt color in your design will help to create less hand (hand is the feeling of ink on the shirt), allow for unity in the composition, and will help to create a wider range of depth as it is like having another ink color with which to work.

2. If using multiple colors, using similar analogous colors will allow for the inks to blend better than those of opposing colors.

3. Blocking section of those in similar colors will help the separation artist to create screens for those colors.

Keeping those concepts in mind, if you look at this design, you will see that

1. The imagery is made of several sets of color.

a. One is the honey and text, which can be represented by orange, brown, yellow.
b. The second is the hair and lily, which can be represented by olive and dark olive.
c. The third is the face, which can be represented by white and orange. Although the face would best be represented with an additional flesh tone.
d. The fourth is the overall highlights and shadows which will be accentuated with black and white.

So ideally, this shirt would be separated and printed with 8 colors, possibly 9 if there is a need for base white.

2. Since the sections of colors are created by analogous colors, they are more likely to blend into a smooth gradient than if you were to use say a dark blue shadow with yellows and oranges in the honey. Since the blue would be blended into the yellow in halftones, there would be a possibility that the blue and yellow would subtlely mix creating a mixed green or aqua color. After dozens of shirts are printed, ink buildup on the bottom of the screen would also accentuate the problem.

3. While designing, I would assume most artists keep many layers. If you design the shirt cognitive of separations, you should keep those layers as selections.

I have saved with this design several selections as channels. These are color representations whereas the actual channels are solid black and white excluding the drop shadow. Viewing these images, you should be able to discern the how having the selections could help the separation artist go about the duty of separating the colors into screens. Although there are methods in which separations can be done without the use of these selections, if there are ever corrections needed in the screens, these will help greatly.

These are examples of the images saved in channels. With these the separation artist can make selections of specific areas of the designs.

The drop shadow will be converted into halftones, so it is not a solid fill selection in the channel.

Separations are difficult but with a little help, you can for your client or for yourself help them to provide you with a better final product. I don't claim to be an expert in separations as I only have a couple years of experience, and only a few more as a designer, but I feel it's important to make sure that there is an understanding for designers of the whole production process.

Most apparel production houses have a restriction of 6-14 color due to cost and physical machine capabilities.

To reiterate last week's advice, although full color designs with gradients can be printed, taking a design with over 16 million colors digitally down to the general maximum of 8-16 colors, the likelihood of representing the depth is unlikely.

Insults and counterpoints appreciated.

Thanks for reading.



alanbernard said...

It's rather confusing, but I think I get most of it. I'm just curious how they are going to do the face, since it's on 1 layer. I know gradients will work, but I just find it really complex and confusing.

It's a beautiful design tho!

Anonymous said...

I still wish I understood it all. You do it with such ease. How's livin with BenBen going?! teeehee...