Preparing Artwork for DTG Printing by Scott Fresener


This is a topic that a book could be written about because a lot of things that need to be or could be done to make artwork print better on a DTG printer are the same things you often do to artwork in general – whether you are printing to DTG, sublimation or screen printing. 

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The real problem is that you will generally spend a lot more time fixing bad artwork when screen printing 500 shirts than you will or have time for to fix bad artwork for a few shirts with DTG. There are a lot of articles written on this topic and many of them go into painful detail about all the things you should do to make the artwork print read but the reality is you will have to determine how much time you can spend on one shirt vs how much time you can spend on even a few dozen shirts. The tweaks/fixes need to be fast and easy to do.

But, even a great RIP will not help with low quality artwork or artwork designed for a white background that now needs to go on a black shirt.

Learning the Limitations of the Process and the Inks

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DTG machines print using the standard printing colors of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This is commonly called CMYK. The problem starts with digital files which are almost always in what is called RGB mode (red, green, blue). The RGB color space is much larger than CMYK – it has a lot more information. When you convert a file from RGB to CMYK many colors go “out of gamut” meaning they can’t be reproduced exactly using just CMYK. That again is where a RIP comes in. A good RIP will help compensate for out of gamut colors.

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Even though DTG loves full color prints – if the original image is not sharp, clean, vibrant and well saturated – the print will look dull on a shirt. Here are some ways to improve artwork for DTG printing. The next section will outline things you can do using Adobe Photoshop to improve the image. These same techniques can be applied to Corel Photo Paint and other graphic programs.

Adjust Image Resolution
You will often get low resolution 72dpi images off of web graphics and these are usually small in physical size. The first thing to do is go to Image/Image Size and upsample the image to 200 to 300 dpi and make it the correct physical size. Figure 4.

Improving Low Quality JPG Images

Once the image is the correct size and resolution you need to zoom in on the image and see exactly what is happening up close. If the image was a low quality JPG file then you might see artifacts and block. Unlike screen printing where these imperfectid_25_5b21ae9f153bf=