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Creating Artwork For Print

Ideal Artwork Spec

To prep your artwork correctly it should ideally meet the following specification:

  • PNG format
  • 300 DPI
  • RGB mode
  • Transparent background
  • Saved at print size (tightly cropped)

 (Tip: If you use Adobe Illustrator, you can export as png at this exact spec)

If you aren't graphics savvy don't panic! please read on in this article to learn the basic do's and don'ts for setting up your artwork for print.

Understanding Image Resolution (DPI)

For people starting out creating graphics, it's sometimes difficult to grasp image resolution and its importance when reproducing the design in print.

In basic terms, if the artwork looks correct in the view port (computer monitor, phone screen etc) it will not guarantee it will work when printed at A3 size on your T-shirt.

DPI relates to Dots Per Inch which is the number of pixels in a square inch of the artwork. So the higher that number, the greater detail you can get in the image when viewed closely, to prevent pixelation and blurring of the image.

Most digital artwork for display purposes on websites etc is natively 72 DPI as that is sufficient for viewing on a computer screen and would load quicker on a slower connection.

As such, artwork should be created at a higher resolution, so when the print is viewed closely, you get clean edges on your print design rather than jagged pixels.

See below for a comparison example of an image of a circle zoomed in to actual print size at 72 DPI vs 300 DPI

72 DPI:

300 DPI:

As you can see, the 300dpi version created a much smoother curve without the pixelation, blurring and distortion.

How To Setup Your Artwork

You will need image editing software such as Photoshop, which is the industry standard. But if can't afford to splash out on the full Adobe creative suite, there are inexpensive or even free open source alternatives, such as GIMP.

Before you begin designing your artwork, you should set the canvas to 300dpi, as shown in the Photoshop example below.

Using File > New.. for a new document.

This creates a blank transparent document in exactly the right size and resolution for an A3 sized T-shirt print. You can then create your text and graphics inside of that.

If you paste any images in to the document, they should be at least that size and resolution themselves and you should only scale images down and not up in size from a smaller image otherwise you will get distortion. Images taken on the highest setting on a camera or phone, should be ample to use for this purpose.

In reality though, it's not all ways possible to get the highest resolution possible, as such you may have to stretch the image slightly, which should still produce fairly acceptable results.

If you do have to increase the size of your image, I wouldn't recommend enlarging it by any more than double, so if the image is half the size of the canvas above, enlarging to fit the whole way across, should still work for print, but the edges just won't be quite as clean as a native 300 dpi file.

Saving Your Artwork For Print

 Artwork should be saved as a .png in RGB mode, the mode can be set when you open a new canvas as above, in the new document window. You can check the mode before saving with Image > Mode > RGB, shown below...


Your finished artwork should look something like the above, in that it will have the transparent background (grey hatching) which signifies the areas that have no print and the rest of the design floating on top of that.

Get In Touch

If you are looking to set up artwork for a print job with us and you are struggling with anything, just fire us over an email:

We are happy to give free and advice and can even carry out small artwork requests free of charge. Give us a shout and I'm sure we can help you out!