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An Explainer on Readying Artwork for Printing on a T-Shirt

Aside from canvas and digital devices, t-shirts are one of the preferred surfaces to display artwork. Custom screen printing has been popular for several years now, partially due to this. That said, there are several things that must be taken into consideration when prepping artwork to be printed on a shirt.


What are the best programs and formats of design out there?

A good program to use when creating designs for digital screen printing is Adobe Illustrator. The quality of vector files remains unchanged even if the size is adjusted to be bigger or smaller. Fireworks and Photoshop are also options to explore. However, if either of those programs is the artist’s choice to use, .bmp, .gif, or .jpg images will likely distort with size adjustments. This is because they are comprised of a pixel grid.

Photoshop and apps like it are generally "raster-based.” What this simply means is that the artist will end up stuck with the initial dimensions used by the designer, whatever they may be. Scaling said image either downwards or upwards will lead to it becoming pixelated as well as blurry.

For printing that's directly onto the garment, Photoshop is a good program to go with. The best formats are .ai, .bmp, .eps, .gif, .jpg, .pdf, .psd, and .tif. When the route being taken involves screen printing, then only vector art (.eps) or .ai files will be taken by the printer.


What about traditional, non-digital artwork done by hand?

This one is probably already obvious, but the hand-drawn art will have to be digitized in order to get placed on a shirt. That way, it can be sent to the printer digitally, and they will already have the art in the format necessary for t-shirt printing. Scanning is typically the way to go, and it's key to make sure the correct resolution is used. Taking a photo of the artwork using your smartphone will likely not yield the same quality or sharpness in detail that scanning would.

If the artwork is drawn to size, at least 300dpi should be set during the scan. If the scale of the artwork created is at 50%, then 600 dpi is the ideal scan route to take.


Pay attention to the color detail

If the artist is particular about colors in the art, make sure that's conveyed to the printer. A good rule of thumb is to have the relevant Pantone color numbers handy. When the design is done through Photoshop or Illustrator, the color on the artist’s laptop screen or computer monitor will not necessarily be the same as that of the printer. That's largely a technological issue involving the different calibrations of computer monitors and laptop screens.



Custom-printing on a t-shirt is a great way to display artwork, especially for artists looking to expand their audience. There are several ways to go about preparing art for printing, including making sure the right formats are used. Artwork drawn by hand will need to be digitized, preferably through scanning, in order to be printed on a t-shirt.

Trying to find a reliable printer that offers custom screen printing with no minimums? Contact Bauers Boutique today! We have no minimum for any custom screen printing needs you may have. Visit us at our location in Spencerport, NY!