Creating color separations for screen printing doesn’t have to be a study in trial and error. The typical scenario is that each design is treated differently so that when a new art job comes in or is developed, the process starts all over again. A better way to approach color separating is to properly prepare each image to reach a few common standards before you even begin to separate it. This way the process becomes far easier to replicate, and there are fewer complications on-press.
Reviewing artwork for color correction
One solution that seems to work is to carefully review images prior to presenting a quote and then letting the client know that color correction must be done in addition to separation. This way the client knows there will be some additional costs and the printer isn’t forced to work with a bad image. This simple set of checks in illustrations and photos can catch the most common issues:
- Check for low resolution and edge quality
- Check for compression damage to the image
- Check for color pollution in areas of relatively flat colors
- Check neutral colors for color pollution in shadows and highlights
- Check for unnatural hues in typical memory colors (flesh, wood, metal, etc.)
- Check for out of gamut hues in images (hot neons and ultra-saturated colors)
- Check for areas that should be the same color family but are not (flesh is a common one for this, as is animal fur)
- Check for color casts from different color lighting (e.g. grass making a chrome bumper green)
Any of these issues can require an image to be corrected prior to separation. In some cases, a client may not accept the added cost of color correction and prepping an image before separation, and it is then up to the printer to decide if they will proceed with the order as is, absorb the cost of correction, or refuse the order. An option is to have the client sign a statement that they were advised the design needed correction but that they are waiving the risk that it might not look correct.
As with so many things in screen printing artwork, there are exceptions and times when guidelines can and should be broken. Some jobs don’t warrant extra effort on the artwork and others will. It can be a judgment call that will combine things like: how fussy the client it, how bad the art is, how large the order is, and how much time it will take to fix the job. These concepts can be blended to come to a final decision, but it is better to review the artwork and have the discussion than to eat an order because the client hates the way the flesh tones came out.