So. Which is better for screen printing? Photoshop files or illustrator files?

I understand the differences beteween bitmap and vector, but when it comes down to it is there a difference in quality for screen printing? Better details? I’d be every so grateful if someone with screen print experience (staff or otherwise) could enlighten me a bit.

I’ve been forcing myself to learn Illustrator, but I’ve used Photoshop almost exclusively for setting up my final print files. I recently made a text heavy design in Illustrator. When I was finished I first decided to export the entire thing to Photoshop to do my color separations. I didn’t like the results. Converting to bitmap created gaps in the small text. I had to clean these up, and still didn’t much like the look of it. I then went back and just separated the colors in illustrator, and was much happier with how neat and tidy the vectors made everything look on my screen.

Are vectors better for things like fine lines? Or am I just zooming in too closely for my own good?

My next question pertains to (shudder) halftones. It’s rather general though! I promise!

Woot decrees that if you are working in Illustrator any halftones should be left as gradients so they can do the halftones themselves. I’m not looking for a step by step tutorial, but how do they make the halftones? The one method I’ve found, if I’m understanding it correctly, basically exports each layer as a PDF and the halftones are then created in Photoshop via the means we all know and love. I realize there are also fancy illustrator plug-ins capable of making halftones as well. So I guess my question is, if I make a layer in Illustrator that uses halftones, is that layer going to be converted to a bitmap image anyway? Is everything in Illustrator converted to bitmaps before being printed? Or are halftones rendered as vectors all the way and are vectors a better way to go?

I realize Woot’s methods may be different from other screen printers, but I figured I’d ask to see if I could be doing things differently for the better.

Thanks for reading! Wasn’t it riveting? I consider myself thoroughly and properly riveted.

I second all these questions. In particular, I want to know how to make those neat line-based halftones in illustrator, because all I’ve managed to do there are the dot ones, which are kind of ugly and are raster (so being anal, I HAVE to convert them to vectors, which sucks up time). Anyway, Line halftones in illustrator. hit me.

If you really want to cover everything in screen printing, you will need to learn both programs. Photoshop is good for photorealistic images. Illustrator is good for hard line graphics and text. You can do hard line graphics and text in Photoshop, but I think it is faster in Illustrator- if you know what you’re doing. For one thing, it is MUCH more editable.
Just an fyi: wether the art directors send me an Illustrator file or a Photoshop file, I color separate out of Photoshop, make all my adjustments and then print it out of Illustrator. ‘Vector Graphics’ is just a concept in the computer. Once you hit ‘PRINT’, everything becomes bitmap anyway.

But color separations and design (which is what you are doing) are two different things.
There are several other threads on this, and perhaps Travis (the head art director) should chime in on this, since he is more into DESIGN. All I do is take your final piece of art and bastardize it until it prints on a shirt as close as possible to the electronic image we display in the sale.

Hey, thanks for the response! That answers my question. I didn’t know if the screens can be made straight from vectors or if it is converted to bitmap along the way. I’ll still prod myself practice illustrator anyway, but that’s helpful info to keep in mind.

If you don’t mind me asking… what format do you export the file out of Photoshop to Illustrator when you print it? As a PDF or EPS or some other format?

I use PDF. That supports channels. I turn every color into a channel, and then create a base(DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME, KIDS). Then i place that in Illustrator and add all my tooling marks and such. I used to use EPS files, but that’s like using a land line or listening to 8 tracks. Can you say S…L…O…W… ? I don’t think Adobe even supports eps technology anymore.

Let me re emphasize: don’t do the color seps. Just concentrate on being creative. There are about 27 ways to color separate a piece of art, depending on the design style, the way it was built, shirt color, print volume, planet alignment, etc, etc. We will do that here.

Oh, and to answer one of your other questions: If you create your art in Illustrator, size it to 100% of the largest image to be printed (Men’s design), drag it into Photoshop, set your dpi at 300, turn off anti aliasing, then you should be good to go. If you zoom in and it looks jagged, you zoomed in too far.

…or, better yet, LEAVE it in a native Illustrator file, and we’ll do the rest. Remember: Illustrator vector files are incredibly editable, not to mention ‘resolution independent’.

Hey, thanks again for the info! I’m just trying to acquaint myself with the process. You won’t get any PDFs from me. Nor will I attempt any manner of trapping or creation of a base, promise.