Screen Printing Artwork Requirements

Quality and price in t-shirt printing come down to design. Good quality vectorised art, seperated into colour layers will give you the best quality while minimising applications means the best prices.

The Rapanui factory designs, prints and manufactures clothing for some of Europe's biggest brands. This page is designed to help clients get the most from their custom printed clothing by serving as a design guide covering artwork, design, preparation and cost saving advice. If you found this page by search, try our price checker tool to see if we could help beat your current quote!

Firstly, let's bust some jargon.
  • Application means a print. If your design has a print on the front and one on the back, you have two applications. Less applications cost significantly less. Ask yourself if you really need that neck, sleeve, arm and back print! Our advice? Keep it simple with a front chest print.

  • Vector artwork is created in a program like Adobe Illustrator, and saved as a .Ai or .Pdf unlike Raster art, which is made from pixels in a program like Photoshop or MS paint. Vectors are needed for screen printing as they don't pixellate and the print will be sharp. We have in-house designers who can help.

Small order? If you are looking to order less than 50 you can now design and order online.

Screen Printing Raster vs. Vector 101.
Screen Printing Demonstration A screen printing carousel set up for a 4 colour print.

To screen print a t-shirt we make a screen (plate) for each colour in your art. We mix the colours and one colour at a time, press the colour through the screen onto the shirt. This means the print goes down one colour at a time.

An important part of screen printing is the time consuming set up for each screen and colour. The less colours in your design, the less screens we have to make, less inks we have to mix and the less actual printing we have to do.

One of the best ways to save money is to reduce the number of colours in your design - by combining similar shades and using the colour of the t-shirt to effect.

Preparing your artwork.

It's always better to start your art as a vector. With both screen printing and embroidery we need vector art seperated out into layers (per colour). The only exception is our DTG printers, which can take a .PNG, .TIF, even JPEGs. Ordering custom DTG printed t-shirts online means you can take advantage of Raster (pixel based) art and print photo-style images, vastly different to typical vector art. However DTG is more expensive.

Vector prices, photo effect?

there are some artwork tricks you can use to create gradients and photo-like images with a screen print. The first method to try is halftoning.

Halftone example Gradient (A) converted to halftone (B) for a photo effect.

Halftone is a way to create the look of a smooth gradient monochrome image using only dots of varying sizes. Larger dots can be used for a deliberate old-school effect, but finer dot sizes can create almost unnoticeable blends and gradients using screen printing.

A halftone layer can be used with a background colour, or even a background halftone, to make dynamic, colour gradients.

As always in screenprinting .AI, .PDF and similar vector art files to scale, seperated by colour layers, gets the best results.


Placing an order with us? Download our templates

Use the following templates to ensure your artwork is print ready:

Ai Template Icon PDF Template Icon ©Rapanui


More art Help

If supplying vector art to scale (and separated into colour layers) sounds like gibberish to you, but you have a t-shirt order ready to go, we can help. Our in house artwork team is available - free for large orders, £50 per hour for smaller ones - and we'll help get your print project underway.

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Artwork Advice & Templates

Read our artwork guide

Or, download screen print artwork templates:

Artwork / Design Templates

Orders of 50+ items for bulk Screenprinting

Ai Template download PS Template download ©Rapanui

Placement guideClick here for mockup templates

Small run of 1-50 items? Design Online

  Answers to Common Questions
  Artwork Guide
  Help for Startups selling online
  How much is custom printed clothing?
  Get a printing sample
  Ordering Info

How do I get the design placement right?

Our experienced team are on hand to help and recommend placements so if you’re unsure, you can trust to leave it up to us.

If you have a placement in mind, let us know or alternatively, you can mock-up your design on our studio here.


What to do next:
Read our guide to preparing artwork



"Prepare your vector artwork to scale and separated into colour layers for best screen printing results"
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