How should artwork be setup for T-shirt printing?

  1. What does it mean to colour separate the artwork for T-Shirt printing?

  2. It is normally suggested to use Pantone colours for T-Shirt printing. Is it the Pantone Coated or the Pantone Uncoated? The Uncoated one has more subtle colours and we can’t choose brighter shades if the design requires that. What is more appropriate for printing?

  3. Can we use gradients in T-Shirt printing or is it suggested to stick to flat colours only?

The reason for asking if gradients were ok was to use it as an option for this design:

I was considering it an option, as it will be difficult to colour separate since the textures are clip masked inside the lion.


Color Separation

This is the process of taking the artwork and (for the lack of a better term) separating the colors to facilitate the creation of the individual printing plates. To show by example, here’s a 3 color job:

Color separations

Your printer probably won’t expect you to create the plates with the trim and registration marks, but you can certainly help them out by separating the colors yourself. The best deliverable for your printer is a file with all the colors already separated onto their each layer like so:

Illustrator screenshot

Each of the three layers is labelled and only contains shapes with their respective colors. My answer here should help you with that process.

Pantone Solid Coated vs. Uncoated

This is largely irrelevant when it comes to printing on apparel. PMS C and PMS U are both mixed together from the same 14 base colors and they use the same formulas for each color. The coated vs. uncoated relates to how the ink will appear on coated or uncoated paper and doesn’t apply to fabric.

Take a look at this picture I took of PMS 299 in the coated (left) and uncoated (right) mixing guide:

Pantone mixing guides

If you look closely at the mixing ratios you’ll see that they’re exactly the same. PMS C and U will look different on screen (and in these books), but that won’t make a difference when it comes to actually mixing the ink and applying it to the fabric.


Spot color cradients can be achieved with halftones, and this is something I would advise you to work with your printer on. Halftones can be tricky and need to be set up properly (proper halftone size, PPI, frequency, angle). To give you an idea how how a screen-printed gradient would look, here’s an example:

halftone gradient

This graphic uses only two spot colors (yellow and red), but from a distance it will have the appearance of a smooth gradient.

The registration marks are used for the initial setup of printing to properly align each of the screens. I added them to show you exactly what the printing plates could look like for that artwork. This is something that your printer would add themselves when they create the plates, you don’t need to worry about including them in your artwork. Speaking as a printer, if someone included registration marks in the artwork they sent me, I would probably replace them with my own marks that I’m accustomed to using. Separating the colors into different layers is all you should worry about.

Swallow graphic courtesy of

Source : Link , Question Author : Kreative , Answer Author : Community

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