Art Tutorial

Jesse MacKenzie
January 22nd, 2015

Create Something Great

Great prints come from great art. We know that professional artists aren’t the only people who need shirts, so this art tutorial will help anyone with basic knowledge of some kind of art creation software to generate the best art possible. If you end up deciding to outsource your art instead, please refer to our Working with Designers article.

(we will be using Adobe products as examples, if you use a different program that is fine, but please refer to [file types] for information in saving from an alternate program)

Step 1: Plan

Most of the basic mistakes that we see could have been prevented by planning ahead. There are a few decisions you need to make before you begin your art:

  • Vector or Raster: Do you want solid colors or photographic details?
  • Print Size: Determine how big you want your print to be.
  • Color Count: The number of colors used in a print has a big impact on price, so decide up front how much you are willing to pay for colors.
  • Shirt Color: If you design with a shirt color in mind, it will keep you from accidental clashing.

Step 2: Setup

The initial settings of your art file are extremely important to the final piece. Here are the optimal settings for our printing process:

  • Resolution/Size: This only applies to raster art. Your file must be at least the size you want it printed at 300ppi (pixels per inch) or higher. We can’t print art bigger than we receive it, so even if your art is 40″ wide, if it’s at 72 ppi we can print it no larger that 10″ wide.
  • Color Mode: This only applies to raster art. Make sure to work in RGB mode.

Optimal Settings: Below are optimal settings in Photoshop and Illustrator for a 12″ x 5.5″ design:

Art Tutorial - Ideal settings for Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 3: Create

We can print pretty much anything you can think of in 10 colors or less, so go nuts. You’ll be surprised at all of the colors we can achieve with our simulated process and CMYK. We love what we do and it’s even better when we are getting awesome art to work with. If there’s something in your head but you don’t know if it’s possible, feel free to send us a screenshot and we’ll work with you to make it happen. We’re always up for a challenge.

Art Tutorial - A simulated process print. Check out those halftones.

Step 4: Save & Send

When you have your finished project and you’re ready to order a print, it’s time for both the easiest and most important part of the art process, saving and sending. If you create the greatest art anyone has ever seen, but you save it as a compressed JPEG, you aren’t going to be satisfied with the result. We have a whole section on File Types if you’d like to learn more, but here is the best way to get us your file.

  • Photoshop: Save as a PSD file. Make sure the “Layers” checkbox is selected, the format says “Photoshop”, and your file name has the “.psd” extension.
  • Illustrator: Save as an AI file. Make sure the format says “Adobe Illustrator (ai)” and that your file name has the “.ai” extension.
  • Other Programs (CorelDraw, GIMP, Inkscape, etc.): If you are using an alternative program, don’t worry! We can still get great art from you. The most important thing to remember in these programs is not to save your art in a format specific to that program (like a cdr. file). We can’t open these easily and in some cases not at all. In vector programs a PDF should work fine, and in a raster program a high quality, full size PNG or JPG with minimum compression will be acceptable.
  • Send: If you order on, you will be able to upload your file with your order. Otherwise, use our uploader,, or email your art as an attachment. If your file is too large to send as an email attachment, Gmail gives you the option to upload via Drive if your file is over 25mb, or use to upload files of any size, and email us the link.

Step 5: Wait in Exhiliration

Now that we have your awesome art, we will create mockups and begin our process. If you have any comments about your art, feel free to leave us notes in the file or communicate them directly with your representative who will pass them on to the art department. We encourage you to pick your own Pantone colors and call out specific sizes for your designs so that you can have all the control of the print. If there is any sort of printing style that you want but don’t know much about, just ask.

Art Tutorial - A colorful halftone print

Jesse is our Creative Director. He splits his time between the Art Department and Creative duties, looking to innovate and push the company in both areas (unless he overslept.)

Filed under: Art, Educate