Tips on preparing files for Society6 (or screen printing)

Recently, a friend of mine asked me how to prepare files for Society6 or screen printing. It was rather difficult to describe over the phone and text, so I thought I’d make this post along with some screen shots. This is no way professional writing, so enjoy the rant.

Since Society6 supports digital printing, photographic things usually turn out well as long as you have high enough resolution. You can read the basics on their website. >>Link over here <<
He was having questions on how to keep the files clean and crisp, especially when changing from TIFF or AI files to JPEG. There is nothing I hate more than using a JPEG to print stuff, if not careful the compression makes everything blurry and gross.

Left, TIFF file | Mid, JPEG compressed file Right | Zoomed in so you can see detail

You can see the noise JPEG files created. Now imagine that show up on your phone cases and shower curtains. The bigger the item, the more obvious the pixels will become. These are examples taken from my print saved in 300 DPI. (if you are not familiar with DPI you should look it up. It’ll be very helpful! =])

One way to avoid that is to save your original files with high DPI. This doesn’t mean you start your artwork at 72, and after you finish you save it up to 150. It doesn’t work that way! Start your work at 150 DPI, I work mine at 300, total overkill but it’s an old habit. (Better safe than sorry right? =P)

I’ll walk you through how I did one of my print. I made this with the intention of changing it to screen print later.
First, I drew it in my sketchbook by hand. Then I took a picture of it with my phone. Yes you read that right with my phone. Totally ghetto way, not even scanning it. The idea came to me on a whim, and I thought this might be a good example for people with no equipment.

Phone picture >>>Play with Level >>>???? >>> PROFIT!
Phone picture >>>Play with Level >>>???? >>> PROFIT!

At this point I have 2 options,
Trace it over in Photoshop with the pencil tool.
When I’m doing textile prints I always use pencil tool, saves me time when I’m indexing files later. Anti-alias = bane of my existence.
The easiest way, take it to Illustrator and live trace it.
The only reason I considered Photoshop in the first place was that this was an low quality photo, I would have more control in line weight
The Illustrator traced out things just fine. After about half an hour of editing everything worked out great. The basic Idea would be change your background to completely white. Doesn’t matter what program you use make sure the background is clean and free of stray pixels.

Now that I have AI file, (how I wish S6 would take AI files) all you have to do is to size it then export it! Since the biggest size for a canvas print for Society6 is 24 x 24 I sized my Illustrator Canvas to 24×24 inches then framed my artwork with in. This way you make sure your work will be awesome even when it’s big.
Now settings for exporting.
File> Export…>choose jpeg> select use artboard >select the artboard with the artwork you want>Save
Now a window will pop up, make sure you select: RGB (S6 requirment), Anti-aliasing- NoneEmbed ICC Profile These three options are super duper important. Click OK then you are good to go!


BTW, if you are not familiar with AI or vector files please look that up, pay special attention to how vector files are better for printing than jpeg or other image files =] (Knowledge is power!)


Now some tips for prepping for screen printing.
If working with Illustrator/Vector files.
-Make sure your texts are all Expanded, because the print shop might not have your font pack. Select the texts, go to Object >Expand> Check Fill and Object> Ta-da~
-Saving PDF, go in compression and see if you need to downsample your stuff. Normally I go with “Do Not Downsample”
-Print shops usually love vector files, so you are pretty much good to go.

If you are working from Photoshop…..I’m writing these tips based on my experience as a print designer. Sometimes I have to use Photoshop for certain prints. So these are the things I look out for.
-Turn OFF Anti-Aliasing on EVERYTHING! all the marquee/lasso tools has anti-alias option. Turn that off when working with prints. They are amazing for editing photos, but not for when you are trying to edit screen prints. To be honest, I even turn this off when I’m working with photographic digital prints. Because anti-alias sometimes leaves a strange white outline around the motifs. The entire print will end up looking like some cheap low quality print. Not very professional looking.
-With the same idea above, use pencil tool instead of pen.
-Start your work in high DPI, at least 150 the most common requirement. Higher the DPI the better line quality.
-Work with screen size. Check with your printer on the their print sizes. Must easier to start in the right size rather than changing it later.

Now that you read through this I hope this helps! Good luck with Society6. Gimme a email if you have questions =D


2 thoughts on “Tips on preparing files for Society6 (or screen printing)

  1. Hello! So I do a lot of paintings and I doodle time to time and want to start selling on society6 but all of the editing photos to the right PDF and all that is completely confusing for me. Do I have to buy the Adobe Photoshop to be able to sell on society6 or is there another way??

    1. I don’t think you need Photoshop to sell on society6, Photoshope is just a tool to edit your scanned images. So if you are familiar with any of the free photo editing tools out there by all means use them!

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