Silkscreen Print Design - Using Less Than 100% Solid Colour

This is a brief tutorial to help you get started with your graphic design for Silkscreen Printing your CD or DVD discs. The information provided here is based an assumption that you have a reasonable working knowledge of graphic design terminology as well as Adobe Illustrator or similar professional graphic design programs.

When Silkscreen Printing, anything less than 100% solid colour will not have the solid, consistent and smooth appearance that you see on your computer monitor. This occurs in transparencies, drop-shadows, gradients, and other similar effects.

"Example 1" shown below provides a side-by-side comparison of what is viewed on the computer monitor (shown on the left) against the actual Silkscreen Printed product (shown on the right). The imagery you are viewing was designed and printed based on two colours only (black ink printed on top of a solid white back-print). The 'grey' that is visible is not actually grey ink at all... it's a gradient created within the black print.

"Example 2" shown below provides a closer look at what is viewed on the computer monitor (shown on the left) against the actual Silkscreen Printed product (shown on the right). While the gradient in the design has a solid, smooth and consistent visual appearance when viewed on the computer monitor it will actually print as tightly packed series of 'dots'.
 

Why Does The Final Print Look Different Than What I See On My Computer Monitor?

To put it simply, the process of Silkscreen Printing is to push ink through a stencil that's imaged onto a fabric mesh... so it's going to have its limitations... and the 'dot pattern' relates to the limitations in the technology for imaging the design onto the printing Screens. Silkscreen Printing is definitely an 'old school' form of printing but when you understand both the strengths and limitations of this type of printing you can create extremely powerful designs that other printing technologies can't easily duplicate.
 

So... what if you really want solid, smooth and consistent print on your final product?

The answer is quite simple: Only design using 100% solid colours. Create a new colour separation for each individual colour in your design (to a maximum of 6 including the white backprint) and make sure the values are set to print at 100% solid colour. If you want to put emphasis on effects such as transparencies, drop-shadows, etc., perhaps it would be best to avoid Silkscreen Printing and, instead, design using CMYK values for our Offset CMYK Printer.
 

Here's how the 'dot pattern' works:

Let's say you want to create a shade of grey that is 50% of black (instead of printing grey on its own screen in 100% solid colour). This is called "half-tone". The only way for this to work is to create an illusion of the desired 'grey' colour by printing the 'black' ink in small dots which are spaced far enough apart as to allow the white background to be visible between the dots. This mix of black and white gives the illusion of the desired 'grey' colour. If you wanted a darker shade of grey (such as 70% of black) the dots would be spaced closer together to let less white show through. If you wanted a lighter shade of grey (such as 30% of black) the dots would be spaced further apart to let more white show through.

If you do want to create your design in this manner you don't have to create the dots yourself. Simply set the percentage of black (or whatever colour you want to use) to your desired percentage value and then our film ripping process will take care of the rest automatically.

Remember: As stated in our graphic design specification, the printable tonal range for anything printing at less than 100% solid colour is between 15% and 85%. If you use colours outside of that range the colours may not reproduce properly.
 

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