Creating and manipulating art can be one of the most time consuming parts of a screen printer’s day. Here’s how to make it easier!
Where do you see a slowdown in your production process? If work isn’t flowing quickly through your screen printing shop, your business is losing time and money. While many screen printing shops are quick to develop processes for creating and reclaiming screens, loading the presses, mixing inks and pulling and boxing finished prints, too few printers take a look at one department that can have a big impact on the overall speed of production: the art department.
Taking in artwork from clients, creating artwork for clients, revising artwork and getting final approval all can cause severe slowdowns in overall production time for a project from start to finish. By working to streamline your art production process, you can decrease the time it takes to get a project onto the press. That means you can finish projects faster for your clients and be ready to take on the next project, speeding up your overall production time. Here are a few simple ways you can speed up artwork production:
Set clear guidelines for accepting artwork
It would seem that when customers come to you with the images they want to have printed, the artwork production should go quickly. Those who work in art departments know that submitted artwork can be some of the hardest to make production ready. Often, that’s because customers don’t know what types of images can be put directly on a screen. Just by having a clear set of guidelines for submitted artwork, you can clear up any confusion from customers and reduce the amount of time wasted cleaning up artwork that isn’t printable. Let customers know what image sizes, file types, color types and font specifications you require, as well as any other pertinent information. If you don’t want to turn customers away because they aren’t able to provide you with the type of artwork you are able to process quickly, consider setting up an artwork fee so you can accommodate customers who don’t have the know-how to provide the right types of art files.
Have protocol for intaking and prepping artwork
Once your customer’s artwork is in your hands, have a process for handling that artwork quickly. Have an employee whose job it is to prep the artwork for quick separations. Verify that the file size is big enough, that there isn’t any color pollution and that the edges of the artwork are clear enough. With a little design know-how, your employee can quickly clean up artwork so it’s ready for faster and easier separation. Have a system for naming your design files so you’re able to quickly and easily find your customer’s artwork when it’s ready for separating, ready for printing and ready for use in the future.
Use shortcuts, where possible
There are many computer-based shortcuts you can use to make processing artwork faster. You can create “hot folders” that automatically change file names or types when you save an item to that folder. If you’re creating your own graphics, consider professional grade clip-art designed for screen printers so you have some commonly used images on hand, ready to be inserted into a design. In graphics software, you can use scripts to shortcut the separation problem. Scripts automatically have the program follow a set of commands with an image. For screen printers, a common script is to have a finished image placed on a shirt to send to customers for approval. You can even create a set of scripts for different types of art separations so your graphics software can perform a sequence of separation tasks with the press of one button. Setting up scripts can take time initially, but it will save you time on color separations in the long run.
Make art approvals easy
The last production task in the art department should always be sending your final image out to your customer for approval. Have a template ready to go for your final artwork and have a system for sending it out to your customers. If you seek approval via email, consider building a reply mechanism into the email so customers can reply quickly and easily. If it’s a problem for your shop, you can limit the number of revisions you’re willing to do for a customer; just include that limit in the initial artwork guidelines to avoid wasting time going back and forth with your clients.
Know when to outsource
Ultimately, designing artwork for screen-printing is a form of graphic design. Very few screen printers are trained graphic artists, and it can take years to become proficient at designing logos and performing complex color separations. One of the best things you can do to speed production in your shop is to know when to outsource. If your business isn’t at the point of having an in-house graphic artist, consider having a contract designer or two on hand so you can rely on a professional to design a more complicated logo or perform a more detailed separation. Outsourcing art prep will cost you money, but that expense can pay off when compared with the amount of time you would have spent trying to tackle the task yourself.
Art production is too often overlooked when it comes to examining in-house procedures for efficiency and efficacy. Take the time to examine your screen printing shop’s art production procedures. Chances are, you will find ways you can speed up artwork production and reduce wasted time due to poor artwork from clients, artwork approvals that take too long or trying to tackle jobs that are too complicated for you. If you put some effort into speeding up your artwork production, you can speed up your overall production time, allowing you to reduce turnaround time for your clients and increase the number of projects you’re able to take on.
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