n the screen printing business, quality customer service and the ability to retain clients can have a huge impact on your bottom line. While many companies operate based on the coined phrase, “the customer is always right,” it doesn’t mean clients should walk all over your business or exploit your services. Part of operating a successful business is creating reasonable customer expectations upfront—especially when it comes to screen printing designs.

The customer is always right, doesn't mean clients should walk all over your business or exploit your services.CLICK TO TWEET

Educating the client early about any artwork limitations helps build brand trust, ultimately leading to repeat customers. The last thing you want is an angry phone call after the fact if misprints are found, making the client feel like they didn’t get the best service. For optimal screen printing designs that will create a flawless print, we’ve listed six key elements to discuss with the client before the artwork is submitted or a design quote is requested.

Pro Tip: Create a webpage on your website that lists any limitations, best practices or FAQs for submitting artwork specific to your company. Isla Vista Screen Printing and Embroidery does a great job of this. If you don’t have a website, create one-sheeters to keep in the shop and/or hand out to potential customers.

1. Difficulties with Gradients

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Gradients often come into play with photorealistic images or modern designs. While you can convert the colors to halftones, the unpredictability of fabric combined with the process of applying one color at a time makes gradients on garments imperfect. If the client insists on having the gradient effect, be sure to explain you cannot guarantee a seamlessly blended print.  

2. Max Color Limits

Make your customers aware of how many colors your shop can print per shirt-side. For darker garments, don’t forget to place a lower color limit to account for the white underbase and flashes that may be required. To keep the custom apparel affordable for your client, keep the max color option reasonable (ex: no more than eight). Providing this information upfront saves your team and the client from back-and-forth revisions.

3. Optimal Color Schemes

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When it comes to screen printing, there’s always at least two color schemes: the color of the garment and the color of the ink. Depending on what the client chooses for each, it can produce a completely different outcome. While your team may know this, customers probably will not. To give an idea of color relationships, explain the three basic, optimal color schemes:

  • Tonal (or Monochromatic)—using a variation of a single color for subtle designs (Ex: Selecting an ink shade lighter or darker than the fabric.)
  • Complementary—using colors located directly opposite the color wheel for dramatic visibility (Ex: Choosing a yellow shirt and purple ink.)
  • Analogous—using colors located next to each other on the color wheel for low-contrast pairings (Ex: A green shirt with blue ink.)

4. Exact Color Matching


One of the most important things to discuss is exact color matching. The color(s) in the design a client submits most likely will not be an exact color match to the ink your shop carries. Rather than having the client assume you misprinted, explain your business does its best to produce a similar outcome, but that it’s not guaranteed to be the exact same. If you offer CMYK custom color mixing or Pantone color matching, explain the extra associated costs to avoid giving the client any negative surprises.  

5. Proper Artwork Placement

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Printing over seams, pockets and zippers is not recommended with screen printing. Having a flat surface is important, so as to not throw off the registration. Provide the client with a few placement ideas, and make it known that perfect prints simply won’t happen on uneven surfaces.

6. Print-Ready Files

If the customer is creating the design or hiring someone (rather than using your designer), it is imperative you discuss your company’s expectations for print-ready files. Tailor this to your specific brand needs, however, at the very least the artwork should be:

  • Designed in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop and sent as .AI, .EPS or .JPG
  • Scaled to exact desired printing dimensions
  • At least 300 dpi
  • All fonts outlined

These are just a few key design expectations to set with your customers to help improve the screen printing process for your company, enhance client communications and ensure consumers receive flawless prints that keep them coming back for business. As always, don’t forget to double check for copyrighted material!

Dec 14, 2018
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