How To: Prepare a T-shirt for Print
This article will help you to navigate the tumultuous waters of screen printing.

Design Master

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Designing for screen printing is totally different than designing for regular print. If you were to send your high-resolution PDF to a screen printer without the proper setup, they would be unable to print it.

Most of the problems come down to the way screen printers print color and images that are included in your design. In this tutorial, you will learn how to prepare your T-shirt for print. I used Adobe Photoshop CS5.

It’s important to create your design in the exact size you want it printed on the shirt. If you are not sure about the size, take the plain T-shirt and measure it with a ruler.

TIP: If you are going to print various T-shirt sizes, measure the smallest shirt to know your maximum size allowance. You can also create different designs for the various shirt sizes.

How to Prepare a T-shirt for Print 1

It’s crucial that your images are either high resolution (at least 300 DPI) or are vector images.

If you are unsure whether your image is high resolution, right click on the file and select Properties. You can then select the Details tab and look for the resolution value.

TIP: You can convert regular images into vector images using the Live Trace tool in Adobe Illustrator.

How To Prepare a T-shirt for Print 2

This part is very important because you want the colors to print accurately. PMS means “Pantone Matching System” and is a standardization of printed colors.

How to Prepare a T-shirt for Print 3

To make sure the font you used in your design will be the font that ends up on your T-shirt, you will need to create outlines.

Do this by selecting the text layer in the Layers palette. Select the Layer menu at the top of the screen and then select Type and Convert to Shape. This will convert your text to an image so it can’t be substituted with another font.

How to Prepare a T-shirt for Print 4

To keep everything in place, lock all of your layers by selecting the layer and clicking on the lock icon in the Layers menu.

How to Prepare a T-shirt for Print 5

Ask your printer which file type they prefer and if they have any specific requests before you export the file.

How to Prepare a T-shirt for Print 6

The most complicated part of the whole process is the PMS color matching. Discuss this with your printing service before you get started. It may be easier for the printer to do the matching for you, especially if there aren’t too many complicated colors and they don’t charge an additional fee.

Ask if the printer is willing to print a small trial run before you do any large quantity printing to make sure the T-shirt turns out exactly as you planned.

About the Author
Kristi Maddox is a master of graphic design, on-site design and ordering, and is the go-to for template and design tool usage.
Kristi and the team order print jobs from every major printer to test quality, value, customer service, and more. See their reviews here:


  1. I think it’s better just to get in contact with whichever printer you use (I suggest 🙂 ) and see what requirements they have and such. This will go a long way and will save anyone printing a shirt a lot of headache, trust me.

    • ^ agree. wish i would have spent more time making sure i was sending them the right stuff, had a huge order completely messed up cuz i sent the wrong file type or something.

      • Kenny Austin
        Kevin Austin (

        @Printer_Rule, that is great advice. It is always wise to communicate with your printer to avoid any problems.

        @ droople, file errors are common when ordering from an online printer especially. Hopefully this article will help clear up some of those popular problems :).