Screen Printing - August/September 2017 - 19
STEPS IN ART
Shops don't often look to their prepress
department as a place to become more
efficient, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't.
hen shop owners discuss automation, they usually
think of the screen printing press. Every rotation and squeegee
stroke is similar to the last one, a predictable action that creates
a predictable result. The blank shirts go onto the press in the
same position, and they come off the dryer belt with a beautiful
print on the surface that looks the same on every shirt.
Art generation, though, is a far less predictable process and
attempts to automate it can go awry thanks to variables in the
artwork and limitations in the graphics software. The most common method of automating art production is to create scripts
and macros in software like Photoshop or CorelDraw. Using
these tools can help speed up art production, but care must be
taken to avoid unexpected results that end up costing time instead of saving it. The best results are often achieved by having a
clear idea of what you can automate and what you cannot.
A good rule to follow when you decide to automate is to
look at your shop and start by analyzing three areas in your
* Art intake and creation
* Art approval and revision
ART INTAKE AND CREATION
How you create, receive, and prepare art for production is one
of the most neglected processes when it comes to automation,
and a place where many shops can improve. There are a couple
of areas to consider. If your shop is one of the lucky ones with
customers that consistently reorder similar types of artwork,
then a hot folder system could be a worthwhile addition. These
work by attaching commands to a folder on your server so that
specified steps are run automatically when a file is added. Files
can be duplicated, renamed, and even processed into production,
depending on how predictable the type of file is and how well
the system can be set up for it. If your shop gets a wide variety
of files and they come in from a lot of different sources, then this
may not work for you, but there may come a time when knowing
how to set up and run a hot folder system could come in handy.
Another area to investigate is artwork creation. One common time saver you can consider is to create premade art
templates that can be quickly modified. If you create the template properly, a whole page of designs can be automatically
developed in seconds from a software script that applies text
to each design (see Figure 1).
An advanced process could include both hot folders and
templates, enabling you to add a mascot and have it automatically generate a design (or even a group of designs) using the
original file information. These files would then be saved into
a separate folder for finished designs.
ART APPROVAL AND REVISION
Many shops lose a tremendous amount of time revising files
and sending them out for client approval. Automating these areas will not only save time, but also increase the throughput of
your entire shop by getting orders into production faster. This,
in turn, will push more capacity back into the art department
so more orders can be turned around.
The simplest way to make art approval and revision more
efficient is to identify what steps are the same on almost
every job and figure out how to turn them into shortcuts.
Common examples include setting up artwork onto popular garment backgrounds, adding in job information, and
converting the final design into a PDF or JPEG image for
an email attachment. The biggest differentiator between an
initial art approval and a revision is to clearly, prominently
mark every email to eliminate any confusion.
To automate your art approval process, you can set up a couple of macros in your design software. When one macro button
is pushed, it will resize the finished artwork that is selected and