Designing Your Custom Band Merch

January 23, 2009 | Merch Expert

One of the many problems we run into in the screen printing industry is artwork. A bands artwork can either make or brake the custom shirts. I am not specifically talking about the design itself (while at times this can be lackluster), but I am talking about how the artwork was designed. The biggest problem we face is that many band members are not aware of what resolution is and also how colors are printed onto custom band merch. Simply submitting us a photo is not going to work. Today we would like to explain the process of designing your very own custom band merchandise to make the process of submitting artwork painless and easy.

Let’s start with resolution. You may already know of resolution from using a digital camera. Most typical digital cameras will take photos at around 300 DPI by default. DPI stands for Dots Per Inch meaning that within a square inch there will be 300 colored dots. This often produces a high quality image that can be zoomed in on fairly easily. The default resolution for the internet is 72 dpi and is mo lower in quality than that of a digital photo. Herein lies our problem. Many bands simply pull an image off of the internet and then proceed to mess with and manipulate the image to produce their custom band merchandise. Thus, when submitting the artwork to us for a full chest print, the image is often far too small and would be very blurry and pixelated when blown up to the actual size that it must be. How do you correct this problem. The answer is you really can’t. You must design your artwork at the actual size that you would like it printed at.

If you have access to it, Adobe Illustrator eliminates the problem of sizing since it is a vector based program. What this means is that when you draw an image in this program, you can scale up and down without any loss in detail simply because each line has a point A to point B and thus is just scaled accordingly when it is resized. Illustrator is ideal for most screen printers because the image can be easily manipulated, but it takes some getting used to for a band to design their custom band merch.

The best and most accessible way to produce custom band merchandise is to use Adobe Photoshop. Most people are already familiar with the program or with something of that nature. When we go about designing custom band merch, we have some general guidelines as to where we want to start.

1. Image Size – We almost always start with a very large document to give us plenty of room to work with. In Photoshop, open up a new document and and create it with a size of 13 inches wide by 15 inches tall. Make sure the resolution is at 300 dpi.


You can also create the image in pixels such as 3900 pixels by 4500 pixels with a resolution of 300 dpi.


Once you have your document created, you can now begin to design your merch. There are endless possibilities when designing and this entry is not to inform you on that. We trust you can use your own creativity for that. However there are a few key concepts that very useful when designing.

Unless you are having someone print DTG (Direct to Garment) you will want to use solid colors. For instance, if you have blue in your design, make sure the blue is all the exact same color. Otherwise you will be charged separately for each blue that you use. There are ways to make shadings and gradients which are much more complicated. All colors must be solid when screen printing so taking a photo of something is not going to print well at all unless you are using 4 color process cmyk printing. Another thing to help us out as printers is to place all of your colors on their very own layer. This makes it much easier for us to see what is going on and exactly how many colors are being used.

Most designs at this size and resolution work just fine. Make sure that your edges do not look blurry and pixelated and you should be fine.

By following these guidelines, your custom band merch should be very easy to translate to a t shirt, hoodie, or zip up.

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