10 Tips for Success and Fun With Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is the defacto standard pixel/raster based program for garment printers. Most printers start off with Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator and then move up to Photoshop. There are some very basic “Key Points” that will help you have better success with Photoshop. This short article has a few of them. In order to fit in as many as possible, these are short, sweet and to the point. Enjoy.

  1. Use the Right Resolution.
    Keep your files at 200 to 225 dpi (or higher) at final size. Try to keep away from upsampling images because Photoshop will soften edges and give slight halos around solid areas (figure 1). Always ask the client for a better version if they supply substandard art.

  2. Working With Poor Original Files.
    JPG files need to be at a fairly high quality. To eliminate the “boxy� look on low quality JPG files try using a Gaussian Blur on a specific R, G, or B channels. Generally one of the channels has the most quality loss. For low resolution files try to upsample the basic file and re-create text. If the client insists on giving you a JPG, make sure it is a quality of 8 or higher. Often the low quality of a JPG file is not evident until you start to separate it (figure 2).

  3. Basic System Calibration.
    In order to make sure that what you see on the monitor is what the client saw on their monitor, do a monitor calibration. Use Adobe Gamma for monitor setup (Control Panel) and just follow the step-by-step Wizard (figure 3).

  4. Using Tone Curve and Levels.
    Lighten the midtones and use a Tone Curves (Image/Adjust/Curves) or levels to adjust the image to compensate for poor quality original or bad scan (figure 4).

  5. Increase the Color Saturation.
    Many files that you import from Corel or Illustrator, or that come from the client, have flat colors. To get the colors to “pop” a little more try increasing the Hue-Saturation (Image/Adjust/Hue-Saturation). Increase specific colors or leave it set for Master and just increase the Saturation slider to +20 and see what happens (figure 5).

  6. Proper Unsharp Masking.
    Always apply Unsharp Masking (Filters/Sharpen/Unsharp Masking) even if the image is supplied by high-end clients. Start with settings of 150% Amount, 1.0 Pixel Radius, 6 Threshold. Be aggressive with the Amount setting when working with poor originals (figure 6).

    For better sharpening on CMYK images, convert to LAB mode (Image/Mode/Lab) and sharpen the Lightness Channel (this channel controls all of the contrast and lighting for the image.

    An easier method is to apply normal Unsharp Masking and then go to Filter/Fade Unsharp Mask and play with the percentage slider set on Luminosity.

  7. Using Layers for Special Effects.
    Combine layers with gradations by using the Layers Mask. Select the layer you want to fade. Choose Layer Mask (first icon on left at bottom of Layers Palette). Choose the Gradient Tool on Toolbox. Click and drag on the image until you have the gradient the way you want (figure 7a).

    Add motion to images by duplicating the layer and apply a Motion Blur (Filter/Blur/Motion Blur) to the original. Offset the duplicate slightly with the Move tool (figure 7 b).

  8. Quick Underbase and Highlight.
    Work on a file that has a black canvas. Use Color Range (Select/Color Range) to select the lightest parts of design and then adjust Fuzziness to suit. Save this selection as a new Channel. Select the RGB main file and convert to Grayscale (Image/Mode/Grayscale). Invert (Image/Adjust/Invert) and apply a Tone Curve that goes from 10% to 90% (figure 8).

  9. Prevent Memory Errors.
    When working on large files, sometimes you get the dreaded “Scratch Disk Full” error. This means that you have run out of room on the hard disk for temporary files that Photoshop makes when working. Photoshop wants from four to five times the file size in FREE hard disk space. This means that if you are working on a 30mb file and you make eight “Alpha Channel” separations, the file could grow to over 100mb. Photoshop wants to see at least 400mb free in order to work properly.

    Photoshop also has Memory Leaks that means it does not clean up after itself. It doesn’t always close down those large temporary files even if you have closed the main file. If you are working all day long in Photoshop, take time every few hours to close it down and re-start it. This will generally remove the large “temp” files that are open on the hard disk. Memory leaks can lead to the Scratch Disk Full errors (figure 9).

  10. Importing Text From Corel or Illustrator.
    Many artists want to take images from Photoshop into Corel or Illustrator for additional text elements. If the text is intricate and needs to be place on a layer in Photoshop, create the text first in Corel Draw or Illustrator (if you can’t create the text effect you want with Photoshop’s Type Layer). Next, Export the text as an EPS file and NOT as a TIF or PSD file. As an EPS file, it will open in Photoshop with a transparent background that can easily be placed on a layer without having to clip away the background (figure 10).

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