How to Reduce # of Colors in PS w/o Losing Quality?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Error Type -43, Aug 17, 2006.

  1. Error Type -43 macrumors member

    Sep 16, 2003
    This is for screenprinting purposes. As we know, less colors = cheaper cost = more profitable. The t-shirts I do are design intensive and while I can pull off stuff with 1-4 colors, my bread and butter is in the 5-8 color range (true for any designer).

    What are your techniques for dropping the number of colors and still maintaining somewhat acceptable quality? I've tried posterizing. The first thing you lose are the gradients. Maybe that's something you live with. But if there's anything you guys can suggest, throw it out there.
  2. beatsme macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2005
    simulated process would limit you to 4 colors, of course...

    it's kind of hard to answer this question without knowing what it is you're doing. Could you post an example of something you'd like to knock down from 5-8 colors to fewer?
  3. michaelrjohnson macrumors 68020

    Aug 9, 2000
    I disagree with this statement. That's a tough claim to make. I am not the same way, but that's just a personal choice.
    In my experience, the only way to maintaing "acceptable quality", is to design for the printing process. If you your budget only allows a 4 color (spot) job, then stay within that realm. Pushing past that, and then trying to "reduce" your color range will always negatively affect the integrity of the original design. I can't think of any methods you could use to do so without degrading quality of the original.
  4. Lau Guest

    I definitely agree with this. Start with 4 colours, and then your design will fit a 4 colour process perfectly. That sounds flippant, but it's sound advice and should make a huge difference. Also, looking at ways of shading with lines or dots should help you out with the gradients. Looking at ways traditional printers made marks and represented things could be useful – halftones for photos, and hatched lines for etchings, that kind of thing. Again, it's hard to say when we don't know what kind of designs you're producing, but hopefully that might be useful advice either way.
  5. Error Type -43 thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 16, 2003
    I should've been more specific with my situation. What happens in screenprinting, a gradient usually becomes 2-3 colors during the separation process. For example a simple gradient from light to dark purple will separate into 2, 3, or even four colors, depending how wide the range is. If I want to throw in a small splash of yellow or blue, the entire design can easily become 6, 7, 8 colors - you get the picture. So it's not really an issue of me using a whole bunch of colors more than it is the way the artwork separates.

    It just sucks that for a clothing line, I have to limit everything to flat, one dimensional artwork. Anything w/ shading, forget about it. There just isn't anyway to print gradients cheap. But I'm also new to this medium so someone here with more experience can probably reveal one of his/her tricks of the trade.
  6. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    That's the essence of design; tailoring your creativity to the medium, not expecting to transfer artwork seamlessly from one to the other. Work within the limitations...

    The only way around is some form of half-toning as others have mentioned incorporating it into the design; I've used a 35 lpi screen constructed in Illustrator quite successfully on Tshirts before for half-toning.

    But also bear in mind, that some designs also need a base coat, often white, beneath the artwork.
  7. spicyapple macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    Theres a company out in Vancouver that produces a software program that can simulate the look of CMYK prints using 3 or 2 color inks. I forget the name of the software product, but it does a very good job simulating more colors.
  8. beatsme macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2005
    how are you doing your separations? Are you doing butt registration in Illustrator with gradients added, or are you working in Photoshop and splitting the artwork into channels? I know I've asked this before, but could you please post an example of what exactly you're doing?
  9. Error Type -43 thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 16, 2003
    I won't post anything I'm currently working on because we had an issue of Goliath picking on David last season, where a couple of our designs were stolen by a couple better known brands. But here's an example of something we did last season:

    The above was counted as 6 colors IIRC (not counting the back), although there really isn't much going on in terms of # of colors.

    I normally work in PS, and our screenprinter does the separations.
  10. Lau Guest

    Hmm, couldn't that be effectively done in 3 – white, black and red? I know there's some more detailed bits, but the lips could be a red/black gradient, with white highlights, the teeth could be black and white, and the sunglasses a white to black gradient.

    I know there's touches of other colour in there, but I don't think the t-shirt would be any worse for losing them.
  11. mrblah macrumors newbie

    May 2, 2006
    I think the best way to do a gradient when limited in colors is to do a halftone


    Sometimes the halftone creates a nice look as well compared to a regular gradient (and always look better than low quality chunky gradients imo). If haltones arent what you want you can look up different types of screentones, theres a lot of different styles for different effects.

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