7 Deadliest Art Department Mistakes Screen-printers Make

Seven deadliest art department mistakes screenprinters make

As a print shop owner, art department mistakes should be avoided at all costs. The question is, do you know what they are?

It’s always best to hire someone who’s better equipped than you to do the jobs you struggle at. Unfortunately, that takes money. If you’re looking for a quality individual to run your art department, that takes a lot of money!

For that reason, I want to share some tips to avoiding the 7 deadliest art department mistakes print shop owners make.

#7 Not realizing you have one

An art department is one of the most integral parts of a screen-printing shop. Whether you realize it or not, the equipment you’re using to sep and output film is your art department. The space you’re using to do this in is your art department.

Not regarding this equipment and space as your art department is a mistake. It’s a mistake because this equipment and space needs to be looked after with care. For example, what would you do if the computer you did your seps on crashed?

Bottom line: Don’t neglect the precious resources you have that make up your art department. It’s an important piece of the puzzle for your business and you should treat it as such.

Treat it with care. Look to build upon it. Keep it clean and it’ll take care of you.

#6 Contracting everything out

I’ve seen a number of shops contract out their art requirements. It’s understandable to sub out the difficult simulated process separations. But you should be able to sep your own spot color jobs.

At the very least, you should be able to print films as well. Markup on printed film is extraordinarily high. As well, the time and effort it takes to collect your film stacks up against paying to have someone else do it.

Bottom line: As a print shop owner, you have to watch every expenditure you make. Setting up a small art department is worth your time and investment.

#5 Getting the wrong software

If you don’t already have Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, CS6 is a reasonable starting point. They’re well into the CC but CS6 will get the job done…for now.

However, if you’re still working with CS4, you seriously need to upgrade. If you can’t afford to upgrade, you need to allocate part of your revenue to these needs. There is no way around this. It’s the nature of the beast.

#4 Getting the wrong hardware

The real problem with getting the wrong hardware concerns printers and monitors. Your monitor shouldn’t be something difficult to look at.

It shouldn’t be something you got at Walmart during Black Friday either. It’ll work but it’s sort of like making toast with an iron. There’s a better way.

Get a monitor worth working with. Get a monitor that can be calibrated. Equally important in this matter is the caliber of your graphics card. If it sucks, a good monitor won’t help.

Get a printer that prints to film, not vellum. Look into the Epson line of printers, starting with something that can outfit a roll of film and isn’t simply sheet-fed.

There’s a great group of people over at theshirtboard.com that are willing to help you avoid art department mistakes like this one.

Bottom line: Don’t buy a crappy monitor. Try to get a printer that’ll fit both your budget and your printing needs.

#3 Not organizing files

Here’s a random look into one of my client’s folders. Imagine that you were sitting down to work with these files. Would you know what you were looking at without having to ask me anything? Click for a larger view.

organize your files

Organize your files! Come up with a system that works for you and run with it. Mine looks like this.

Art department mistakes – Filing system

A simple way to keep track of files

This has served me well for ages. One thing that you might consider adding is a numbering system before each job name. The number could be a combination of a three letter company code and three digits.

Art department mistakes – Folders with numbering system

Adding numbers, still easy to keep track of things

This number stays with the job no matter where it goes. It’s on the print guides, it’s on the films, it’s on the invoices. This is particularly helpful when dealing with jobs that are run annually.

Bottom line: Keeping organized is key. It’ll save you a tremendous deal of time and frustration in the future and ensures a smoother workflow. Just remember to keep it simple.

#2 Not organizing films and printed samples

It’s been my experience that it’s not worth keeping films any longer than 30 days for jobs you do not expect to repeat anytime soon.

Even for the annually repeating jobs, storing these films isn’t an efficient practice. Toss ‘em or give them to your client.

If you give them to your client, include a statement on your invoice that lets them know you’ll dispose of them after 30 days if they do not pick them up. Technically speaking, the films are theirs anyway. Treat them as such. Keeping them for 30 days is a courtesy.

Want to make it easier on yourself? Pack up their films in the boxes you ship their shirts in. Get rid of them. They’re a complete waste of space and resources.

Not keeping printed samples? If this hasn’t bitten you in the butt yet, it will.

Cut up the final printed piece you used to register the job and keep that somewhere. If this is too much trouble, take a good photograph and file it digitally with the rest of the job’s files.

Bottom line: Get rid of films ASAP. Keep some record of printed pieces. I prefer the digital photo. If you go the photo route, always take it in the same light.

#1 Not having backups

Yes, that’s plural. You need to have two separate backups. With the low cost of storage, there’s no reason not to have backups. And, as far as art department mistakes go, this is one of the easiest to avoid.

The frequency with which you back up should be consistent with what you’re comfortable losing. For instance, are you okay with losing a week’s worth of work? A day? A month?

I backed up every Friday before leaving the office. Then again at the end of the month. If one of the backups was corrupt, there’s a good chance the other one would save my butt. And that’s happened, twice.

Bottom line: Backup your files. It’s foolish not to.

Do you make these art department mistakes?

Make sure you’re not committing one of these deadly art department mistakes and your art department should be able to take care of you. I’ll get into how to build an art department from scratch a little later. For now, let me know what you think below in the comment section.

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