irish firefighter t shirts

Color Separations – From Illustrator to Photoshop

Going from Illustrator to Photoshop sometimes throws people curve balls but it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Here’s a look at a side by side ofan old Irish Firefighter t shirt design I did with an explanation of how I sometimes use Illustrator and Photoshop in conjunction to get my color separations.

irish firefighter t shirts

Based of the fairly popular Fighting Irish image to add appeal, I really did nothing more on this than add the axe, helmet, text and background image. I created everything but the inner drop shadow of the Maltese Cross in Illustrator and color separated the whole thing in Photoshop.

Color Separations – From Illustrator to Photoshop

Starting out in Illustrator, it’s important to note that when I design things for a tee shirt, I always keep in mind that it’s going to be on a tee shirt when it’s all said and done. With that knowledge and having done this for most of my professional career, I’ve become accustomed to designing very cleanly in Illustrator. What I mean by that is that I don’t use a great deal of complicated methods. For instance, I won’t use an opacity mask to mask off a gradation. I also don’t use transparency settings as those aren’t very friendly in the color separations stage on vectored artwork, meaning they don’t work at all.

Essentially what you see is what you get with my vectored stuff. For instance, the gradations on the top of the helmet are their own elements, which are more clearly pronounced in the printed version on the right. Those gradations start as one color and end as the color of the helmet, into which it’s supposed to blend.

The shadows and highlights in the image are their own elements, all of which are made on top of the base color so if I wanted to remove them from the design, I could without losing anything underneath. For instance, the darker flesh areas all have the base flesh tone color underneath them or if I decided to take the axe out of this picture, the portions of the image it is covering would still be intact. This is my way of non-destructive designing in Illustrator. Like I said, it’s all pretty much no frills type of stuff.

Getting It To Photoshop

One of the things this allows me to do in the color separations stage is get things over to Photoshop rather easily if I need to. Most of the time, I will flatten all transparencies and trim everything as describe in a video tutorial I did earlier on making spot color separations in Illustrator. After that, I’ll select all of the same colors and put them on their own layers. If necessary, I’ll also put items I know I want to pay special attention to on their own layers as well and then export to photoshop. I then use the layers to get my selections for all the various colors or potential problem areas.

In this case, the green in the shirt and its dark green shadows would slightly difficult for Photoshop to differentiate the two while giving you a clean selection using the select color range option. Setting these colors to their own layers after trimming them all in Illustrator makes getting the selections a breeze once in Photoshop. You can still do a select color range but why do that when you’ve already done all the work in Illustrator and have a clean layer for it?

This is not the only way to go from Illustrator to Photoshop but I thought I’d share it with you. You can literally drag and drop from Illustrator to Photoshop but I’ve encountered some odd things when doing this so don’t suggest it. You can also copy and past from Illustrator to Photoshop but again, I’ve experienced some less than admirable effects from doing this. Exporting a PSD with the layers in tact is the best way I’ve found to do this…so far.

Do you do this a different way? Share it with us in the comments below!

Comments 6

  1. Hey Ben, thanks for the tuts. It is nice to see how others do their seps. I do have a question for you. How do you deal with the banding in gradients when going from illustrator to PS?

    1. Post
      Author

      Aaaahhhh, I hate those. If I can, I’ll recreate the gradient in Photoshop to avoid them. To help do that, I sometimes make a separate file or layer in Illustrator that will allow me to get a clean selection once exported into Photoshop. Sometimes I find it more efficient to simply make a very wide selection and then paint in the gradation by hand. You can also try to apply a slight gaussian blur to the gradation alone (if possible) once in Photoshop. That will help get rid of those lines. If you do that, be careful of your edges. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to sep it as it stands. A lot of times, the banded lines may appear daunting on your monitor but if you check the coverage, one band will have 50% and the one next to it will have 40%. Once that goes down onto a tee (depending on the area it’s covering, of course) it isn’t as noticeable.

      I hope that helps. Maybe I’ll put together another video tute to discuss this as it’s incredibly difficult to cover with words alone.

  2. Thanks. I have used a little blur in the past and that has helped. Duplicating the layer after the blur then merging the visible also helps.

    1. Post
      Author

      You can also leave the original gradation layer underneath the blurred version and tweak the blurred layer’s opacity a little. Either way, I love how flexible Photoshop is in this manner. If I come up with a true fix to the AI gradations instead of a workaround, I’ll definitely let you know.

    1. Post
      Author

      If under better circumstances, I would most definitely have kept this in Illustrator but when there are quite a few gradations, i.e., in the text and the maltese in the background, I prefer to separate in Photoshop. Illustrator’s handling of gradations isn’t the best and can cause problems during the separation process. I also prefer Photoshop in these cases because it lets me handle the base much more easily. I use the base quite a bit in order to get my final product and again, though it’s possible to do in Illustrator, Photoshop is much better suited for this kind of work.

Leave a Reply