Vector graphics are a prerequisite for plot printing. Flex and flock printing are plot printing methods. Here, the design is first punched out of coloured printing foils by a plotter. Then a Spreadshirt employee extracts the design by removing excess foil. Once the design has been extracted, it’s placed on a T-shirt, then heat and pressure are applied to make the design stick. The backing film is peeled off and the T-shirt is good to go.
Vector graphics are the best fit for designers who value maximum flexibility when designing products. Handy: when using a vector graphic, the colour of the design can still be changed after uploading it to the Partner Area. This is great if you value a high colour contrast between product and design. It also helps if you want to avoid light designs on white products and dark designs on black products.
Minimum requirements for plot printing
Your vector graphics can be printed if they meet these requirements:
- Possible files: .ai or .svg
- Minimum size: 10x10 cm
- Maximum size: 38x38 cm
- Minimum diameter for lines or design details: 1,5 mm
- Max. 3 colours, created separately on one layer
- No colour gradients
- Texts and forms are converted into completely closed paths
Tip: Your file meets the requirements but uploading still isn't working? Then save your .ai file as a .svg file with these settings: Open the SVG options, go to "Advanced Options" and select "Presentation Attributes" in the CSS Properties.
Left: Vector graphic with colour gradient – only possible as digital print, not as flex print and flock print. Right: Vector graphic without colour gradient - we print flex and flock!
Our printers are currently able to use .ai files up to the C18 version, and .svg files without CSS styles. If you have created your designs with the newer Illustrator software, you need to save the finished file as an older .ai version. And with .svg files, the CSS properties need to be changed to presentation attributes when saving the file. We’re already working on improving the upload options for vector files.
Measuring and adjusting line thickness
To prevent the flex or flock film from tearing in the extraction process, the line thickness of the smallest design elements must be at least 1.5 mm. In addition, the distance between the individual elements should be at least 1 mm so that the excess film can be easily removed.
Measuring line thickness: To check if the lines of your design are thick enough, create a circle with a diameter of 1.5 mm and place it over the thinnest line of your design. If the whole circle fits on top of the line, the line thickness is big enough. You can do the same with a 1mm diameter circle to measure the gaps between the lines. If the smallest gap can accommodate the whole circle, it’s big enough.
Important: Don’t make your design too big. If you reduce the design size considerably, the minimum diameter may no longer be maintained when placed on a product later. Then the prints will turn out faulty.
When the design is punched out by the plotter, it’s cut out of the printing film with its curves as the outline. The plotter will try to close an open curve whenever it detects one. The plotter looks for any nearby anchor point and then cuts a straight line to that point. Curves need to be closed to prevent faulty design prints.
Important: Please make sure that all curves of your design are closed. You can use the "Combine" or "Merge" function of your graphics software.
Converting into paths
Your design can only be printed flawlessly if all objects are converted into paths. It’s important to embed all elements as paths. Fonts are a classic example here. These should first be saved as text fields, meaning all elements need to be embedded as paths. To do so, use the functions "Combine", "Merge" or "Convert" in your graphics program.
Do you have further questions or concrete problems with a certain detail? No problem, we’ll find a solution together. On our forum you’ll get help from other Designers and our experienced moderators. It’s a great place to exchange tips and tricks. You’ll also get new inspiration for fresh design ideas.