Transparency in DTG printing

Information you should know about transparent designs

What is transparency?

Graphic design with a semi-transparent elements on a transparent background and fully opaque pattern.

Transparency refers to graphic elements that are transparent i.e. have lower than 100% opacity. 

Full transparency indicates something that is completely invisible, while semi-transparency (or translucency) refers to graphic elements that are somewhat opaque, i.e. see-through.

Transparent or semi-transparent graphics don't translate well in DTG printing. To avoid undesirable results, see how to recognize transparent graphics when designing, take a look at a transparent design on print, and learn to replicate transparency for DTG printing.


Design vs. fulfillment

Graphic design with a semi-transparent fade effect on a transparent background and fully opaque pattern.

How to recognize transparent elements during designing?

To see if your graphic is transparent, open your design in a graphic editor. If the background is peeking through your design, it’s transparent.

If you’re using advanced graphic editors (e.g. Adobe Photoshop) that indicate transparency by a special pattern that resembles a checkerboard, you can:

  • Unlock the background layer and turn off the layer by clicking the eye icon vxwRZq3Kc952zTpb1GgAvhF9SIssAB2Fdscr6trpsVSlAo69N6nMmhYSahTDnU0vCyskM2rStw0FosQ_8RL10zAeGmwQOSmnokdFgTInZaFVF64bluYvu304WcSSgF-NY01_im4N—if you see the checkered canvas through your design, it’s transparent;

  • Duplicate the design layer (use keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + J) and see if the areas in question become darker.

DTG print of a graphic design with a semi-transparent fade effect.

How to recognize transparent designs on the final product?

In DTG printing, all inks are concentrated pigments, rather than diluted pigments. This means that all DTG printers will attempt to make up the missing information by spreading the ink, causing the fabric to have a lot of gaps with a visible white base. This is most evident on dark fabrics.

To prevent this, we advise avoiding pressure-sensitive brush tools. Watch our video on DTG Print Files & Transparency to see such brush tool in action and how it affects the end result. A way to avoid undesirable results like that is to use solid colors when creating your designs.


How to replicate transparency?

Graphic design in Adobe Photoshop with a selected area and open brush tool.

Create graphics with faded edges

Details

Use this technique to make for a much better-looking print while still maintaining a faded look. The semi-transparent elements will only affect areas that have a solid design element underneath.

  1. Create a solid file,

  2. Add a layer mask,

  3. Use a soft brush to feather the edges.

Do not attempt to prevent transparent areas of the design by adding a matched-to-garment color underneath the semi-transparent elements.

We advise against it because the background color will be printed on a white underbase and make solid colors seem lighter e.g. black ink on a black t-shirt will look more greyish.


How to replicate a transparent fade effect?

Use halftoning to imitate transparency for DTG printing

You can simulate semi-transparency by halftoning.

Halftoning is a reprographic technique that simulates continuous tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size, in shape or in spacing. 

Go to 8:08 timestamp of our 10 tips for print files video to see a thorough tutorial on how to create a halftone effect. Note that in the tutorial we actually don’t convert the image itself, just the silhouette. This way we achieve the desired effect without compromising the quality of the graphic.

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