Silk Screen and Halftone dots

Explorer ,
Apr 09, 2009 Apr 09, 2009

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What is the short answer to, "Can Illustrator allow the user to control the size of halftone dots?" Just to be clear, for silk screen, the dots must be course. I have read several posts on the subject and still there is no definitive answer. The PPD file has been loaded. The document is a CMYK. In the print menu the separation menu has only very fine settings available (The lowest is 56 lpi/300dpi) which if selected makes very little to no difference in the dot patterns.


     Just to reduce confusion, often a silk screen printer will try to get two colors for the price of one. The simplest example would be to get Black & Gray with one screen. If I set the Gray to 50% and the Black to 100%, still no change. If I use spot colors like PMS Cool Gray and Black, no change. Moving the files into Photoshop may work but fundamentally speaking PhotoShop in my opinion is for constant tone images or Photos, and it seems counter productive to add in a extra step (and software) to the work flow.


     I like to stick to the old K.I.S.S. motto. Keep It Simple Stupid. In this case less is better. Other software packages make this task a no brainer. I like Illustrator and have invested hundreds of hours learning and promoting it's virtues. When I was asked by a local shop how to do this task, I responded, (Oh I'm sure its just a setting that needs to be set.) Well, not so. So, Can I do this or do I need to tell my associate to keep using CorelDraw! 7...

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correct answers 1 Correct Answer

Engaged , Apr 09, 2009 Apr 09, 2009
Hello Mojorocker1964,Adobe Illustrator gives the freedom to output the artwork at any LPI or DPI you wish (The Typical LPI for offset printing ranges from 85-133 lines per inch)The output of the image is control by the imagesetter (the machine that makes the negatives) and not by Illustrator , CorelDraw, Freehand, Xara Xtreme, etc. With native Adobe Illustrator artwork (meaning no image placing) you do not have to worry about LPI, DPI (Dots Per Inch) or resolution.Be aware that when you print th...

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Engaged ,
Apr 09, 2009 Apr 09, 2009

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Hello Mojorocker1964,

Adobe Illustrator gives the freedom to output the artwork at any LPI or DPI you wish (The Typical LPI for offset printing ranges from 85-133 lines per inch)

The output of the image is control by the imagesetter (the machine that makes the negatives) and not by Illustrator , CorelDraw, Freehand, Xara Xtreme, etc. With native Adobe Illustrator artwork (meaning no image placing) you do not have to worry about LPI, DPI (Dots Per Inch) or resolution.

Be aware that when you print the artwork, you will able to see the dots instead of a smooth screen. Specially if the files was output with a low LPI.

See attached JPEG file to compare printed half tones with computer half tones (Output was 133 LPI)

Sometimes is better to go with solid Pantone colors when you are printing t-shirts. But this type of questions you can have a better respond is your post at Design Forums - Print Design: http://forums.adobe.com/community/design_development/printdesign

I hope this answer your question.

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Explorer ,
Apr 09, 2009 Apr 09, 2009

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     So you can't control half tone dots in Illustrator. I'm aware that the printer profile controls some aspects of the dots. The shop I do work for on occasion asked me to save a file for CorelDraw! 7 because Illustrator does not offer a convient way to control dot size and feq. I was amazed to find that He was correct. This was after I traveled 15 mile to his shop to load a PPD file and sat with him over my sholder for over an hour only to find that you can't control the dots with Illustrator. He then sat down and opened the file with CorelDraw! 7 ajusted the dot size and printed it out just fine. This from a software package that came out in 1987. I was schooled by a silkscreener using software that is 22 years old.

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Advisor ,
Apr 09, 2009 Apr 09, 2009

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This has been a frustration I have with Adobe who created Postscript Level 3.  I remember using Illustrator 6 to output separations to my Postscript Level 2 inkjet ( 600dpi ) which results in 56 lpi screens that were inadequate at best because of the low printer resolution.  Screens are usually created in the RIP and, in the case of Illus 6, the RIP was built into the printer as a hardware RIP.  Very convenient.  I was able to print seps out of Quark, too.

Now, I believe you need some kind of third party solution like Acrobat Pro or Photoshop.  Keep in mind, the silkscreen mesh determines what halftone frequency to use.  A 35 lpi screen is not unheard of.  I find Photoshop a little more flexible in that you can assign whatever frequency you want and assign the screen's dot shape and angle and, then, print 1-bit line art seps.  Otherwise, you're going to need a fairly expensive RIP application that can output dot-by-dot separations on your output device.  This, as far as I know, cannot be done in today's Illustrator.  Illustrator can print separations, but not dot shapes.

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Engaged ,
Apr 09, 2009 Apr 09, 2009

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Hello Everybody,

If you going to output from a laser printer, there are lot of factors at play.

I have at home a 1200 DPI printer that comes with PPD driver that allows me to choose LPI (Now my printer is 5 or 6 years old, and I am using Ai CS3). You have to ask your self how old is the laser printer and the computer that the screen printer is using with a software that is from 1987. This can creates problems if the laser printer is not 100% compatible with the newest driver version.

Then again, Illustrator does not have control of my LPI, is my printer and the PPD installed that actually determine the output of the artwork (see attached JPEG)

Old versions of Illustrator and CorelDraw had this feature because the printer did not have any PPD software. Today, you have to see how much memory the Printer have, what level of Postscript, does it have the new USB3, etc.

A 300-600 DPI laser printer can usually only print at an LPI of 50-65. Everything depends on what printer do you have.

So do you know how old is the computer and printer?

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Explorer ,
Apr 10, 2009 Apr 10, 2009

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      I notice that your PPD offers many more options. So each printer's PPD file offers different settings per printer manufacture. Thats good to know. What I was driving at was, in the old CorelDraw! 7 software, you could set the dot frequencies and or line frequencies in the actual software. Just as was stated, probability because the printers of that era did not have the capability. As I type this, my mind is forming an action script to accomplish the same goal. It would be a great little feature or plug-in if I can get it to work. Unless someone knows of something similar.

     I'm usually just designing and not actually outputing the films. When I heard that my designs were being sent through 22 year old software in order to get the halftone dots right, I was to say the least puzzled. Had I known that He was having to do that I would have investigated this long ago. I thank everyone for the help. When I figure this one out I will be sure to share.

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LEGEND ,
Apr 12, 2009 Apr 12, 2009

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The haltone ruling settings in AI's print dialog are document-specific. So they are stored in the file. But they can, of course, be "ignored" or over-ridden by a particular printer's RIP. One common example: HP PostScript laser printers have an "enhanced resolution" mode (which effectively "overlaps" printer spots to simulate higher-than-actual resolution). If that feature is turned on, it over-rides whatever halftone ruling settings you make. Turn it off, and the printer abides by the custom ruling/angle/shape you enter in the dialog.

CorelDraw is not the only drawing program that provides custom halftone settings. FreeHand (which Adobe now owns) provided object-level haftone settings for as long as I can remember. (My use of FreeHand dates back to version 2.0.)

Time was, I could:

1. Make object-level settings in FreeHand.

2. "Print" the FH document to a color-separated PDF.

3. Deliver the PDF to a local silkscreen shop.

4. The silkscreen shop would print the PDF to a PostScript laser printer, using nothing but Reader. The output would reflect the object-level halftone settings I had applied.

It's been a while since I monkeyed with it, but as I recall I was never able to get even page-level halftone settings to stick in a pre-separated PDF saved/printed from AI.

Object-level hafltone settings have been requested in these forums for years.

JET

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Explorer ,
Apr 12, 2009 Apr 12, 2009

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     I have started to try and create my own halftone dot patterns using the transform filter. The only problem I'm running into is that it's a constant rule. In other words a one point dot at one point gap. This is repeated 71 times in the x axis and 71 times in the y axis. I then use a vector mask to trim it to size. This is only a stop gap remedy, and will only work to create a "gray" from a solid color. However this problem has become my mission. I'm damned and determined to solve this one.

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New Here ,
May 11, 2009 May 11, 2009

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Hi there,

I've been reading your thread in the hopes someone would answer this question. I too am frustrated by the same problem. This used to be a simple matter in Freehand (illustrator's former rival) and it seems almost unbelievable that illustrator can't do it even in their latest version. In Freehand you could manipulate the screen frequency in the fill pallette. This you could do independently on separate elements within the same file no problem.

If there's no answer out there, perhaps Adobe could work on this feature for their next version.

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LEGEND ,
May 11, 2009 May 11, 2009

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You can try something a little funky I tried it and it kind of worked for me, but you sort of need photoshop. I converted an image to a 1 bit bitmap and chose a halftone screen. Then I brought it into Illustrator and did a black and white live trace and expanded it then I applied an effect>Convert to shape ellipse and made the ellipse a circle it is a bit funky as you need to make or adjust the halftone so that it has no actual overlaps of the dots so you might have to do some retouching or manual replacement of the halftone dots that have been converted to an elliptical shape.

I think because this is possible that a feature like this can be had with a little effort and with the user being aware it is not perfect and with a method of adjusting an image so that when converted to a half tone dot it actually creates overlapping dots based on a reading the user makes at a point where you want the dots to first start to overlap. That way when it is converted to elliptical dot it will have center points to guide it.

i bet this could even be scripted.

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Advisor ,
Aug 08, 2009 Aug 08, 2009

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Picture 2.png

Rather than make use the transform filter you might want to look into filling the objects with a pattern swatch. Or make your own pattern swatch to give you the course screen you need. This would be object specific.

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Contributor ,
Aug 08, 2009 Aug 08, 2009

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I've never made my own pattern - it sounds like a lot of work, but I could try.  But is it even possible to have a pattern that is part opaque (and whose color can be defined by a swatch) and part transparent?  The halftone screen I'm trying to create would have dots of color with no color between them (the silver of the DVD would show through).

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New Here ,
Aug 08, 2009 Aug 08, 2009

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Hey Oska,
- do you wanna send me the file and i will have a look?...
... is there a weblink to this file?

i am busy at the moment but if it turns out its a simple one i will gladly do it for you, then tell you how

regards

Chris

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New Here ,
Aug 08, 2009 Aug 08, 2009

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...Me again...

This might nail it for you?
http://vectips.com/tutorials/creating-halftone-effects/

basically what i was trying to say

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Contributor ,
Aug 08, 2009 Aug 08, 2009

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Thanks - the tutorial didn't give me the answer directly, but I got enough clues to muddle the rest of the way.  The biggest clue was that for a vector object you need to select Effects->Pixelate, not Filter->Pixelate.

At first I couldn't figure out a way to get a normal type halftone for any solid shade (only for gradients, which is not what I want in this case).  Changing the transparency doesn't work - when the effect is applied, nothing happens (it stays gray).  I figured out that instead you have to use the bar in the color palette (I don't know what it's called in English; my best translation of the Japanese would be "Color Strength Ramp" or something like that), which is imprecise - you can't set a number but must just click on it somewhere.  And if I did it for a shade of registration black (as you recommended in your description) and then set the first three channels to zero to force black, it gives me a weird pattern of dots.  If I leave the channels at their defaults I get all four colors in different places.  But if I use the simple black instead (0/0/0/100), make sure the "strength ramp" is set to grayscale, and click somewhere in the middle of it, it works (then it doesn't matter what the value of the first three channels are because those colors have no value).

But I'm discovering that my document doesn't appear to have anywhere near the resolution that I assumed it did, and now that I look for a setting for it, I can't find it.  In the help file (the program itself is in Japanese, but I have a copy of the English help file, which is a great relief), it says that I can set various rasterization options for the document, including resolution, but it doesn't actually say what menu item or palette to use to find those settings.  Can someone point me in the right direction for that?

Then I traced according to the instructions.  I thought that if I played around with the Simplify Path settings after expanding the trace I could convince it that I have circles, but it doesn't believe me.  I can get close, though.  Finally I had to fight a bit with selection and the Ungroup command before I could get it to a state where I could select only the background to remove it (because I want my background transparent, not white).

So it would appear that it can be done (with a little dip on the top of all my circles due to the imperfect path), and I suppose that I could do this again with a really really big square in order to get around the raster effects resolution problem.  But if someone has a clue about the resolution setting (and/or how to force perfect circles or closer to them), please let me know.

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Contributor ,
Aug 09, 2009 Aug 09, 2009

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I finally found the Document Rasterization Settings and increased the resolution, and increased the size of the object I start with to make the halftone.  But if I try using a resolution higher than 300dpi, or I try using an object bigger than a certain size, I get: "An error occurred while managing the object appliance" (or something like that).  No doubt some sort of memory error.  But I was able to find a sweet spot - a size of object that was small enough to produce halftones instead of an error but big enough to give me enough dots for my desired 40 lpi screen on a 5-inch DVD.  Interestingly, using the same 20 pixel size of halftones, each time I do a trace it makes the circles a little bit different - one time they looked perfect, but I didn't have enough dots yet so I had to say goodbye to that set.  What I ended up with is reasonable - at least each circle is made from only two path points, so the amount of data is as small as possible.  Another weird thing is that although the halftone channel 4 was set to 45 the whole time (presumably that should make the lines at a 45 degree angle), at least the final time (I didn't notice until afterwards) it actually made the lines straight instead, so I had to rotate the final group of dots 45 degrees - fortunately a DVD is round, so I didn't have a coverage problem doing that.

I'm getting an urge to buy a faster computer - everything moves way slower when you add about 5000 circles to your image!

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New Here ,
Aug 11, 2009 Aug 11, 2009

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I run the prepress department at a replicator in the Midwest.  When I create films for printing I have InDesign set to choose the linescreen and the shape of the dots for each color.  I have decided on the particular dot size, angle, and shape after years of painstaking research. I would be uncomfortable having a client create their art with the halftone dot built in since that could cause some serious clashing with my screens and our presses. 

I don't understand why this would be left up to you?  I feel that this is something your printer should be doing.  Your part is designing the art.  Our part is creating the films/screens and printing it for you.

-an

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Contributor ,
Aug 11, 2009 Aug 11, 2009

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The reason is because when I went to the replicator to ask various questions, one of them was whether they could do a screen like that at all - I took a CD with me that had a halftone screen and showed it to the guy.  He scratched his head, called someone else to ask, then took it in the back room to show to someone else (presumably a manager?).  He came back saying that they could do it, but he still didn't sound confident.  So I said maybe I should include what I want in the artwork itself (I thought it would be easier than it has been), and he seemed relieved.

But reading your post, I'm thinking I'll try asking the question again by phone (I went there in person the first time, partially because building relationships face-to-face is important here in Japan and partially because I wanted to show them things instead of trying to describe them in Japanese and listen to their answers by phone, which is a challenge for me), or perhaps I'll have the time to visit them again while I'm still in the preparation phase - I won't need to turn the job in to them until late September.  If I knew the exact term for halftone screen in Japanese, I could probably ask more precisely, but I only recently even learned it in English!  And I still don't even know in English the term for what you get if you assign a spot color in Illustrator but then reduce the transparency (so you have a purple color but it looks lavender if the background is white).  The result I want is a purple halftone screen of about 25% coverage on a transparent background (i.e. the DVD disk color shows through), and if I can get that result by handing them an Illustrator file with a region that is 25% opaqueness purple, that would be definitely easiest.  I'll ask again somehow - thanks for your input as someone in the business.

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Contributor ,
Aug 08, 2009 Aug 08, 2009

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Sure, you can take a look (or anyone else can, for that matter).  I put the file I'm working on here: http://l4jp.com/misc/Purple_Label.ai.  There is a graphics link that will probably break, but it's okay - it's just an image of a shiny CD surface to use for getting an impression of what the transparent areas will look like when silkscreened on a DVD.

What I'm trying to make halftone is the semi-transparent light purple background rectangle on the layer called Light Background.  The silkscreen color will be the dark purple (I'm permitted three silkscreen colors, which will be white, cream, and purple), but I think a screen of 25% coverage will make a pleasant background (I'm trying to match my case jacket, which has a light purple pattern as the background for the front face).  As I said in my last post, I'm aiming for a screen size similar to others I have seen, because I assume they would be coarse enough to not be a problem for the silkscreen - the others I have seen measured at about 42, but probably anywhere between 30 and 50 would be fine.  And if you succeed in making what you described, which is a lot of little vector circles, it would be scalable anyway.

EDIT: I just noticed your second post with a link to a tutorial - I gotta run off to an event now, but I'll take a look when I get back and let you know if it helped.

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LEGEND ,
Apr 10, 2009 Apr 10, 2009

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So you can't control half tone dots in Illustrator.

Print dialog>Output pane. Set Mode to Separations (Host based). You can set the halftone ruling, angle, and dot shape for each separation plate.

JET

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Advisor ,
Apr 10, 2009 Apr 10, 2009

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It's been my experience that when I assign those settings in Illustrator, it's up to the output device on whether to deliver or not.  I haven't been able to get my printer/RIP to give me a halftone dot, just a typical stochastic print.  This has been the case since I started using a software RIP, which in my case, is limited unless I go to Photoshop and print a 1-bit Black and White halftone dot there.

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Explorer ,
May 21, 2009 May 21, 2009

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In the print dialog, set your printer, confirm your PPD, page and all of that.

Change your print mode to separations, confirm your other settings...  The lower part of this dialog shows a list of spot and process colors, double clicking on any of these offers full customization. You can set it to whatever your printer will allow given the image setter's setting are set to receive them. As a general rule, it defaults to 60 , but 55lpi runs good on most 200-230-305 mesh screens , I drop it to 45 for 156mesh and 35 for 110's and lower.

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New Here ,
Jun 08, 2009 Jun 08, 2009

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Hello People,
Firstly accept my appolagies... my english is not great, im a creative person lets ust leave it there 😉
OK Gradient or Halftones in AI for screen printing:
i have been a graphic designer for many years and have had exposure to all sort of applications and i figured there must be some way and there is! i be gan my pusuit after blindly investing in screen printing equipment and jacking in my job.

LETS START:

* create a few squares in illustrator.
* fill each of them Reg black ( the circle and cross hair in your swatches)
* select each one in turn and change the "tint" colour of each one say 100%, 75%, 40 % and 20%. you will be able to see the difference on screen.. as roughly the desired effect.
*now in the filter tab select (pixellate - colour half tone) the channels for this experiment can all be set to "0" appart from the bottom one. as this is "K" from the CMYK Pallet (black) and all it does is arrange the angle of the dots - 45 is good. by setting the number in the top option you can change the size of the dots. smaller number small dots.
* click ok or apply and your design will be applied and turned dots
if you want to take this one step further...???Scale the design up (be patient) go to the "object" menu - click "rasterrize" keep the quality high, like 300dpi.
* then i know this is a little arse about face but bare with me...
* now the object is no longer a vector your live trace option should be available (if not chnage your work space to basic and it should appear)
* from the drop down select custom. now the fun begins and you will learn waht works best for you but. 1) ignor white 2) set all options on the right to "2" for corner angles etc .. etc.. 3) just play with the threshold slide bar and you will see the changes on screen if you have preview applied?
finally
* click expand.. now you have a fully fledged vector again.. in dots.. and scaleable...
i know it takes a bit of getting used to but it worked for me! on a very basic 55t screen i managed to simulate 5 shades of blue WHAT A CHEAP SKATE lol... printed really well!
i get so much help from these forums... i hope this helps someone else.
Happy Dotting

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Contributor ,
Aug 07, 2009 Aug 07, 2009

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I'm trying to use Illustrator CS2 to make a silkscreen label for a DVD.  The replicator company making the DVDs didn't have specific instructions for halftone resolutions (I don't think they had dealt with them before), so I decided I better make the dots myself rather than handing them a file with various transparency settings and hope they know what to do.  Other DVD/CD labels I found that had done halftones seemed to use 42 lpi, so something like that is my target.  I will just be giving them the Illustrator file, not printed masters for the screens, and my printer isn't postscript anyway, so all the PPD discussion don't help me.  But I read CaptureStudio's post with interest - it sounded very promising.

But... it didn't work for me.  First of all, the Pixelate filters are only available after I rasterize.  Okay, so I rasterized my 25% opacity registration-black box (selecting grayscale as the method), and then selected Pixelate->Color-Halftone.  I left the top selection at the default 8 pixels (I think my document resolution is 350dpi, so that's just about right), changed the first three channels to zero (the fourth one was already 45 by default), and selected Transparent for the background.  I was surprised that the first three channels were even there, because in grayscale the C, M, and Y should not exist.  Anyway, I did that, and then zoomed in to see what it did.  But unfortunately the result was not black dots, but a strange gray texture pattern - nothing was black, white, or clear.  CaptureStudio, what version of Illustrator are you using?  Perhaps that is the difference.  Or perhaps I did something else wrong.

I have Photoshop and the replicator will accept that, so I could move the file over there.  But unless there is a trick I don't know about, when I open an AI file in Photoshop just makes everything (all its layers, text, vector objects, etc.) all one raster glob, and seems to also add smoothing to the edges of my vector shapes - not best for trying to end up with clean spot-color data.  So if possible, I want to do what CaptureStudio suggested and stay in Illustrator, so that I have clean vector data for everything including the halftone dots.

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Explorer ,
Aug 12, 2009 Aug 12, 2009

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What a huge topic!

I have used Illustrator to output seps for screenprinting t-shirts since V.7 and never had a problem. I do full colour cmyk prints and spot colour/halftone prints. I set the screen angles, frequency and dot shape in the print dialogue. If you're printing through a 120t mesh use a 52 line screen for the black - or lower frequency for lower mesh count. I think the rule is one and a half threads per dot.

As I say, I've done it for years, both for hand printing and auto and won many awards for it. Never had anything we couldn't sort in illustrator.

Your laser printer might be the issue.

One other thing: you are going to loose the tone in the top 10-20% of your half tone and get dot gain in the bottom 10-20%. There is not a lot you can do about that other than push the levels in your art to allow for it. The amount of dot you gain/loose depends on squeegee sharpness and durometer, mesh count, emulsion thickness, machine pressure, fabric quality and if its printed on a friday arvo or monday morning - neither of the latter are good.

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