I designed and sent a 1 colour t-shirt to the client for the final review and I used black colour on white shirt and white colour on black shirts as i don't know what colour is going to choose yet. The client didn't give me any specification on what type of colour process wants and what kind of shirt is printing i.e.American Apparel etc.. I don't know as well if he'll use Plastisol, Light Plastisol or Discharge type. Some of these point will be clarified in the next few days, but i need to ask some questions regarding Colours and printing as my client might don't have a clue of all these specifications.

  1. Should i use a Pantone Spot Colour or CMYK 4 Process Colour?

  2. What's the difference in terms of Printing quality on T-Shirts if Spot Colour instead of CMYK?

  3. Should i make the colour separation in both cases, when if using Pantone Colour or CMYK and only 1 colour (white or black) for the t-shirt?

    1. In case the design is printed in Black Colour on White shirts do you suggest to use a Rich Black?

    2. Can i use the Rich Black as Spot colour only or as a Process Colour as well?

Thanks in advance for your support.

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2 Answers 2


I will address each question one by one for you

CMYK printing is also known as four color process in the screen printing industry. For printing on garments, CMYK is used most of the time to achieve photorealistic screenprinting. with the use of four ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Because these inks are extremely transparent, this process is intended only for white garments because the garment color it self will effect the final screenprint. For example if you were to screenprint cyan process ink on a yellow garment, the print would appear green.

If your design is only a one color image, you would want to create the artwork as a spot color. You mentioned creating a one color image that will be going on either white or black garments. It is very possible you would need to create two different images. One for the white garment and one for the black garment. However if your design is pretty much going to only be text.. Two separate images will not be necessary. Here is an example of how the image created for a white garment would not work for a black garment.

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As you can see, the image on the black garment with just changing ink colors, just looks wrong.

The solution here was to create a second image for the black garments, invert the artwork of the dog and create a white outline around the dog.

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It is also definitely good practice to get into the habit of creating spot colors as Pantone spot colors.. If you create an image containing the color “Royal Blue”, your idea of what royal blue looks like versus the screen printers idea of what royal blue looks like… could be very different. But if you were to tell him use PMS 287 (which is pretty much a royal blue) , both of you will be on the same page. And by the way.. PMS = Pantone Matching System

Here is some good information about separations you may be interested in

Things to consider: If your artwork is only going to be text, there is no reason you would need to create one version of the art for white garments and one version of the art for dark garments. When artwork gets separated for screen printing, each color of the art work will be its own individual separation. When it is time to output these separations to transparency “film”, it makes no difference what color the artwork is in your image. The separations will always print out as black (whether it is through a laser printer, a inkjet printer, or an image setter).

For your purposes, purchasing a set of Pantone color books is a little overkill I think. In both illustrator and Photoshop, you can load spot colors from the Pantone color books into your color swatches panels. You can color any of your artwork with these Pantone colors.

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In illustrator, if you create all of your artwork and every color is a spot color, whether it be Pantone or generic spot color makes no difference.. The separations are done directly in the file itself and when printed, each spot color will print on its own page

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  • Hi wch1zpink, To resume your post: 1) I can use Pantone Spot Colours for this job. 2) I can make two different 1 colour images using Spot Colours: 1 Design using White Spot Colour for Black & Colour shirts and 1 Design using Black Spot Colour for White & Colour shirts. 3) I am using only text (Mockup attached) but i don’t send the fonts to the client (instead i’ll send an image after Creating the Text Outlines - Expand & Merge the design) i think is it safer to make 2 different images right? Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 10:19
  • "It is good practice to get into the habit of creating spot colors as Pantone spot colors” I can create spot colours as Pantone but for now i don’t have a Pantone book. Can you suggest a Black and a White Pantone Spot Colour i can use for this job? In illustrator there are tons of colours and i'm a bit lost. Or do you know any sites where i can get a tip about what spot colour to choose? I’ll order the Pantone Colour Bridge Coated Series book this week. The most known designers have suggested this book for t-shirts, poster, labels etc What do you think about this Pantone Book? Thanks! Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 10:23
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    @Th-Ink As far as white is concerned Pantone has this to say on the subject "Although opaque white inks exist, Pantone does not provide a reference for white. Generally, if you are printing on white paper and apply no ink to an area, you will achieve white. When ink is needed, it should simply be specified as opaque white, without a PANTONE Reference." - you could just treat the black the same, and leave the choice of black or white ink to the screen printer.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 13:11
  • @Th-Ink , You have a lot more questions so I'm going to edit my original answer by adding more information to it. I am editing now so hang tight
    – wch1zpink
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 22:08
  • @wch1zpink, Tomorrow i'm ordering the Pantone Book. The fact is that this apparel design job in fact was a contest that i didn't expect to win, it just happened! I'll read your post tomorrow morning, i'm going to bed now. Thanks again for your support! Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:05

Regardless of what color you want to print.. or what color the substrate (garment) may be. Setting up artwork for one color printing is the same in all instances.

One color is one color.

  • If it's Pantone 187... it's one color

  • If It's 100% Cyan... it's one color

  • if it's Toyo 0392 .. it's one color

  • If it's 100% black... it's one color

  • If it's 100% white... it's one color

The color separated artwork would all be exactly the same in all the above instances. There is no visible difference when looking at print-ready artwork which is to be printed Pantone 187, and print-ready artwork which is to be printed 100% black.

There is absolutely no need to adjust art if it is one color artwork and set up as black. Seriously, no need. You shouldn't be concerned about reproduction using spot color or CMYK. In terms of the artwork it doesn't matter.

Color is determined by what ink the pressman puts in the press. Separated one color art looks the same regardless of what ink color you want the pressman to use.

You would probably be best to avoid a rich black for one color artwork on apparel. Rich black merely means press-ready art will be incorrect. Black will split to 2 or 3 plates and not be solid on any single plate. You want solid artwork for one color printing. If printing is to be reproduced using a rich black, the prepress department can create the proper separations, using their own rich black formula (there is no single, universal, rich black formula), based on your one color artwork. It's a simple matter to take one color separations and break them out for rich black. It is most often not a simple matter to do the reverse.

You are over-thinking this. The images you've posted all appear fine for one color reproduction.

  • At the end i decided not to use the rich black. i just used a simple black spot colour C0% M0% Y0% K100%. Great help and resource for training this forum :) Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 11:41

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