Transparency in Print files

Created by Jake Adams, Modified on Fri, 12 Jan at 9:54 PM by Jake Adams

Learn how to avoid transparency mistakes in direct-to-garment (DTG) print designs.

What’s transparency?

Transparency (often referred to as opacity) is measured by how see-through colors are in a design. We distinguish two types of transparency:

  1. Full transparency - completely invisible graphic elements 
  2. Semi-transparency - somewhat opaque, see-through graphic elements

Get to know the basics

Why transparency doesn’t work for DTG prints

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

How to tell if your designs have transparent elements

Open your design in a graphic editor. If the background is peeking through your design, the design is transparent. If you’re using advanced graphic editors (e.g., Adobe Photoshop) that indicate transparency, you can:

  • Unlock the background layer and turn off the layer by clicking the eye icon—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 more opaque

How to get the best results with faded designs

Skip transparent elements

If you have transparent elements in your DTG print design, the printer will try to make up for the missing information by spreading ink over the area. You’ll end up with gaps where the white base will be visible. To prevent blotchy, uneven prints due to transparency, we advise using solid colors for your designs and avoiding pressure-sensitive brush tools.

Have a solid design element underneath

If the element has a background, you can create a solid element, add a layer mask, and then use a soft brush to feather the edges of the element. That will result in a much better-looking print.

However, we don’t recommend trying to get a transparent design element by adding a design background that matches the color of the garment. All DTG prints have a white under base, so the colors in your design will come out lighter than the garment color.

Use a halftone effect

You can also use a technique called halftoning. Essentially, this means patterns of dots that create the illusion of an image.

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