Digital Printmaking


Follow these instructions to create your 3 color screen print transparencies. This is only one possible technical approach to making color separations digitally. I like it because it shows you how to combine photographic information with other kinds of marks (Illustrator, shapes, type, digitally drawn marks using a tablet, etc). There are a million other ways to do it - don;t be afraid to explore them all as you have time ( many free on-line tutorials...)

You should start with a photographic portrait of some sort. Try to frame the image so it fills up a good deal of the picture plane. 

Something like this...
  • Save the image on your desktop (or another folder) and open up Photoshop. 
  • Select>New> 10" wide X 8" tall (The size of this file can vary, depending on how large you want the print to be, but keep in mind that the largest paper we can print on is 11X17, and you need to leave room for the registration marks). CMYK. 300 DPI. 
  • File> Place Embedded> select your portrait file.
  • Center the image and resize it so that you have a little bit of extra space around the edges. 
  • Make adjustments to Contrast and Lightness an Adjustment Layer (see video)
  • Make the file Grayscale. Image> Mode> Grayscale
  • Image> Mode> Duotone
  • Select Tritone and choose 3 different ink colors (see video)
  • Adjust Curves as desired (see video) (!!!!SAVE OFTEN!!!!)
  • Image> Mode> Multichannel
    • This will break your three ink colors out into separate channels
  • Select Channels Palette (see video)
  • Use the paintbrush tool and other tools to make adjustments as needed to brightness, contrast, delete areas, etc. (see video)


  • Split the three channels out into separate grayscale files (see video)
  • Color 01. Change into Bitmap. Image> Mode> Bitmap> 300 Pixels/Inch. Halftone Screen. 50 LPI. 45 Angle. Shape> Ellipse.
  • Color 02. Change into Bitmap. Image> Mode> Bitmap> 300 Pixels/Inch. Halftone Screen. 50 LPI. 15 Angle. Shape> Ellipse.
  • Color 03. Change into Bitmap. Image> Mode> Bitmap> 300 Pixels/Inch. Halftone Screen. 50 LPI. 75 Angle. Shape> Ellipse.
  • Save each color separation in a new folder as a .PSD file


  • Open Illustrator. File New> Tabloid (10.5" X 16")> Landscape Orientation
  • Re-Name Layer 01 as your first color (see video)
  • File> Place> color 01 .psd file. 
  • Select placed image and select Transparency> Mutiply blending Mode (see video
  • Lock Layer 01 (see video)
  • Create new layer> Re-name it as your second color (see video).
  • File> Place> color 02 .psd file. 
  • Lock Layer 02 (see video)
  • Create new layer> Re-name it as your third color (see video).
  • File> Place> color 03 .psd file. 
  • Lock Layer 03 (see video)


  • Unlock layer 01
  • Turn off "eyeballs" for other two layers.
  • Select Layer 01 with white arrow tool and then select new fill color in Swatches Palette (see video)
  • Lock Layer 01 and repeat for layers 02 and 03 - with correct fill colors for each layer (see video)
  • Lock all layers. Unlock layer 01. Click twirldown in layer 01 and lock bitmap layer. Repeat for other two layers (see video).
  • Lock all layers except layer 01 and use paintbrush and type tools to add new marks (make sure to use the same color that was used to re-color the bitmap and make sure all new strokes and fills are set for the multiply blending mode in the Transparency Palette).
  • Repeat for other layers. (!!!!SAVE OFTEN!!!!)
  • Once you are all done adding marks and the image looks the way you want it to you need to convert all of those color layers into black and white...


  • Select Layer 01 and select all (Command A). This will select all of your strokes and fills. Convert them from your fill color into black and white. You should save this new file as filenameBW - or some other new file you can keep separate from your color version).
  • You now just need to unlock your original bitmap file that was locked earlier in this process. Unlock it, select it with the white arrow tool, and recolor it to a black fill. (!!!!SAVE OFTEN!!!!)
  • You should now be able to turn on and off the eyeballs for each color (even though they are all black and white now) and print each color separation out on a printer for screen printing transparencies. 
  • Check the printer settings and specifics for the printer you are using - they will all be different, but the important thing is to get a transparency with dark, opaque marks that we can use to burn on our screen.