Each month leading manufacturers and DTG print shop owners share their know-how with Images readers. This month, Luke Mitford from MHM Direct GB discusses artwork management and organisation

Every DTG print starts and ends with a picture. By putting a few simple systems in place, from how to ask for a file to how to save them, you can save time and money on each and every job.

Files

It’s always best to give your clients set criteria that they can follow from the beginning. Complete the following list and include it in every first email you send to clients and add it to your website under your FAQs section:

  • File name Establish this from the start and stick with it so everyone in the printing chain knows which design is being referred to
  • Accepted file types
  • Minimum resolution
  • Sizing There are two parts to this: what size can be printed by the machine, as set by your company, and what size the client would like the design to be printed at.

These are the most important things to establish right from the start to ensure you can hit the ground running without needing to edit the file, no matter what type of DTG machine you run or the software you use.

Software

Next up is whether to use software provided with your DTG printer or whether to opt for third party software.

  • Drivers and plug-ins Most DTG brands try to work with existing programs that designers are already familiar with to help lessen the learning curve. This normally takes the form of patches or plug-ins that complement the software by offering you a wide range of tools specifically aimed at producing printready files for your DTG printer.
  • Third party software This is software that has been developed by a third party to work with certain printers – for example Cadlink. This type of software tends to be better than patches or plugins as it has been designed specifically for the job, but there will nearly always be a charge for it, and if it’s a new piece of software for you, there will naturally be a steep learning curve.

Naming conventions

How you name or code your designs and print files is crucial, as a good system will make it a lot easier when it comes to storing and searching.

  • Files and folders Create a set folder hierarchy for your print jobs. I recommend creating a folder for each client followed by a folder for each job, and then breaking it down further into folders for the original artwork, testing and final print file. This way, everyone in the business will know exactly how and where to look for a file (see figure 1).
  • Naming for search When it comes to naming the final print file, keep it as simple as possible or allocate a code that is consistent with job sheets and accounts. This means that a file can be found simply by typing that name or code into the search bar.
  • Burn folder Create a general folder for your one-offs. As these jobs will only ever be printed once, it is easy to keep track of them with one folder. This can save time by not having to create the more involved folder network – and you can also save storage space by clearing it on a regular basis.

Storage options

Always invest in the right kind of storage. You need to consider storage space, accessibility and back-up capabilities. When you save your designs you want to know that they’re going to be easy to access and also in a location that is safe and secure.

A NAS (network attached storage) drive or server allows designs to be easily accessed, edited, transferred and printed. They’re available in various storage sizes and are a separate drive from your main system so should any of your computers break, your files will still be safe and accessible via another one.

Fully customisable, a NAS drive or server can be set up with variable sizes of storage space, and can even be broken up into separate storage for each department and protected with passwords to control access (see figure 2).

www.mhmdirect.co.uk