How screen print friendly are the screen tones in CSP?

  • I've created a poster in Clip Studio measuring 18"x24" at 300 dpi, and I'm curious if the screentones are suitable for actual screen printing, or are they more in place to look cool visually?

    For example, lets say I'm using an ink color of red for a layer, and my screentone density is being defined by values (dark or light). So I use what is basically a 50% gray to paint in an area, which will look pink on my screen when zoomed out. When this is printed, will it optically appear as pink (unless you lean in and see the red screentone)? (see image below).

    I'm assuming the "number of screen frequency" is Lines Per Inch (LPI), should this be lower, like 35, for screenprinting, or is the default 60 a good setting?

    Also, does anybody know of a good setting for Image Trace in Illustrator to convert these screentones to vector (or an general good method to create a vector version of these screens?).

    alt text

  • Half tone dots are not just for show (although they can be for show too). If you are using two or three ink colors, you can use half toning to increase the range of colors available to you. For example if you are using just blue and yellow ink, you could use half toning to add green to your poster (50% half tone on each of the blue and yellow inks). You can use half tones to increase the range of blues, yellows, and greens (25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% for example). Without half tones, you would be limited to printing at 100% of your inks.

    Screen printing meshes ranges in size from 40 to something like 230. The lower the mesh, the larger the holes in the screen. You can't use a very high LPI on a low mesh or the half tone dots will be too small for the mesh and the ink (the dots themselves) will blur and blob up. Use too high a mesh and less ink gets through - but the dots are detailed.

    You need to use an LPI that matches the mesh well - and is able to print a round dot at the resolution you are exporting at. Not many screen printers use a very high mesh (because the ink doesn't push through easily) but if you're going to have gradients you need to use a higher mesh. At 300ppi I would stick to a somewhat lower LPI and avoid gradients as much as possible. Maybe around 30 to 40 LPI and try not going lower than around 20 - 25% density. Smaller than that and you'll have to use a pretty high mesh.

  • Thanks for the extremely thorough and knowledgable answer. It's very appreciated.

    Yeah, when I said "suitable" I should have clarified. In the past, I've always prepared my halftones in either Photoshop or Illustrator for past projects. In fact, I've only been using CSP extensively for only 2 years now (for comics at first, then slowly replacing Photoshop for posters), and it was only until yesterday did I realize how advanced the screentone feature is.

    It was so good, and this software is so affordable, that I questioned if the halftones CSP produced would work in an actual production environment to create gig posters and shirts, or if this feature was more about giving the illusion to halftones. I guess you could say, it felt too easy, and the price was too low.

    Thanks for clarifying. I'll probably still port the finished work into Photoshop to prepare it for the printer because I'm old and set in my ways, but man, I wish I had known CSP was this capable years ago. Thanks for the insight, @garlam.

  • The biggest issue you'll run into for screen tones is having enough pixels to make the dots. At 300 ppi, you don't have enough pixels to make very fine dots so you need to use a lower line screen. But there is a way to use a much higher line screen.

    Save your working document and save as another copy with a name like 'originalname_halftones' using save as (because you'll flatten the image). Flatten your image and go to Edit>Change Image Resolution. Increase the resolution to 600 or 1200ppi. This won't actually increase the resolution of your art but it will give you extra pixels for the half tone dots. I have an action that separates the C M and Y from an image and makes the half toning at the correct angles. You can download it here and try it out if you like.
    0_1485252847725_half tone action.jpg

    You would need to make sure that the dots aren't so small that they will accurately reproduce the stairstepping of your document's original resolution. If they are, lower the LPI until the stairstepping goes away.
    This image was originally 72ppi and increased to 1200ppi and a line screen of 85 still wasn't fine enough to print the stairstepping but you need to check to make sure.

    If your poster has line art and lettering that will print solid black, that layer needs to be hidden before flattening as this action will only separate your C M and Y. The line art and lettering would need to be exported separately.

    From there, you would still need to check with your printer to see if the dots are too small for the mesh. And I don't know how you deliver your files but the color of the half tones is an ink thing - the half tones themselves should probably be black for the printer.


    The action set includes an action that creates a black plate which allows for grey replacement to give you richer shadows. Each separated color can be adjusted for color corrections. For the black, I would use opacity on the image layer to adjust for the level of grey (to be printed by black rather than a combination of the C M and Y) you want added to an image.

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  • @garlam I deleted my previous question after I rethought it...

    First off, thanks for the action. I am grateful for you to go into so much depth.

    As a follow up question. Since I'm technically inking the halftones on a screentone layer, I guess my final question here is just a general one. If I want to make a halftone of 30% using the screentone layer feature in CSP, would I use a gray color set at H=0 %=S=0% V=70% (since the Value in HSV goes in reverse from dark to light).

  • @aaron said in How screen print friendly are the screen tones in CSP?:

    . If I want to make a halftone of 30% using the screentone layer feature in CSP, would I use a gray color set at H=0 %=S=0% V=70% (since the Value in HSV goes in reverse from dark to light).

    That's right.

  • @aaron If you are printing in spot color rather than cmyk you may wish to look at alternative screen tools in Clipstudio. You can set a layer to be expressed as tone (as explained below) but you can also create special dedicated tone layers. With this you get an entire layer of a single tone (e.g. 30%@30lpi circular 45deg) with a special layer mask so you can add or erase it anywhere in the document.

    This old-school way of doing things was designed to emulate letratone for manga press worlkflow, but would translate well for certain precise screen print plates. Folders can be used to group tone and ink layers aimed a the same print plate, and the "expression of color" for the folder is useful to visualize how it will print. You can then hide other folders, revert to black and white expression and export each plate for print when done.

    Check some of the included example manga pages for ideas on the technique for using preset tones (downloadable from smith micro or

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