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HOW TO CREATE PRINTED CLEAR CHARMS USING ILLUSTRATOR

HOW TO CREATE PRINTED CLEAR CHARMS USING ILLUSTRATOR

Posted in Tutorials by Zap! Creatives on Jul 11th, 2017

This tutorial contains everything you need to know about creating your own, printed clear acrylic charms. Including how to format your artwork for single sided and double sided printing.

If you are more of a visual learner, your may find our visual set up guide more useful. Click here to view our visual guide on issuu.com.

1. Download our templates

To start submitting your custom printed acrylic charm designs you’ll need to download our design templates. Templates are available in various sizes ranging from 0.5" (12.7mm) right up to 3.5" (88.9mm).

Download our Illustrator templates here and open your chosen size.



Each template comes with a working area where you will import or create your designs. Please make sure that your artwork fits INSIDE of the blue borders.

2. Understanding our layers

Opening the template, you will notice that there are 8 layers in your Layers palette. If you can't see the Layers palette, hit F7 to make it appear.



IMPORTANT - Please don't rename existing layers or create additional layers as this will confuse our systems when processing your designs.

If you have used any effects / layer styles on any of your layers you MUST flatten them before saving. To do this simply right click on the applicable layer and select 'Rasterize Layer Style' from the menu.


'Office Use Only' Layer

This layer contains the blue borders which your design must sit inside, our logo and a brief description of the template size that you are using. This layer is locked and should not be used.

'Artwork A' Layer
Single Sided Printing - If you are creating single sided clear acrylic charms then you should place your artwork on this layer. We print your designs onto the 'back' of the clear acrylic and then add a layer of white ink followed by a layer of varnish.

ALL ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER SHOULD BE FLIPPED SO THAT IT IS A MIRROR IMAGE OF ITSELF.

When you turn the printed charm over, your design will be the correct way around and visible via the 'front' of the acrylic, giving your charm a super crisp look, with the added depth of our 3mm clear acrylic.

Double / B-Side Printing - When creating double sided charms, the 'Artwork A' layer will form the front of your design as detailed above. Please follow the above instructions to create side A of your double sided charm and then the following instructions to create side B (the back of your charm)...

'Artwork B' Layer
This is where you'll place the artwork for the back of your charm. We'll print this directly onto the top of your 'Artwork A’ layer and then add a layer of varnish for added protection.

DO NOT FLIP/MIRROR THE ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER. THE ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER SHOULD SIT ON TOP AND LINE UP PERFECTLY WITH THE ARTWORK ON YOUR 'ARTWORK A' LAYER SO THAT IT FULLY MASKS ARTWORK A.

'White' Layer
Adding a base layer of white to your charms will make your colours crisper and more vivid. Use this layer to tell us exactly where you would like this layer of white to go.

'Gloss Varnish' Layer
If you would like your charms to have a gloss finish as opposed to a matte finish, you can use this layer to show us exactly where you would like the your areas of gloss to be placed.

‘Cut Area’ Layer

Use this layer to show us EXACTLY where you want your charms to be cut. We'll use this information to create a path which will then be used to create a cut line for our laser cutters.

Please note that we do not print right up to the edge on any of our acrylic charms. It is therefore ESSENTIAL that you create a border of AT LEAST 1mm between your artwork and your cutline. We can however print right up to the edge when printing onto wood as the print is more durable on this material.

Failure to leave a 1mm border on your acrylic charm designs can result in damage and lifting along the printed edge of your charms as a result of the heat generated by the laser. See step 5a for more info.


'Hole Template' Layer
Drag and drop the hole template from this layer onto your artwork to show us where you would like your hole to be placed. The dotted red line represents the recommended distance that your hole should be placed INSIDE of your design.



'Loop Template' Layer
Drag and drop our loop template from this layer onto your artwork to show us where you would like your loop to be placed. The light red, outer circle represents the loop size and the inner, dark red circle represents the hole within the loop.



If you would like your loop to be the same colour as your border then please make sure that your border colour extends to the light red outer circle of the loop template. (see '6c Adding a Loop' for more details).

3. Importing your designs

Select the 'Artwork A' or 'Artwork B' layer in your layers palette and either draw your design directly onto this layer or, simply copy (CTRL+C) and paste (CTRL+V) previously saved artwork.

We're using one of our designs to show you how it's done!

'Artwork A'

Create or paste the artwork that you would like to appear on the 'front' of your charm here. Once you are happy with your design FLIP IT so that it is a mirror image of itself.



We will print this onto the 'back' of the clear acrylic before adding a layer of white. Your design will then be visible, the correct way around, via the 'front' of the acrylic.

Please group all elements of your Artwork A layer together using the CTRL+G command.

'Artwork B'

This is where you will create or paste the artwork that you would like to appear on the 'back' of your charms for our 'B-Side' printing option. DO NOT FLIP THIS LAYER!



We print your B-Side ('back') design directly on top of the A-Side ('front') design to create an awesome looking double sided charm.

Please group all elements of your Artwork B layer together using the CTRL+G command.

4. Check your Alignment

If you're producing double sided charms it's important that your A-Side and B-Side artwork lines up correctly.

A simple way of checking this is to select your 'Artwork B' layer and lower the opacity to 50%

Now view your artwork and check that both A & B are the same size and nicely aligned. Here is an example of how it should look...

5a. Adding a layer of white

To guarantee bright and crisp colours for your artwork, you will need to add a white base layer to your designs. This white layer will sit behind your artwork and will ensure that the colours of your charms are consistent, regardless of what material you choose.

Check out the charms below by jwhitneyart.com. Using a white base layer of ink means their designs look the same on our white and black acrylics.



Please note that we ask that you create this white layer for ALL of your charm designs, even white acrylic charms.

An additional benefit of creating your own white base layer is that you can let us know EXACTLY where you would like us to print your white areas. This allows customers to add additional features to their designs, such as transparencies on our clear acrylics (see 5C), as well as reducing any areas of white creeping around the edges of your artwork.

To create your white base layer simply copy your artwork from the 'Artwork' layer and paste it into the 'White' layer using the 'Paste in Front' command CTRL + F.



Use the 'Image Trace' command (if your design is a bitmap) or the 'Unite' function from the Pathfinder palette (if your design is a vector) to create a silhouette version of your 'Artwork' layer.

Give this silhouette a 100% Cyan fill with no stroke.

 

5b. Identifying unwanted areas of white

IMPORTANT - If you have imported your artwork from Photoshop or any other bitmap / raster based software, it's important to check your white layer for low opacity pixels. The following steps are taken from our Photoshop tutorial and can help eliminate any unwanted areas of white ink and gloss varnish around the edge of your charms... 

Using soft brushes in Photoshop can result in unwanted, low opacity pixels causing issues around the edges of your artwork.

These pixels are invisible to the eye but get picked up by our printers, which print ALL pixels on your white and gloss layers, no matter how low their opacity, as 100% white or 100% gloss. This can cause unwanted areas of white ink and gloss varnish around the edges of your finished charms.

A simple way to check your artwork (in Photoshop) for low opacity pixels is to click on your white layer or your gloss layer, select the paint bucket tool and fill the background black.



The paint bucket will fill all areas of the background except where there are any low opacity pixels. These pixels can then be easily identified and removed using the selection and eraser tools.

IMPORTANT - Please remember to undo the black paint bucket fill before submitting your designs.

5c. Transparencies

The 'White' layer can also be used to create areas where you don't want a white base layer of ink. This effect works especially well on our clear acrylics to create transparencies (areas with coloured ink but no white ink and areas with no ink at all).



To create a transparent area, simply delete any unwanted areas on your white layer to achieve your desired effect. You can see this effect on our clear acrylic charms above.

6a. Working with gloss varnish

You can choose to have a gloss or matte finish on your designs by selecting the matte or gloss drop down option on our website when placing your orders. If you choose 'Gloss' as your option, you will need to create a grey silhouette on the 'Gloss Varnish' layer, similar to how you created the cyan silhouette on your 'White' layer in step 5 of this tutorial.


Select the 'Gloss' layer in the layers palette. Copy your artwork from the 'Artwork' layer and paste it into the 'Gloss Varnish' layer using the 'Paste in Front' command CTRL + F.

Use the 'Image Trace' command (if your design is a bitmap) or the 'Unite' function from the 'Pathfinder' palette (if your design is a vector) to create a silhouette version of your 'Artwork' layer.

Give this silhouette the following colour values to create a grey fill C:0 M:0 Y:0 K:50

6b. Spot gloss varnish

As well as being able to add gloss varnish to your entire design, you also have the option to limit this to certain areas, in effect highlighting particular elements of your design. Handy for creating textures like water droplets or snakeskin.



To do this, simply delete any unwanted parts of the grey silhouette that you created in step 5a. or create a custom silhouette based on the areas of your design that you would like to highlight.

7a. Adding a border / cut line - Important!

You can now decide on the thickness of your border, which will be used as a cut line. It is ESSENTIAL that you make this border AT LEAST 1mm wider than your artwork (unless you are printing onto wood, in this case you do not have to create a 1mm border). Failure to do so can cause your printed design to lift along the cut edge as a result of the heat generated by the laser. A 1mm border will prevent this from happening.

It is essential that you have a border between your artwork and the cutline of your charm to ensure the printed charms durability. Please use the 'Cut Line' layer to show us EXACTLY how wide you would like this border as we WILL use this information to create your cutline and cut out your charm. Failure to create a 1mm border between your artwork and cutline will result in your printed design lifting along the cut edge due to the heat of the laser and is done so entirely at your own risk.

Remember that our lasers will remove approximately 0.15mm of acrylic from all sides of your charms when cutting. This is called kerf (thickness of the laser beam). To do this, first select all of the elements on your 'Artwork' layer, copy them (CTRL+C) and then use the 'Paste in Front' command (CTRL+F) to paste them onto your 'Cut Area' layer.



Make sure that all of the elements on the 'Cut Area’ layer are selected and hit the 'Unite' button in the 'Pathfinder' window. This will merge all elements together to create one shape, which will be used to create your cutline.

Give the merged shape a 0.01mm outline with the following colour values R:255 G:0 :B0 and NO fill.

Use the OBJECT > PATH > OFFSET PATH command to offset (increase) this shape by at least 1mm. Delete the original path so that there are no duplicates.

TIP - Hide the 'Artwork' layer and view the document as outlines (CTRL+Y) to view your cutline as an outline and check that it looks how you want it to look. Hit CTRL+Y to go back to your normal view.

7b. Adding a hole

If you would like a hole in your design you can let us know exactly where you would like this by dragging and dropping the hole template from the 'Hole' Layer, into position on your design.



The solid inner circle represents the hole and the dotted outer circle represents the recommended distance that your hole should be placed INSIDE of your design.

Please don't merge the hole template with your design as we will need to remove this before printing so that it's not visible on your finished charms.

7c. Adding a loop

If you would like a loop instead of a hole, you can let us know exactly where you would like this by dragging and dropping the loop template from the 'Loop' Layer, into position on your design.



The light red outer circle represents the loop size and the inner dark red circle represents the hole within the loop.

Please don't merge the loop template with your design as we’ll need to remove this before printing so that it's not visible on your finished charms.

8. Submission checklist

Congratulations, you've finished creating your custom charm designs! All you have to do now is check the following before submission...

  • Your artwork fits INSIDE of the blue borders.
  • Your white base layer is 100% Cyan and located on the 'White' Layer (Step 5a.)
  • Your gloss varnish layer is 50% Black and located on the 'Gloss Varnish' layer (Step 6a.)
  • The hole and loop layers have NOT been grouped or merged with the rest of your design.
  • Your border is AT LEAST 1mm (10px) thick (unless you are printing onto wood, in which case you can have your print right up to the edge)
  • All text has been converted to outlines.
  • Your charm template contains 1 charm only. Additional charms will be sent separately.

9. Saving your designs

To save your design follow these simple steps...

File > Save As > Photoshop (*PSD;*PDD).
Please make sure your file name includes your name, order number & charm number ie. - ‘JoeBloggs_123456_clearcharm1.psd’

Email your designs along with your order number to info@zapcreatives.com

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