Digital artwork used for screen printing can be categorized in two types - raster and vector. In this article, we’ll define both file types, go over some vocabulary, and show how you can differentiate the two.
Let’s say you’ve got a tee shirt with a design on it that you love. Just for the sake of argument, let’s also say that the design is in some way culturally relevant - such as the I heart NY t-shirt. Not uncommon. While we’re at it, let’s say you’re wearing this tee while enjoying a Saturday afternoon at the art museum and you’re looking at a famous screen print by Roy Lichtenstein that you happen love equally as much as the picture on your tee. Now, I ask you, which one is better or more important/relevant and why?
One justification for the high level of esteem (and prices) for fine art is the artist’s hand. There’s a romantic notion of the artist in his/her studio with a canvas and some paint, toiling in solitude, night after night and leaving a piece of soul in embedded in the paint. From a layman's perspective, this is one of the main things that differentiates fine from commercial art. However, since Andy Warhol's Factory, this notion has been challenged.
As a college student, studying printmaking and fine art, my professors would always reference something called the “democracy of the print”. They were referring to the fact that woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and screen prints had the advantage over paintings and sculptures in the respects that they are relatively inexpensive and exist in multiple. Even to this day, a person of an average income can afford a print by Picasso, but not a painting. That print would not only enrich that person’s life, but that of many others due to the fact that it exists in hundreds of other places.
I argue that the tee shirt brings the notion of the “democracy of the print” to its peak. The tee shirt is so inexpensive that nearly anyone can own an entire collection or make one with their own design. And, due to the versatility of the screen print (and now direct to garment printing) nearly any image can be imprinted upon one. The tee shirt is the ultimate (and somewhat untapped) in artistic potential energy, able to proliferate messages through multiplicity, low cost, mobility and public visibility all while retaining a status as a covetable object.