Screenprinting transfers a negative of a design onto a screen one color at a time. These days, artists use software tools that make screenprinting more accurate and efficient. Learning about the best screen printing software will help you create professional-quality screenprints!
Screen printing software helps artists design images and separate colors. Screenprinting software offers functions like graphic design and color separation. Dozens of software tools, including Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw are available today.
In this article, you will learn how screenprinting software works. You will also discover the top 15 software options available today. Finally, you will find tips for locating free software tools.
What is Screen Print Software?
Several different kinds of software create quality screenprints, including graphic design tools and color separation software. Sometimes you can get both functions in a package deal, but these options often come with a higher price tag.
Whether you’re an artist or a business owner, you will find screenprinting software essential to your work. Graphic design software lets you build a design from scratch or craft a professional design from provided templates. Color separation tools take that image and break it into individual colors so that you can print one color at a time.
Graphic Design Software for Screenprinting
Most professional quality graphic design tools use vector design software. This type of design program functions uses equations and commands rather than drag-and-draw tools. This allows you to create complex, detailed designs.
Today, video games, websites, and ad campaigns of any type pretty much all use some type of vector graphics. Good vector design software often comes with a hefty price tag.
The cool thing about it is that several of these packages also include a color separation function. This means that you get everything you need in one software package!
The downside to an industry-standard tool like Adobe Illustrator is that you have to scale a pretty steep learning curve. Mastering the basics of vector design does not come easily to everyone. Getting from point A to point B doesn’t seem intuitive in Illustrator.
This is because vector design uses geometry to dictate images rather than drag-and-draw functions. A simple program like Paint simulates the motions you make with a physical pen and paper. A vector design program uses math to make the magic happen!
If you’re new to the world of graphic design, you may want to consider taking an online course to master the basic concepts. You should at least try out the tutorials provided with most of these software packages before you begin!
Color Separation Software for Screenprinting
Screenprinting lays down thick layers of ink one color at a time to create an image. This means that you have to separate a multi-color design into individual layers of color before printing.
If you have a super small-scale operation going and your designs only use two colors, you may find a way to make this happen using basic tools like a Cricut or stencil. Most of the time, though, you will find that using a color separating tool will make your job much easier!
Most color separation tools for screen printing break an image into the four basic colors used in printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This is called CMYK printing. If you have a color printer at home, you can open it up and find four cartridges in those colors installed there, too!
If you’re designing for digital viewing rather than physical printing, you might use a different color scheme, known as RGB or red, green blue. These colors pop better on screen. Your color separation tool may offer both options, so know what you want before you make a choice!
15 Best Screen Print Software Options
Finding the right design and color separation tool will help you launch your print business or create a whole new level of art. The fifteen tools listed here offer a wide range of capabilities. Some have free versions and others cost almost a thousand dollars!
Check out these graphic design and color separation tools to find the right match for your screen printing needs.
Graphic Design Software
To get great-quality prints, you have to start with a great design! Graphic design software helps you create professional-grade images or typography to screenprint. Most of these programs use vector design software.
Each of these programs offers different functionality and pricing, so you can find a tool that fits your needs!
1. Affinity Designer
Affinity designer offers both a vector design program and raster image processing technology. This lets illustrators create advanced, complex images that work well either in physical form or on the screen! This software works for Windows, Mac, and on iPads.
Affinity Designer won a recent Apple design award. Everything in the software is built for professional use. The program includes the ability to handle huge images and control multiple projects at one time. It also offers set up time-saving steps such as keyboard shortcuts.
On top of that, the software offers several different color control options to allow you to prep your design for printing!
This tool has a lot to offer and is rapidly gaining popularity. It also comes with a reasonable price tag of $54.
2. Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator has held onto its spot as the industry standard for pretty much any type of graphic design for quite a long while now. This doesn’t mean that Adobe is old-fashioned or out of touch, though! This software comes packed with every tool you need to create precise, clear vector designs for your screen prints.
This vector design software offers pretty comprehensive accessibility. You can use Illustrator on mobile apps as well as on Windows and Mac.
Adobe offers a free seven-day trial and a generous discount for teachers and students. You can choose to pay an annual fee of $240 or a monthly subscription of $21 at full price.
CorelDraw often ranks as Adobe’s biggest competitor for screenprint design. It gives you a rich variety of vector design tools and an easy-to-use color separation program to prep your prints. Plus, students and beginning artists often find CorelDraw more intuitive and easier to learn than Adobe.
Nothing good comes without a price, though, and this program is no exception. It costs a whopping $500 plus additional fees if you want to update to the latest version in future years!
Like many up-and-coming design programs, CorelDraw has made a lot of advances in recent years. For example, you can now use this program on both Windows and Mac. A few years ago, its greatest drawback was that it was only compatible with Windows.
GIMP is unique among most of the design tools listed here because you can use it for free! This popular open-source program uses raster editing rather than vector design. That said, it also comes with every kind of plug-in and upgrades imaginable.
GIMP doesn’t offer you an especially streamlined user experience because it’s crowdsourced or user-built.
If you know how to look for it, you can find any design tool you want to use within this program! For example, you can use Gimp for color separation, but you need a specific plug-in to make this happen.
5. Graphix Pro Studio
GraphixPro Studio provides design manipulation tools rather than advanced vector design capabilities. For example, you can take a t-shirt template and easily add a customer’s name to the design using this program. If you compare it to Illustrator, this program gives you the final steps of the process, rather than a beginning-to-end mastery of an image.
Depending on your skill level, this simplified program may offer everything you need, though! It comes loaded with a generous array of font options and color matching tools. It also provides business-related tools like a quote generator.
Unfortunately, this software has a one-time purchase price of $900, making it a serious investment! You will probably find this tool more useful if you run a small business. If you screen print as a hobby, the price point may put this design tool out of your reach.
Inkscape is another free, open-source tool that offers vector graphic design tools. It mostly works in SVG or Scalable Vector Graphics format. This program runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux computers, too, making it pretty universal!
To date, this program tends to get more use in small-scale illustrations like clip art and comics. It lacks the complex features necessary for advanced, large-scale illustrations. It also does not offer a color separation tool to translate your design into printable screens.
However, it does have a rapidly growing user base and a robust online community to provide education and support for new users.
This software may give you a solid boost if you’re just starting with vector design, too. You will likely find it much easier to master than an advanced program like Illustrator.
Color Separation Tools
The screenprinting process requires separate screens for every color in an image. This means that you have to separate the colors in your design. You need a tool to simplify this process, whether you create your own design, upload a photo, or even purchase a design pre-made.
7. EZ Screen
EZ Screen offers everything you could need in a color separation tool. It can break down even a complex image into just three or four color layers. It can prep the layers to work on any color of the material, preventing bleed through or images that don’t match the fabric beneath.
It also provides advanced options like using halftones and saving your designs in many formats. The only downside to this comprehensive package is that it does cost $795. This is definitely a tool intended for the business person making thousands of screen prints a week!
That said, EZ Screen does offer pretty great customer service and compatibility with any operating system.
Separo works a bit differently as an online tool rather than as downloadable software. This program does basic color separation that could work great for your own designs. But it excels at streamlining quick spot separations.
For example, suppose you run a business where you offer to print custom images onto t-shirts. Separo lets you take a photo of your customer’s 80th birthday, break it down into separate color layers, and then print those layers out quickly.
This on-the-spot cost-effective system saves you from spending a lot of time setting up one image. This matters a lot when you won’t get the return on investment you do from mass-producing a single design.
You can purchase either a beginner monthly subscription of $49 or a more advanced package with a monthly subscription of $149.
Simpleseps offers color separation for use within another program such as CorelDraw. If you design your own graphics, you may find this add-on super helpful. It provides all of the print setups you need, from adding a white under-base to dealing with halftones.
Of course, you have to use one of the programs compatible with this tool or it won’t be useful to you.
Currently, Simpleseps has reached its 5th edition. The pricing depends on how many computers you plan to use it on, making it a flexible product for the small business owner.
10. Spot Process Separation Software
Spot Process Separation Software is designed specifically for screen printing! This software lets you separate an image into up to 16 different color layers. You can also select from a wide range of under-base colors, save every individual color layer, and print preview at every step along the way.
This program works with both Windows and Mac, though it doesn’t currently offer a mobile version. Plus, it has more affordable pricing than some of the big-name products out there! You can purchase the basic version for just $199 a year.
T-Seps is a plug-in you can use within Adobe Illustrator to make color separating your Illustrator graphics much easier. This tool gives you every feature you could possibly need to prep an image for printing. For example, it can break an image into the CMYK layers or prep it as white monochrome.
The downside to this program is that you won’t find it useful if you don’t work in Adobe Illustrator. Plus, you may have to constantly update to make sure the plug-in fits with the current version of Adobe.
This program does offer a free trial, but after that, the lowest pricing starts at $199.
Quikseps offers beginner-friendly tools and a usable interface. Plus, it provides an affordable way to quickly set up color separation for a print. This program lets you use greyscale, create CMYK layers and custom distress images, among many other options.
That said, Quikseps is not the newest program on the market. You may find its interface a little clunky and not as mod-looking as a newer tool.
Qiuikseps works on both Mac and Windows and has a starting price of $149.
Ultraseps is a plug-in for use with Adobe Photoshop. It offers the cutting edge of screen printing color separation software.
This feature-rich program goes way beyond simply breaking an image into four different color layers. You can use it to create flesh tones, simulated mock-ups of your designs, and apply eight different types of color separation.
Of course, the downside here is that you will only find this tool useful if you use Photoshop. Plus, you have to re-purchase the newest version every time an update comes out.
In terms of pricing, this Photoshop plug-in costs $499. The company does run frequent sales and discounts that could lower this significantly, though.
An up-and-coming Italian company invented Xeriosep. This program offers spot color separation for screenprinting and digital designs. It focuses on simplifying color separation for really complex images such as photos.
Xeriosep also provides tools for speeding up the printing process.
Though this product has a lot to offer, you may struggle with the language barrier if you need customer support. The English version of the website also presents some challenges. That said, this product may rise to international acclaim in the coming years, based on its great track record so far!
You do have to contact the company to get pricing info on the latest version of this product, though.
This fairly simple plug-in for Adobe Photoshop takes an RGB file and breaks it down into detailed color layers. It also offers a sophisticated grayscale using multiple shades of black.
This tool doesn’t offer many different features. But it does supply a variety of under-base options to make printing on different colors of t-shirts easier.
This product has more of a made-from-scratch vibe than a professional design. The company website operates off WordPress, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know! That said, the program can get you where you need to go if you just need a simple add-on to Adobe Photoshop.
You can purchase different versions for $85 or $105.
Screenprinting Software for Windows
All of the screenprinting software in this article is compatible with Windows. This includes vector design programs like CorelDraw and color separation tools like EZ Screen. These days, nearly all screenprint software programs work with both Windows and Mac.
Some of the older programs that used to run on only one operating system have been updated in newer versions to make them more compatible.
Of course, some companies now offer mobile-friendly versions or software you can set up on an iPad! You may find an app more useful than a comprehensive software package for Windows. Of course, this depends on the size of your business and the complexity of your screen print designs.
Screenprinting Software Free Download
Some of the most popular free software for screenprinting include GIMP, Inkscape, and Fatpaint. You can also find free versions or limited-time free trials of paid software quite often. This can allow you to try out and compare multiple different programs before deciding which one works best for you.
You already know that GIMP operates on open-source code that makes it free and accessible for everyone. It has pretty advanced capabilities and offers practically endless add-ons and plug-ins. Of course, the downside of this program is that you may find it a bit cumbersome to navigate due to its constantly evolving nature.
Inskcape is another open-source vector design tool, but it also offers color selector tools, among many other features. Inscape offers powerful image manipulation and does a bit better at vector graphic design than GIMP. On the other hand, GIMP outshines Inkscape when it comes to photo manipulation.
Fatpaint operates as a free online tool for manipulating images. It lacks the comprehensive vector design tools of Inkscape, but it does offer a streamlined process for prepping an image for print. Plus, of course, it’s free!
What Software Do Print Shops Use?
Large-scale businesses often use print management software to run their print shops. This means they need graphic design software, color separation tools, and also business management software!
These business-focused tools let shops process customer orders and issue pricing quotes. For example, products like Printavo and Print Shop Manager offer online store design and sales tracking features.
Some programs combine the business side of things with printing tools. You can sometimes find software that combines color separation tools and office management tools. This gives you a sort of one-size-fits-all approach to screen printing software.
Most of the time, though, large-scale businesses use specific business management software.
If you run an Etsy shop selling a dozen screenprints a week, you may find it more beneficial to focus on mastering graphic design software. Business management tools often cost a bundle. You may find it more useful to focus on creating high-quality prints for your artwork or small business.
Screenprint software provides either vector design tools or color separation. Color separation tools often come as plug-ins or add-ons for other design programs as well. Some screenprint products offer a comprehensive package that includes both of these features.
Screenprint software like Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw is both feature-rich and expensive. That said, you can find open-source programs such as GIMP and Inkscape for free. You can also demo free trials of most screenprint software to find out if you like it.
Have you used screenprint software before? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below to let us know!