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How to create printed holographic acrylic charms using Illustrator

Posted on October 11 2019

How to create printed holographic acrylic charms using Illustrator

This tutorial contains everything you need to know about creating your own, printed holographic acrylic charms.

Remember that we also provide free artwork set up if you would prefer us to set up your designs so that they are ready to be transformed into finished charms.

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 1" (25.4mm) 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 7 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
Artwork placed on this layer will form the 'front' or 'side A' of your finished charm design.

Side A will contain your chosen holographic effect.

PLEASE DO NOT FLIP / MIRROR THE ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER.

Confused? Click >> here << to download our example charm.

'Artwork B' Layer
We print your designs in reverse onto the clear acrylic, before adding a layer of white ink and finally, your 'artwork A' artwork. When you turn your printed charm over and view it through the 'back' or 'side B' of the acrylic, your design will appear the correct way around.

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

Confused? Click >> here << to download our example charm.


'White' Layer
Adding a base layer of white to your charms will make your colours crisper and more vivid. Any printed areas without a white base layer will appear transparent.

'Cut Area’ Layer
Use this layer to show us where you would like 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 2mm between your artwork and your cut line. 

Failure to leave a 2mm 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 6a for more info.
 

'Hole Template' Layer
Drag and drop the hole template 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 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 dark red inner circle represents the hole within the loop.

3. Importing your designs

Select the 'Artwork A' or 'Artwork B' layer and draw your designs directly onto these layers or, copy (CTRL+C) and paste (CTRL+V) previously saved artwork. 

'Artwork A'
Create or paste the artwork that you would like to appear on the 'front' of your charm here. DO NOT FLIP THIS LAYER.


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' or 'side B' of your charms. ALL ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER SHOULD BE FLIPPED 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 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 coloured & white ink

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 coloured or white ink from showing 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 can be invisible to the eye but get picked up by our printers, which print ALL pixels on your artwork and white layers, no matter how low their opacity, as 100%. This can cause unwanted areas of coloured and white ink showing 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 artwork or white layers, 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. 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 2mm wider than your artwork. 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 2mm border will prevent this from happening.

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 2mm. 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 cut line as an outline. This will allow you to check for any unwanted paths. Once you're happy, hit CTRL+Y to go back to your normal view.

6b. Adding a hole

Drag and drop the hole template 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.

6c. Adding a loop

If you would like a loop instead of a hole drag and drop the loop template into position on your design.



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

7. 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.
  • Artwork on your 'Artwork A' layer has NOT been flipped.
  • Artwork on your 'Artwork B' layer HAS been flipped.
  • Your white base layer is 100% Cyan and located on the 'White' Layer (Step 5a.)
  • You have checked for unwanted elements using the steps at 5b.
  • The hole and loop layers have NOT been grouped or merged with the rest of your design.
  • Your border is AT LEAST 2mm thick.
  • All text has been converted to outlines.
  • Your charm template contains 1 charm only. Additional charms will be sent separately.

10. Saving and submitting your designs

There are 3 different ways to save and submit your designs...

1. Submit your artwork immediately

If you have already created your designs, you can send them to us using the 'Upload Artwork' button, located on our product pages or by emailing them to ‘info@zapcreatives.com’.

Please save all Illustrator files in .Ai format. Here’s how…

Name each of your designs appropriately so that we know which designs you are referring to. Your file names should include 1. your name, 2. design number, 3. chosen product and 4. the date that you placed your order through our website. Here’s an example…

Select all of the designs that you would like to submit, right click and choose SEND TO > COMPRESSED (ZIPPED) FOLDER.



This will create a compressed folder containing all of your designs. Rename this folder so that it contains your name and the date that you placed your order on our website. Like this…

Please add all of your designs into one folder. So, if you purchased charms, stickers and pins, for example, just pop them all in the same, compressed folder and upload it using the 'Upload Artwork' button.

2. Submit your artwork later

If you have placed your order via our website but your designs aren’t quite ready yet, that’s ok. You have up to 2 weeks to submit your artwork to us, which allows you to take advantage of any special offers that we’re running. 

To submit your designs later, save them with your name, design number, chosen product and your order number. Then email them to ‘info@zapcreatives.com’. 

Please save all Illustrator files in .Ai format. Here’s how…

3. Placing a re-order

If you have placed an order in the past and would like to re-order those designs that’s great! We store your artwork for a maximum of 6 months, which saves you the hassle of having to resubmit your designs via email.

To place a re-order, simply place your order online, email us with your previous order number(s) and let us know that you are placing a re-order. 

You may only want to order 1 or 2 designs from your previous order(s). To do this simply quote your old file name(s) and let us know how you would like them to be produced and in what quantities. 

Here’s how to do it… 


Hi Zap!,

I’ve just placed an order #12345 on your website and would like to re-order the following designs from a previous order #12121. Please can I have…

10x [YOURNAME]-DESIGN1-HOLOCHARM-12121
20x [YOURNAME]-DESIGN2-WALNUTKEYRING-12121
10x [YOURNAME]-DESIGN3-ACRYLICPIN-12121

Thanks!

[YOUR NAME] 


If you have any questions about this tutorial or any other aspects of our website and manufacturing processes, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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