Posted on October 09 2023
This tutorial contains everything you need to know about creating your own, festive tree decoration using Adobe Illustrator.
1. Download our templates
To start submitting your festive tree decoration designs you’ll need to download our design template.
Download our Illustrator template >> here <<
Our 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
We print your designs in reverse onto the 'back' of our clear acrylic, before adding a layer of white ink. When you turn your printed decoration over and view it through the front of the acrylic, your design appears the correct way around.
ALL ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER SHOULD BE FLIPPED SO THAT IT IS A MIRROR IMAGE OF ITSELF.
'Artwork B' Layer
We print the 'Artwork B' layer directly on top of the 'Artwork A' layer to create a double sided tree decoration.
DO NOT FLIP/MIRROR THE ARTWORK ON THIS LAYER.
Adding a base layer of white to your designs will make your colours crisper and more vivid. Any printed areas without a white base layer will appear transparent.
'Gloss Varnish' Layer
If you would like your decorations to have a gloss finish (double sided designs only) as opposed to a matte finish, you can use this layer to show us where you would like the your areas of gloss to be placed.
‘Cut Area’ Layer
Use this layer to show us where you would like your decorations 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 products. It is therefore ESSENTIAL that you create a border of AT LEAST 1mm between your artwork and your cutline.
Failure to leave a 1mm border on your acrylic products can result in damage and lifting along the printed edge of your designs 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 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.
Create or paste the artwork that you would like to appear on the 'front' of your decoration here. Once you are happy with your design FLIP IT so that it is a mirror image of itself.
We print your B-Side ('back') design directly on top of the A-Side ('front') design to create an awesome looking double sided design.
Group all elements of your Artwork A layer together using the CTRL+G command.
This is where you will create or paste the artwork that you would like to appear on the 'back' of your decorations, 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 product.
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 decorations 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 designs 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 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 ink, white & varnish
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 designs...
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 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 designs.
A simple way to check your artwork (in Photoshop) for low opacity pixels is to click on your artwork layers, 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.
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 option 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.
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. 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.
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 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.
7b. Adding a hole
Add a hole to your design, for some festive thread. 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 products.
7c. Adding a loop
Add a loop to your design, for some festive thread. - 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 designs.
8. Visual Guide
Here's a quick exploded view of our clear acrylic charms, showing how each layer sits together to make your custom designs. You can view the full visual set up guide here.
9. Submission checklist
Congratulations, you've finished creating your custom tree decorations. 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.)
- 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 1mmthick.
- All text has been converted to outlines.
- Your template contains 1 design only. Additional designs 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 ‘email@example.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 ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
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…
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…
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.