Important Garment Printing Details You Need to Know:
We are prepared to deliver the best custom printed t-shirts and apparel in the business, but there are some aspects of screen printing that require more attention and are more challenging from a production standpoint. The information below is to set expectations appropriately and offer clarity when it comes to printing on certain products, certain placements, and certain styles of artwork. Here are some unique factors to consider.
Printing Over Seams and Zippers
We are capable of printing over seams and zippers, but there are risks involved. These placements require extra preparation and time, therefore require an extended turn-around time that could range between 2-3 weeks depending on the specifics of your order.
The main risks involved are the ink bunching along the seam/zipper and possible inconsistencies when comparing the order piece by piece. Screen print boards are hard surfaces. When pushing the ink through the screen with a squeegee, a seam or a zipper results in an uneven print surface. The only way to combat this is to create a custom jig that will create a trench for the entirety of the seam or zipper. This will require precision and unique alignment for each and every garment as it’s placed upon a board before the screen print can take place. Not every garment is the same so perfect uniformity for every print cannot be guaranteed. In addition, pushing ink over a seam/zipper can cause the ink to bunch in those areas. Having a completely even print to the eye/touch is unrealistic with these placements.
The Challenge with Ribbed Shirts
Ribbed shirts and tanks are a traditional option for customers that desire a stretchy, yet form fitting garment. Although common, the ribbed fabric causes a challenge when screen printing. The ink used in screen printing is called plastisol, which is a thick plastic based ink that sits on top of the fabric it’s printed on. It does not absorb into the fibers of the material. After a product gets printed, the ink must be cured (dried) under heat and is run through an extremely hot dryer. By the time the shirt is out of the dryer, the plastisol ink is completely dry. If extra steps aren’t taken when printing on/curing the uneven ribbed fabric, the design could crack when worn.
Upon stretching the garment to wear it, the ribbed material will stretch and naturally, the ink particles could separate and expose material that was not saturated with ink. This would give the design a cracked appearance, which would not be visually pleasant. To combat the ribbed fabric’s stretchy properties, prior to printing we mix a stretch additive to the plastisol that changes the character of the plastic ink. This additive is our best option to add elasticity to the plastic based ink so that the ink will not crack when the ribbed fabric is worn.
Mixing the stretch additive is not an exact science. It takes some trial and error combined with our production team’s expertise. We are hopeful that we are successful, but there is a risk that a design will crack when printed on ribbed material. It’s something we feel is necessary for customers to understand to help in the decision-making process when determining the best product for their order. There is an extra expense involved to use this additive, but it’s something we typically absorb. We love our customers and want to do what is right.
Printing on Customer Supplied Garments
We understand you love your shirts; we share your passion for the perfect garment. Although we aspire at all times to be the best custom t-shirt printers in the industry, we’re only human and sometimes we make mistakes. We also understand that there is a difference between retail products and the products we print on. We strongly encourage customers to either use the products we display on our website or allow us to custom quote you on other products we can obtain through vendors we have a long-standing relationship with. If we experience a misprint or a rabid wolverine somehow rampages through our warehouse, we can easily replace the garment and successfully complete your order.
We may agree to print on your customer supplied garments, but the arrangement and expectations would be different. Before we accept the order, our team must inspect the product. Certain fabrics, such as open-hole mesh, 100% polyester in high risk colors (such as red or maroon), etc, will most likely be turned down. The risk would not be worth what we charge.
If we agree to accept your product, we do require a waiver to be signed releasing us from liability if something were to go wrong. Your product, your responsibility. It’s that simple. This is not due to a lack of confidence in our abilities. It’s simply because we don’t want to be responsible for your $200 limited edition soccer jersey. There is always the “unknown” factor when printing on unfamiliar products. For example, there could be gases in the material that get released when ran through our dryer that cause the ink color to change/look dingy. On 100% polyester fabric, there is the risk of dye migration. The dye in your red fabric could cause white ink to turn pink. The dye in navy fabric could cause yellow ink to turn green. The fabric may not like the flashes we use to cure the ink and could burn. Or something as simple as the fabric snagging could happen. We would have no way of predicting the unknown. We can give an assessment of your product, but no guarantee.
There is a difference between the products we offer and retail products. A product you purchase from a store is likely not intended for embellishment. The products we offer are specifically manufactured for the purpose of being printed on. We can guarantee the products we offer and will assume full responsibility if the product was misprinted or damaged. If you supply your own products, we cannot offer this same guarantee.
It’s in the Details
We appreciate custom artwork and its ability to promote awareness, events, businesses, self-expression and everything in-between. We have seen countless customer designs that are intricate and feature a lot of detail. When these designs come through, we evaluate the quality of the artwork and do our best to appropriately setup the design for production with the goal in mind to exceed customer expectations. We carefully weigh the level of detail/number of ink colors with how we size the artwork, choose what type of screen mesh to use, and decide the amount of pressure to apply when printing.
There are some types of garments that produce less than desirable results with complex designs. If you have a complex design, you may want to consider an alternative product or simplify your artwork for optimal results. If there is a specific product on your must have list, contact us to get our professional input prior to placing an order. We can have our team evaluate your artwork to help you weigh the pros and cons when printing on the following items:
- open mesh jerseys
- bags of any kind
- burnout tees
- pique polos
- ribbed garments
- canvas materials
The Perils of Performance Wear
By “performance wear” we mean fabrics that are 100% polyester or blends that include a percentage of polyester. In the description for these products, key terms such as “dri-fit, dry zone, mesh, cool dri, and performance” are commonly used. We custom print on a lot of performance wear products. When printing on performance wear, there are a variety factors to consider that will impact the final look of the print. Performance wear is typically made from non-natural fibers like polyester or polyester blends. Since polyester is a synthetic fiber, it does not feature the texture of a material like cotton. This makes the fabric tougher to dye. If not dyed properly, the fabric could create problems when printed on. We do our best to combat this with the inks we use for printing and the temperature used when curing the ink.
With synthetic materials, another common issue is dye migration. Migration of the garment ink color into the plastic based ink will cause the ink color to change colors. An example would be white ink on red performance wear could turn pink. We use low bleed inks to minimize this less-than desirable outcome, but low-bleed inks are not no-bleed inks. With this in mind, we may need to work collaboratively to provide a solution that will both fit your fashionable vision and the realities of screen printing on these notoriously problematic products.
This Shirt Fits Different than My Other Shirt from the Same Brand
We have quality control workers here that inspect each garment as it’s printed. While we do our best to catch irregularities before the garments are delivered to you, sometimes a hole or odd seam is missed. If you should find some defect in your garment, contact us and we’ll work with you to replace the item or issue a refund. However, since each garment is manufactured in countries across the world, we cannot guarantee each and every garment will fit exactly the same. Manufacturers of the products we offer allow what they call a “tolerance” during their quality control inspection. When their quality control team inspects each product, they compare measurements of the product to the measurements listed on their spec sheet. If the length/width is within their “tolerance” then that product will pass inspection. The specs listed on our size charts are not necessarily a 100% certainty. The width and height can be within one inch longer/shorter/wider than the specs listed and that is considered acceptable. The human element in the garment industry is quite astounding. If you want to know more, please watch this fascinating series developed by NPR.
What is this Residue?
In both digital and screen printing, at times you will find a residue from either a treatment or fixative. When screen printing, depending on the material of the garment, we will need to use a fixative on our screen boards to make sure your garment does not move/shift during production. This ensures that each pass of ink will align perfectly with the design. Typically, no residue remains.
During a digital print on darker fabrics, we need to spray a pretreatment onto the shirt that will allow us to lay down a base of white ink prior to printing your design. The pretreatment allows the base and printed design to adhere properly to the dark fabric and allow us to achieve optimal results during this direct-to-garment print method. What can sometimes confuse customers is that the pretreatment lies on the surface of the fabric rather than soaking in. Certain fabric colors, such as orange, cause the pretreatment to be more noticeable, but it is something that will wash out. From a professional standpoint, we understand that the pretreatment is necessary to make the colors in a design remain as vibrant as possible on a dark shirt as they would be on a lighter shirt.
The pretreatment will sometimes appear as a shiny halo around the design. We recommend to all customers that the garment be washed inside out, in cold water prior to wearing. Any residues from the print process will disappear after the first wash.
Tags: dtg, direct-to-garment, production, stain, printing, products, fabric, material, dri fit, dri-fit, performance, dry fit, polyester, blended, seams, totes, bags, backpacks, dye migration, changed color, design, artwork, outcome