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An Underbase with a Punch

(September 2006) posted on Mon Sep 18, 2006

Explore how creative uses of underbases can produce some knockout designs.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Thomas Trimingham

The final printing order was light gray, puff white, flash, dark gray, metallic silver gel, flash, black, and highlight white. Flash dwell time is a crucial consideration that you must address at the printing stage. This effect would have failed on press and looked horrible had the flash cure caused the puff ink to expand on the press. Such a reaction would not have produced a smooth surface on which the following colors would sit. I set the flash cure to just gel the puff ink enough for other colors to be printed on top of it. The puffing process had to wait to occur until the shirt was running through the dryer.

You should include experiments with flash temperatures during the testing process. Make sure the flash isn't too hot. I found it better to flash slower and print less per hour than wreck shirts. You won't know the shirts are ruined until they exit the dryer. You'll know something is wrong when the prints look rough and distorted. In this case, the ink puffed under the flash unit, which led to crooked and misregistered overprints with subsequent colors on the raised ink.

Curing time is the final issue to address. Puff underbases can take significantly longer in a dryer tunnel to fully activate because the top colors tend to block some of the heat and gas that the puff ink releases as it builds height. I found 45-60 sec in the dryer to be enough for a maximum puff effect on the print pictured in this article. Overcuring a print like this one would make it brittle, compromise its washfastness, or melt it back down and reduce some of its height.

Some other ideas for puff underbases

You can use this effect in any number of ways. Some examples I've seen include simulated welds (as in the example here), simulated beads, feathers, belt buckles (printed to look like they were on the shirt), snakeskin patterns, fish scales, topographical maps, portraits, cartoons, sports ball textures, and many more.

The best way to approach this printing method in your shop is to first test it with some ideas that you can confidently show people. Then you can sell it as an extra-cost option to recoup the added time you'll spend setting up and to compensate for slower printing speeds that can otherwise eat into your profit margin. This effect usually enjoys a great customer response and can really be a best seller when someone runs a hand across the graphic, feels the image, and sees it jumping off of the shirt.


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