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Establishing Rules for Underbase Printing

(July 2015) posted on Tue Jul 21, 2015

A poorly printed underbase will produce washed-out prints or garments too heavy to wear. Find out how to establish procedures that will lead to a quality product, every time.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Deciding whether or not to use an underbase for a color can be complicated, involving a lot of factors that will affect the final print. Many printers throw in the towel and just underbase everything in the design. Of course, this makes the shirt feel as though a big plate of ink is sitting on top of it, and it also tends to make all of the top colors that are not flashed immediately begin to bleed outside of their image area. Then, when customers complain about these “bulletproof” prints, some printers overcompensate and underbase very little in an image, perhaps only specific colors such as bright red, yellow, or blue. This will cause the design to look dull and washed out on a dark shirt and can create unpredictable color shifts if you’ll be printing several shirt colors with the same image.

Neither of these quick fixes solves the problem, and both can lead to a lot of spoilage and even orders that your customer refuses to accept. So, what is the right way to produce a good underbase and get consistent results time after time?

The best practice is to develop some simple rules about when colors should or shouldn’t be underbased that are specific to your shop. It requires analyzing your process, developing underbase guidelines, and then doing quality checks of prints coming off the press to be sure the standards are working. The first steps are often the hardest because they require that everyone in your company remain objective, something that can push a lot of people out of their comfort zones.

Analyze Your Process
In a lot of screen printing shops, one person always makes the call as to what should and shouldn’t be underbased in an image. The judgment is often arbitrary based on the experience and background of the person making the decision. What happens when that person is on vacation or leaves? It’s better for everyone to understand the process of making a good underbase and the primary factors that dictate what the best choice will be.


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