Graphic Elephants mixes effects to create one-of-a-kind shirt.
Lon Winters believes there are two truths in this industry:
1. Garbage in, garbage out.
2. If you control the screen, you control the process.
The president of the Graphic Elephants screen printing studio and Print This industry consulting firm has developed a reputation for high-end, specialty applications after a couple of decades in the business, but he’ll tell anyone that even the most complex jobs are all about the basics.
“Once you control the process, then you can start to manipulate,” he says, “so that’s what we do: take pieces within the process and start manipulating them to get a varied result with the different thicknesses and ink deposits, glitter applications, and foils.”
This 14-step print flaunted expertise in all of the above with an over-the-top design for last year’s SGIA Expo in Las Vegas. The Graphic Elephants team took Vinny, a company character whose face has been printed thousands of times over the past decade at exhibitions across the country, and dressed him up as – “for lack of a better term – dead Elvis.”
Christened “Viva Las Vegas,” the shirt features glitter ink, foil, and high-density ink. Perhaps the most unique element is a final layer of gel, which Winters calls “high-density clear.” It gives Elvis’s glasses a sheen effect, as if he were really looking at Vegas in all its bright-light glory. The image beneath the gel is run at 65 lpi for exceptional detail; then a 400-micron stencil is used to print the thick layer of clear. The same screen and super sticky ink is used to lay down an adhesive for the foil effects on the red buttons, gold rings, and more.
Of course “Viva Las Vegas” isn’t a shirt most people would wear – or be willing to pay for. But Winters says combinations of two or three of these effects at a time isn’t an atypical job for them.
“It’s not good enough anymore to offer straightforward processes,” he adds. “We could show a potential customer the difference between our one-color and the competition’s one-color, and if we split hairs, ours is better. The problem is, we’re splitting hairs, and the customer doesn’t see that much difference. In certain applications, maybe you get away without a fully exposed stencil or a properly tensioned screen.”
With specialty shirts, however, it’s a necessity to be a master of the basics: “Once you reign in a lot of those pieces and control as much as you can, then ultimately the reason to offer other things is so that you can separate yourself from the thick of the pack.”
Stencil: Ulano LX-680, QTX, and CDF 400 and 800 capillary film
Frame: Newman Roller Frames
Garment: Fruit of the Loom
Inks: Wilflex Epic
Press: 14-station M&R Gauntlet III
Dryer: M&R Fusion
Flash: M&R Red Chili DX
Mesh: Newman Roller, Murakami Screen, Shur-Loc Fabric Panels
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