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Making Art Friendly for Unfriendly Surfaces

(June 2010) posted on Mon May 24, 2010

This article addresses the challenges of artwork on some of today’s garments that are stretchy, thin, textured, or printed in difficult locations.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Issue: The garment’s surface texture is very rough or open like a mesh weave.
Solution: With any rough weave or loose, open mesh, it is always best to simplify the artwork for easier printing. Doing so also prevents the print from looking messy or incomplete (Figure 1). Any halftones should be eliminated or drastically simplified, and the typography should be kept to a minimum height that will still be legible. Keep artwork to minimal amounts of colors (one or two) whenever possible to decrease the chance of bleeding or having the material moving or contracting when flash cured between colors. Another useful option is to increase the print’s ink volume by decreasing detail in the printed image and keeping line weights larger. You can then use a lower mesh count for your stencil, thereby filling in any inconsistencies and rough areas. The downside to this option is that the curing time may be longer and the print will feel heavier on the garment. This solution is very common for athletic identification and numbering.

Issue: The garment is a dark hue or a bright primary color and made out of mostly polyester or synthetic materials, which can cause the shirt dye to sublimate and then discolor the ink after it is cured.
Solution: This issue is a difficult one to eliminate completely because one of the largest factors is out of your control. The amount of excess dye in a garment and how well it is set into the fibers is not something that a printer can always predict. If you lack experience with a certain garment, then it is prudent to use bleed-resistant ink that’s made for polyester garments.


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