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Screen Printing on a Variety of Garment Fabrics

(February 2011) posted on Tue Feb 08, 2011

Use these tips to bring an end to your fabric frustrations.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Even the most experienced screen printers cringe when clients decide to throw different garment types into an existing order. The situation brings up all kinds of questions: Will the ink adhere to each fabric? Can we use the same artwork and separations? Do we need to change press settings? All of these questions are appropriate to ask, because printers often to push through these types of challenges without a lot of extra client interaction in hopes of avoiding the impression that they are difficult to deal with or that they can’t handle a complex job. Still, it is crucial that printers address the variables inherent to working with different types of garments before running the job

The best way to avoid any issues is to first be aware of garment-fabric qualities and print limitations, then review the artwork to determine whether it will present any challenges when printed on particular fabrics. Finally, it is wise to look at the production workflow and check for problems with printing methods, inks, or press settings.

In the best case scenario, the job will run smoothly all the way and the extra garment style will just flow right through with the rest of the order. But there are times when real challenges come with adding a different fabric into the equation. Experienced printers can often shoot from the hip and know what trouble they may encounter with different garment types, but it still pays to do a quick checklist and walk through each question that this scenario brings up.

If the garment addition is another type of T-shirt, the odds are high that it will be OK and the print will run well as long as the fabric type of the T-shirt is the same as the one in the original order. If the original shirt order is 100% cotton, the additions are a dark color, and they are 50% polyester, then it is possible that an art issue may be involved or the garment dye may sublimate into the screen-printing ink (Figure 1). In this case, the artwork should be reviewed and the inks potentially changed to a different formula (non-bleed).


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