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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

All poly garments present a challenge when it comes to holding shape over a multicolor print, and they can also be difficult to work with when flashing is needed because the fabric likes to expand and contract. A loose mesh garment, like pique polo, isn’t the best choice for highly detailed prints, and a garment engineered with a lot of Lycra may not be able to go through the dryer without melting (some compression garments are better heat pressed than printed). A good rule is to acquire a sample prior to guaranteeing a quality print, test for heat sensitivity, and review the fabric’s surface for print and art concerns.

Miscellaneous garments
I have seen more than a few printers get hung up when printing a shirt order and then trying to run the same design on just a few draw-string bags, only to find out that the bags are made of purple nylon. Nylon is very tricky to print and requires a hold-down frame to prevent it from peeling off of the platen. In addition, a special resin has to be added to the ink to produce a durable, washfast print. Nylon fabric is an extra challenge, regardless of which type of apparel is made of the material. The best bet on just a few items is to really simplify the art and produce a separate print (Figure 3).



Other garments worth mentioning are a tricot style warm-up jacket and some of the eco-friendly fabrics, such as hemp or bamboo. These all can print very well, but printers must take extra caution and acquire and test samples to guarantee they will remain washfast and not melt, shrink, or burn. Additional concerns to consider whenever an item is not a T-shirt is fitting it onto the press and working around straps, zippers, seams, or other areas that can cause a problem.


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