User login

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.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Thomas Trimingham

Will the same artwork and separations work on different fabrics?
As many times as this question is asked, the answer ends up sounding similar: It depends on the art and the fabric. The common sense approach is a good place to start. If the fabric is rough, the artwork should be rough or less critical in location, style, or composition. This also applies when the artwork is printed over a seam or off of the edge of the garment. Fabric that is all polyester tends to print satisfactorily, but it may bleed upon exposure to excess heat. Printers should consider simplifying the artwork in number of colors so flashing is not required. Separations should work with similar fabrics as long as the garments have the same background value (separations that are made for a dark background may not work on a light one) and as long as the cotton content doesn’t vary too much (this may require a stronger underbase depending on the sublimation of the shirt dye through the top colors).

The biggest concern for a separator when different fabrics are thrown into the equation is what type of effect—if any—different surfaces will have on the color combinations on press. A pleasant surprise is possible from time to time, but it is always better to know beforehand. Get a sample, and test it before agreeing to print. Knowing in advance that artwork will be printed on a variety of fabrics gives printers a chance to look at each type of fabric and try to find a middle ground that will work on everything or bite the bullet, call the client, and offer some workaround to do a separate process. It is far smarter to force the issue beforehand and persuade the client to accept a different print type or process than to attempt it and fail with expensive items on press.

Garments such as performance fabrics, specialty bags, and golf shirts end up a clear question of value vs. liability. What this means is that a printer always has to consider the value of the item—and its potential replacement should the print fail—in relation to the amount they earn in the printing process. It is not a good to put a $1.50 print on a $150.00 Nike jacket. There is just too much liability in it vs. the gain the printer gets out of it. One of the reasons that heat pressing and embroidery are better options is that there is less likelihood of scrap.

Price drops confuse print shops
The practice of clients going on last-minute shopping trips and then trying to add the items they pick up to their order is becoming increasingly common. Many retailers often slash prices to the point that the garments a client can sometimes get are priced far lower than the blanks the printer provides. Then the discussion becomes one that’s focused on how no one knows whether the garment will print as expected and how the printed graphics or garment fabrics may change as they travel through the dryer. The growing number of strange garments that are brought in to be decorated means printers must inform their clients that supplied garment might not be receptive to printing and that no guarantee can be given on customer-supplied.

Printing on a wide variety of fabrics is more popular than ever, and it is likely that customers will continue to complicate there orders for the foreseeable future. To stay ahead of the curve, a printer needs to be proactive with sampling and testing and keep clear records of what worked and what didn’t to prepare for the next time a couple of bags are thrown in to an otherwise simple garment job.


Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.