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Special Effects on Automatic Presses

(August 2009) posted on Fri Aug 07, 2009

Tips for Cutting-Edge Garment Graphics in High Volume

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Printed samples give us a chance to present our best work to customers and potential buyers. We get to show off unique designs and fresh ideas that add value to the apparel. Many garment screen printers reach for special-effects inks to make their original concepts reality. But now even the smallest shops with limited resources have arsenals of tools that enable them to add an extra feel or look to a T-shirt. Simply adding blowing agent to an ink gives it height and texture. A kiss of foil transforms a flat, one-color graphic into a vintage design. But what happens when we hook the customers with our samples and end up with orders that we can only fill by bringing the job to automatic presses?

In the past, designs asking for special effects often translated into a machine in production running very slowly, beset with problems and with low volume. Hardly worth setting up. These days, however, long production runs that incorporate special-effects inks and require a degree of technical skill are not only possible and cost effective, but also fairly common. This article presents some of the considerations to take into account when moving special-effects printing to high-volume production.

Good artwork is a key factor in successfully transferring special-effects garment printing to automatic presses. The designer must become familiar with the inks and printing process and develop a basic understanding of press configuration and the use of flashing units. The artist should also have a solid grasp of the variables where line weight and dot size are concerned, especially in instances that require the use of certain bases or inks that contain flakes or particles or need a heavy deposit.

Garment screen printing is a relatively low-resolution process, especially when we move into special-effects printing. Inks that contain metallic flakes, for example, need a larger screen-mesh opening in order to pass through without clogging. This, in turn, limits us to lower mesh counts and, as a result, limits the size of the dot or the line weight that we can use in our artwork. High-density ink is another example. The type of screen used to print high-density ink typically has a low mesh count and uses capillary film in thicknesses ranging from 200-400 microns. This again limits the dot size and line weight that we can use in the artwork.


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