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Special Effects: Taking Your Shop to the Next Level

(February/March 2018) posted on Tue Apr 10, 2018

By mastering the ever-expanding range of special effects that can be achieved on apparel today, you can take your relationship with clients to an entirely new level.

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By Lon Winters

There has always been a certain air of mystery in the industry about special effects. Much of what I try to teach (or sell, as the case may be) is taking the perceived complexity out of this work. The reality is that printers with a reasonable grasp of the basics can tackle many specialty printing applications. The fundamentals of screen printing are the foundation. Even advanced techniques are all about doing the basics really well. Sure, a number of techniques are difficult and only the very best printers tackle them, but other popular processes are fairly simple and can be printed using basic materials.

Thirty years ago, most printers might have only been able to offer puff, metallic, or basic water-based prints. Today’s equipment and materials are far superior, with countless specialty inks, meshes, and stencil systems that require only the mastery of basic techniques. But it’s your responsibility to push past what these products were designed for, keeping in mind the qualities that attract your customers – things like texture, dimension, touch, and feel.

Explore just some of the ways specialty printing can make your shop stand out.

A World of Possibilities
Special-effect techniques are continually being reinvented with a new spin to keep pace with fashion. Texture, for example, goes in and out of style – or the lack of texture in the case of discharge and burnout printing (in which cotton is chemically removed in a post washing). Both looks happen to be popular right now. Products like high-density (HD) ink, multiple types of gels and clears, and even the familiar puff inks all add interesting textures. “Sugar” and glitter inks are in demand. Combine these options and you can get some amazingly realistic effects. In my shop, we like to say, “If we can make it look and feel like something it ain’t, it always works.” Classic suede and leather as well as cracked ink treatments mimicking the texture of rocks, sand, or even animal skin all make the customer want to touch and feel the embellishment.


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