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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

Then, of course, we have customers who don’t want to feel any texture at all, the reason that water-based inks on light garments and discharge printing on darks remain popular. The techniques and inks have been reinvented over and over. Some high-solids acrylic (HSA) or opaque water-based inks can work well on cotton, most polyester, and blends. These inks are commonly used with blockers on polyester fabrics to minimize the potential for dye migration and bleeding. HSA and hybrid polyurethane versions allow us to print water-based ink through higher mesh counts and achieve a superior level of detail. We can even use these and discharge inks thinned in spray bottles or electric sprayers for garment treatments, or combine them with textured inks and add some sequins, rhinestones, nail heads, or even foil for a very hip presentation. The combinations are endless.


A black base topped with multiple distressed foil applications overprinted with an HD clear.

Recently, we’ve been working with the latest wet-on-wet water-based ink technology. This is a very exciting development because HSA inks typically require many more flashes and print stations. We’ve used wet-on-wet inks to produce four-color process and simulated process separations with five to ten colors, printed wet on wet with minimal flashing.



Other non-PVC solutions include “acrysols,” inks that behave much like a plastisol on press. A variety of textures are available in this category. Silicone inks, which are also PVC free, allow for some great applications, particularly on polyester compression fabrics because of their low curing temperatures and elastic characteristics. We use thickeners to stack some nice HD effects, and the gels are truly clear and ultra shiny. We’ve used them to develop some great doming effects.

Some techniques such as reflective and glow-in-the-dark inks have reemerged better than ever over the last few years. You don’t have to live with that nasty green glow or dingy gray reflective any more. Photo-chromatic and thermo-chromatic inks that respond to light or temperature have come back around as well. Remember scratch and sniff? Think of a Hershey’s Kiss logo that smells like chocolate. Countless such scents are available today.


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