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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.


click an image below to view slideshow

By Lon Winters

As we know, colored metallics, shimmers, and glitters have been around for a while and can be executed in any number of ways. Using a receding base that fades into the garment during the curing process, we’re able to get a hand-sprinkled appearance that leaves the glitter on the surface. We sometimes suspend a low percentage of the flakes into a clear and overprint that onto other colors. Ink manufacturers have taken silver and gold to a new level with products that look like liquid precious metals, more convincing and durable than ever.

Flock, foil, and other inline transfer applications remain popular in some fashion brands. While the equipment can be expensive, these applications can also be overprinted to achieve a variety of new effects.

Good Artwork Is Key
Remember, it’s a “garbage in, garbage out” business. Every successful garment embellishment begins with the art. The designer must become familiar with the processes and should also have a grasp of their variables and limitations. Taking these into consideration at the design stage will result in artwork that is finely tuned to each technique’s characteristics and capabilities. This makes the final print more precise and easier to run in production. 



When we’re planning for a specialty application, we try to design the special effects as fairly basic elements within the image. Shadows or highlights are a good place to start. We avoid fine detail and identify any limitations that may be imposed by the application. We keep in mind that the inks may move or change shape. For example, we know puff grows in multiple directions in the dryer, so we allow space for this to avoid smearing. Using chokes, spreads, gutters, and traps can be a big part of successfully executing many of these effects on press. A skilled designer and separator will create room for special effects in the print sequence as well by using fewer heads to achieve the desired result.


The cat’s fur was printed with puff ink; the eye was done with simulated process overprinted with a clear gloss.


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