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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

Control Begins with the Screen
It’s true with every type of screen printing: If you control the screen, then (and only then) do you begin to control the process. Advancements in stencil systems and meshes have raised the bar considerably on what can be achieved with screen printing. Many special-effect inks are quite thick (or thixotropic) and more difficult to get through the mesh than standard inks. Some water-based inks can dry in the mesh. Using a mesh with sufficient open area and reaching an adequate tension level (at least 30 N/cm2 on standard mesh counts) allows the ink to transfer to the substrate.

Most specialty inks require a low mesh count. We generally use mesh counts of 110 (threads per inch) or below. Large glitters and beads need mesh counts as low as 13 to 24. At the other end of the spectrum, mesh manufacturers have realized that garment printers can also take advantage of the thin-thread mesh technology developed for other markets. At a reasonably high tension of 25 to 30 N/cm2, the smaller thread really helps increase the open area of the screen. With thicker specialty inks, 80/70 (80 threads per inch with a 70-micron thread diameter) can be the most effective mesh count. The 80/55 mesh is useful because the smaller thread diameter allows ink to more easily pass through the stencil, but it can be very fragile. Water-based inks work nicely with thinner meshes, including 150/48 and 225/40. With meshes ranging from 305/30 to 350/30, we can even run water-based simulated process halftones as fine as 85 lines per inch.




The skeleton’s eye and hat detail feature an HD clear with a bronze ink sandwiched in the layers.


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