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The Value of Standards in Printing Halftone Blends

(June 2009) posted on Fri Jun 12, 2009

Garment designs that feature blends tend to attract more attention than plain decorations. Trimingham explains how to develop standards for applying blends in your printing operation.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Blending one color into another to get a third color should be a simple enough process, right? Sure, yellow and red make orange—but numerous challenges await when it comes to blending these colors as halftones on a screen-printing press. Dot overlap, bleeding, dot gain, and poor coverage are just a few of the issues that can plague an otherwise simple process in a hurry.

To make progress with blending colors, especially on dark shirts, it is a good idea to first cover the basics and then move into some intermediate areas before you can move to the next level. The control over blending colors typically starts with the artwork, then moves into the screens, and then balances finally when the ink is printed onto the garments. Following this linear process forward would seem to make the most sense, but, in reality, the easiest thing to do is to carve through the whole mess backwards by starting with the inks, then taking a serious look at screenmaking, and finalizing the effort by collecting all of the information and funneling it into the artwork creation and separation process.

Doing things backwards is a common way to align the variables in a production process—as long as the controls for the end result can remain consistent. In other words, the press needs to be in good shape and hold registration for the whole refinement to take shape. It makes no sense to try to work backwards from test prints done on an uneven press with dull squeegees, warped screens, and bumped platens. Results will vary too much, depending on the uncontrollable surfaces and pressures presented. Only by dialing everything in will it make sense to work through the process backwards and isolate the necessary elements that can provide a new standard for color-blend printing.


Test your press and printing surfaces

A quick press check is essential to keep everyone honest. And if asked, the majority of screen printers would shrug if you were to ask them to identify the last time they checked the level and consistency of their presses. Why? For the most part, the machines are pretty consistent, so they tend to stay in spec for long enough that issues can be addressed as they come up. Only when a serious break to a part or a printhead failure occur are maintenance concerns brought up.


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