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Color-Matching Ink Systems from the Ground Up

(February 2007) posted on Thu Feb 22, 2007

Discover what types of mixing systems are available, how to use them, and where you can get them.


By Thomas Trimingham

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6. Acquire a variety of mixing buckets (gallon, quart, etc.) with matching lids. Keep some permanent markers and labels close at hand with the spare buckets.

7. Check with garment suppliers for fabric squares that can be used for strike-offs and tests. The material should be the same as the shirts that you decorate. Pellons or stiff fabric simulations don't allow the same absorption as shirt material and can cause color shifts. They can be fine for a quick test, but so is a piece of white cardboard. Old shirts are fine, but sometimes that isn't the smartest use of a couple of bucks (vs. tax write-offs for donations or discount sales).

Working with a color-matching system

Let's look at using a color-matching system to mix some Pantone color simulations. Keep in mind that what you'll produce for garment screen printing is never truly a match of a Pantone color, because Pantone colors are based on offset inks printed on paper. The safer term to use is color simulation. Some of the more saturated hues in the Pantone book are very difficult (if not impossible) to mix for screen printing.

Always educate the customer, and be prepared for some downtime should the color need to be adjusted on press. One industry trick is to have an additional screen of the same color that will be flashed and doubled up when printed on a white underbase to really give a deep, saturated color on a dark garment. This is where the art comes into the screen-printing effort, and it is more important for the color to look good with the artwork on the shirt than for it to be an exact match. Customers who want a perfect match to a paper sample need to wear paper shirts.


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