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Extreme Applications

(November 2007) posted on Wed Nov 07, 2007

Establish your company as a leader in garment decorating by mastering difficult printing techniques. The author highlights two extreme applications that separate skilled and innovative printers from novices.

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By Rick Davis

I never cease to be amazed at the creativity and imagination behind many of today’s garment decorations. Graphic designers are constantly reinventing the wheel and introducing innovative new graphics and ways to apply them to fabrics. Exciting garment decorations often result from mastery of tried-and-true decorating methods. Others spring from the release of new specialty inks or the development of creative techniques to apply existing inks. This month, we’ll look at two applications that reflect both creativity and printing skill: printing over seams and inverted printing.


Printing over seams

Domestic printers have been printing over the sleeve of jerseys and T-shirts for years. The trick to printing over seams is to make the design appear even despite the fact that you are printing over an uneven surface. Printers take several approaches to printing over seams, and each will producea different effect.

In terms of minimizing the hand of the print at the seam, the most effective decorating methods use water-based inks. However, an important challenge in using water-based inks is ensuring that the garment receives sufficient heat to drive all of the water from the ink in seam areas. The larger the seam, the greater this problem becomes.

The easiest means to avoid ink buildup in seams is, of course, to print the garment in cut-piece form and as-semble (sew) the garment after printing. Due to the ease of handling finished garments, few domestic garment print-ers work with cut pieces. Most high-volume cut-piece programs have now moved out of the country to take advantage of lower labor and material costs offered by foreign competitors.

Cut-piece printing can also be taken a step further. For the ultimate in speed and the ability to get an all-over printing effect without ink buildup, rotary screen printing of fabrics in bolt form prior to cutting is the best solution. The primary drawback to this method is that its very diffi-cult to cut and sew the final garments in such a way that graphic elements on sleeves and adjoining panels of the garments will align properly. Rotary printing works best when graphics involve abstract patterns, where alignment is less critical.


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