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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

A final option to consider when overprinting seams is to break the image up in a way that minimizes the actual amount of ink that will come in contact with the seam. Depending on the graphic, you can possibly graduate the image with halftone patterns as opposed to solid areas of ink. This will reduce the volume of ink that inevitably is transferred to the seam.


Inverted printing

Inverted printing is a technique that was originally developed in Europe. The concept is to print the design on the inside of the garment (with the image inverted as you would when printing a heat transfer). You then allow the pressure of the squeegee to push the ink through the fabric, thus creating a residual image on the outside of the garment. This method leads to a distressed appearance in the image that’s visible on the outside of the garment. More importantly, this distressed image appears different and unique for each and every garment printed, despite the fact that the original graphic is the same.

In this process, the image is generally printed with water-based inks. The unique look that each garment exhibits when printed this way results from variations in the absorbency of the fabric and the pressure of the squeegee during printing. The smallest variations in the fabric and squeegee pressure influence where ink comes through to the front of the fabric and how much ink comes through. An alternative approach that can lead to even more unpredictable and unique results is to print the inverted graphics with discharge inks, which would discharge the garment dyes from the inside of the fabric.

Few domestic garment screenprinting operations work with water-based inks, so some might be inclined to attempt inverted printing with plastisols. Plastisols will work in much the same way that water-based inks do. But plastisols are heavier, denser inks and require additional pressure to be forced through the fabric in order to create a visible effect on the opposite side. The heavy hand that results on the inside of the garment is the primary drawback to inverted printing with plastisols.

Another downside to inverted printing is that every garment must be turned inside-out prior to printing and then right-side out when the print is complete. You may be able to cut labor in half, however, by asking your garment supplier to ship garments inside out, which is the way they are sewn. However, these sorts of requests usually just apply when your garments are custom manufactured. If you are printing on stock product, you will need to execute the garment-turning process twice.


Be supreme, go extreme

In the competitive world of garment decorating, the ability to make your products stand out is key to remaining successful. And if your company can produce attractive all-over prints that include graphics over seams, you’ll definitely be among a select class of printers. Also, don’t be afraid to try unconventional techniques, such as inverted printing. The one-of-a-kind results you’ll get with this method go a long way to-ward achieving the custom-decorated look that many of today’s garment customers are after.


Rick Davis is the president of Synergy Screen Printing in Orlando, FL. A 27-year veteran of the texile-printing industry, Davis is a member of the Academy of Screenprinting Technology and has a background that spans production management, artwork engineering, application testing, and industry consulting. He is a frequent contributor to trade publications and a speaker at industry trade events.


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