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Here Come the Hybrids

(October/November 2017) posted on Tue Nov 07, 2017

Specialty imagers find, once again, that the question of analog versus digital isn’t a black-and-white one. What could be the impact on garment decoration if we leverage the best of both worlds?

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By Steve Duccilli

In contrast, CMYK is not predominant in garment decoration; in fact, many shops choose to avoid true process-color screen printing altogether because of its difficulty. Instead, printers have put their energy into experimenting with special effects to create innovative looks that, in turn, resonate with consumers and command premium prices. That’s not to disparage the excellent imaging capabilities of today’s DTG technology – from a screen printer’s perspective, photorealism is itself a special effect, one they cannot come close to replicating with their traditional equipment.

But imagine what might have happened in commercial graphics if effects like DayGlo neons or sparkle metallics had been fashionable 10 years ago. The reality is that not all spot colors can be reproduced by CMYK, and many special effects are beyond the limits of the technology and likely to remain so, at least in a production setting. Neons, for example, may someday be achievable via inkjet, but that’s unlikely with dimensional effects such as high density.

Finally, garment decoration presents several unique challenges for inkjet where white ink is concerned. Printing white proved to be a hurdle for wide-format inkjet OEMs as well, and was an important milestone in the development of UV flatbed printers. But those devices didn’t have to achieve opacity on highly absorptive, often dark-colored substrates. Ironically, at roughly the same time that many screen printers were learning how to print thinner underbase whites to gain better control of their production and provide garments that were more comfortable to wear, DTG developers faced the opposite challenge: how to get adequate opacity on a dark background with a process that laid down just a fraction of the ink volume.


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