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Making Art Friendly for Unfriendly Surfaces

(June 2010) posted on Mon May 24, 2010

This article addresses the challenges of artwork on some of today’s garments that are stretchy, thin, textured, or printed in difficult locations.


By Thomas Trimingham

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Popular sports now feature garments that are designed just for them. Apparel engineered for different motion-related needs and sport-specific qualities is becoming very popular with athletes and fans. Along with the rush of new garments comes the need for printers to ensure their methods of decoration can accommodate the new fabrics, seams, and other factors that can prove challenging.

For example, several sports use compression shirts as part of the uniform, or in training to help retain body heat, prevent abrasion, and help reduce muscular strains. The compression shirt is very flexible. The shirt’s high Spandex content causes it to fit tightly on the body and makes decorating it a big challenge. Other popular garments use moisture-wicking fabrics that are woven from synthetic fibers and help allow airflow and moisture to pass through, yet retain body heat and comfort. These garments can also be touchy to decorate and sometimes sensitive to heat, so they require special care.
Another concern when personalizing performance-related garments is the cost of the item. Shirts that cost a lot more can be a little scary to print when the process produces a certain amount of scrap, so controlling the variables before production is essential to avoid any costly mistakes.

Avoiding scrap
One very effective way to avoid scrap and production issues on performance garments is to reverse-engineer the artwork so that it works with the best method of decoration for the garment. The results of changing the art to suit the garment and production method are worth the time it takes to educate your salespeople and clients.

Changing the artwork to fit the garment and decoration method requires that you establish guidelines. As with all artwork, there are many exceptions to guidelines, but having a starting point will make jobs that involve challenging surfaces far easier to decorate and will open the discussion for sales-to-client education on the best method of producing their apparel. The following is a list of some of the most common issues with performance garments and how you can modify the artwork.


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