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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

click an image below to view slideshow

The other critical factor is to cure the ink at the right temperature while being careful to not overheat it. The dye used for most dark-colored polyester garments will sublimate when heated enough, so keeping the temperature to just above the ink film’s curing point can prevent the worst of it. Polyester presents fewer art-related issues than rough-textured garments, but you should still keep the number of colors low to minimize number of flashes or amount of heat applied. When sublimation is likely, minimize the larger flat areas of ink in a design that may highlight a color shift more prominently. In other words, a thin line of white that changes hue a little is less apparent than a large square (Figure 2). The thinner ink volume also requires less heat to flash and cure, which may help prevent excessive heat buildup.

Issue: The design needs to be printed in an unusual location, such as across the collar or onto a seam of a cotton shirt.
Solution: The demands for printing on different locations have reached the point where most printers can no longer reasonably refuse these requests. The best way to modify the artwork to print across a seam is to use less ink and a low-viscosity formulation. Water-based prints tend to work well when printing across seams and bumps because the ink is low enough in viscosity to soak into the garment rather than sit on the surface and spread out, pucker up, or pop back up into the screen. Artwork adjustment is usually necessary when going to a water-based print or low-viscosity plastisol because you must account for the greater ink flow.

A good way to adjust artwork for flowing across seams is to break up the surfaces of the artwork and make it distressed or worn looking (Figure 3). This prevents excessive ink buildup and can help cover any imperfections in the final print. One of the best ways to get a print to work well across the seam of a shirt is to use a water-based discharge ink to release the dye in the shirt so that the garment appears much brighter without the heavy feeling of a flashed plastisol print.


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