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Prepress for Special-Effect Garment Printing

(December 2012) posted on Tue Jan 29, 2013

Decorating garments with special-effect inks can be a daunting task when you don’t have everything in place in prepress. These tips will assist you in building reliable and repeatable processes and procedures.

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By Screen Printing's Solution Sourcebook

Becoming familiar with how special-effect inks work is critical to printing them successfully, no matter how long the job run. Experimentation aids in determining how special-effect inks will appear on finished garments, given your shop’s equipment and practices.

An ink’s features play a big part in how much it should be incorporated into a design. A high-density ink might work best when used to accentuate smaller or finer design elements, while specialized decorating materials—caviar beads and flock, for example—might not work as effective on smaller designs or graphics that feature very fine lines. Decorative products such as these don’t provide enough surface area to create a visible effect.

Design elements to which special-effect inks are applied must be sized appropriately to take full advantage of the refractive, textural, or other quality the inks impart. Similarly, design considerations come into play when using inks that change dimensionally.

Let’s use puff ink as an example of such an ink. The artist may need to build open space into a design to accommodate the desired expansion of the puff. In addition, when puff is overprinted, its expansion will raise, texture, and lighten the overprinted colors. Large areas of puff can bend or curl, while thick layers of the ink can expand unpredictably and inconsistently, particularly when lots of puff additive is used.

In general, the best way to create artwork for special-effect printing is to think about the printing process in reverse order: curing, printing, prepress, and design creation. Examining the workflow in reverse will allow you to identify your limitations in each step and then make adjustments in preceding steps to make up for those limitations.

Colors and print order
Specialty inks are often printed last in the sequence, particularly those that rise beyond the substrate surface. They are up last because they can interfere with the printing of other colors that may be printed close to the raised edges. However, overprinting raised areas can sometime yield interesting and unique effects in finished prints. Print order can influence many aspects of a design, including the actual number of colors available on press.


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