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Printing on Activewear

(December 2011) posted on Wed Dec 14, 2011

Performance fabrics present an interesting challenge to garment printers. The advice presented here will help you choose the appropriate inks for the job and predict the influence of the garment graphic on the finished piece.


By Screen Printing's Solution Sourcebook

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It is no secret that activewear and performance garments are continuing to grow in popularity. The fluctuating costs of cotton, combined with innovations in fibers, fabric weaves, and overall advancements in garment technology have driven the growth of activewear within the industry. For example, manufacturers have added wicking technologies to collared shirts, polo shirts, and even children’s wear.

The ripple of consumer response and increased demand for performance garments has been equally noticeable. A national fitness campaign and greater focus on personal fitness has undoubtedly raised awareness and given voice to a more active society. With this, we have seen the rise of more and more active events, fitness institutions, and the formation of a new, niche market of active consumers.

Now, what does this mean to screen printers and our industry? In the past, few ink options existed for printing onto these new fabrics. However, many ink manufactures on the forefront of the movement have developed inks specifically for printing on these types of garments. These innovative inks designed for performance wear have increased bleed-resistance properties to a much higher level than previously offered. In addition, inks developed for printing on polyester include added elasticity and are designed for printing on a wider range of mesh counts, thus supporting further detail in designs. The inks are easy to work with and offer more opportunity for advanced artwork on performance garments.

However, the solution does not remain solely in the ink. Many factors contribute to the success or failure of a print. Not all activewear and performance garments are the same. It is important to do some work and research before you pull your squeegee to ensure you have the best print possible.

Substrate
The first step when printing on activewear is to define and evaluate the substrate. This should include defining the fiber content, fabric weave and texture, specialty fiber/fabric finishes, and any other unique properties that may affect the print process.

Fiber content As we know, most activewear and performance garments use synthetic fibers. What is the fiber content your substrate? Could the fabric present ink-adhesion problems? Do the fibers have potential to bleed dye into the ink? Does the fiber content lend to stretch? Composition of the garment is very important. The fiber content will dictate any special properties you will need to look for when choosing an ink.


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