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.
It is important to remember that many fibers or fiber blends may require multiple additional properties, so carefully evaluate each one to ensure you get the best result. This is a great time to contact an ink manufacturer or distributer to obtain a recommendation for additional or job-specific information.
Fabric weave and texture New, innovative, and specialty fabric weaves continue to drive innovation in performance textiles. Although most of the fabric weaves seen today may be new or uncommon to the everyday screen printer, it is important to examine these to understand how the ink will sit on the garment.
Specialty finishes or performance properties A lot of the difficulty in tackling performance wear is translating the fabric/garment nomenclature and its associated properties. Many garment manufacturers and brands have trademarked names for performance fabrics. What Brand A calls Active-Fit could likely be very similar in content to what Brand B calls Quick-Wick. Familiarize yourself with the content and basic technology of these trademark names.
After looking at the content of the garment, it is important to ensure that you understand the limitations of the ink and garment and use that knowledge to select the appropriate ink for the job. Consider the following properties:
Bleed resistance Polyester is an inherent bleeder, meaning that the dye used in polyester will leach or sublimate through an ink film, consequently shifting the color of the ink film. This material requires the use of a bleed-resistant ink. If the garment is dyed polyester and is engineered to stretch, you’ll need to select an ink that has bleed resistance and supports elongation.
Adhesion Nylon is another common synthetic fabric in the athletic market; however, nylon brings up a completely different issue of adhesion. Many ink manufactures have options for this as well—yes, even for stretchy nylon. Depending on the fiber denier (high denier equals a smoother surface) or weave of the nylon, a performance ink may also be used. If the denier is lower or the nylon garment is dazzle cloth or even nylon mesh, many performance inks will still print with little to no issue. If the garment fiber has a high denier, an ink designed specifically for printing on nylon is required.
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