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Screen Printing on a Variety of Garment Fabrics

(February 2011) posted on Tue Feb 08, 2011

Use these tips to bring an end to your fabric frustrations.

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By Thomas Trimingham

In the majority of cases, the art and print that works on a T-shirt will also print effectively on a sweatshirt or hoodie. Exceptions to this are similar to those related to the T-shirt with colors and cotton content. An additional concern with adding a hooded sweatshirt is often a smaller printing area on the front with the pocket and the hood itself potentially covering over the print on the back of the garment. A final concern with printing the same art on a hoodie that is part of a T-shirt run is that the hoodie can push up into the screen due to the increased thickness of the fabric and cause the print to smear and bleed more. This issue is typically dealt with by increasing the off-contact on press but complex artwork with a lot of halftone dots sometimes requires a lower resolution, a change in ink volume, more squeegee pressure, or a different squeegee angle to adjust for thicker fabric.

Polo shirts
The majority of printing issues are related to pique polos with a coarse weave in the fabric. Some printers like to print these garments; many simply won’t print them at all. The client can usually be steered away from attempting a complex print on a pique fabric. If they do insist on it, they should be warned that it will probably look very rough and that small details will be lost. Other concerns with jersey-style polo fabrics are similar to the T-shirt issues. A specific concern with polo shirts is the placket and buttons on the front of the garment. Occasionally, clients will want to print across seams and print onto these areas. Custom platens are often required to do this type of work, and printers should inform their clients that it is rare for this type of print to work in the same run as a regular T-shirt (Figure 2).

Performance fabrics
Performance fabrics include a wide variety materials that are lumped together under this heading for convenience.

The important issue is whether they are polyester and are heat sensitive. Dry-wicking mesh garments that are mostly polyester weave with some lycra in them are common in this category. These garments can be very printable, but printers must exercise caution in regard to heat, particularly when the print is a complex one, either in detail or number of colors.


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