Tips for Cutting-Edge Garment Graphics in High Volume
Developments in ink technology are responsible for many of the new formulations introduced to the market in recent years. These inks allow for a much broader range of special effects than ever before. High-density ink is a familiar example, but there are others: gels, thermosetting plastisols, metallics, newer breeds of blowing agents (Figure 2), and more versatile water-based inks. These inks make some truly amazing and creative results possible, but they require some knowledge and skill in order to optimize their capabilities and attributes.
Anyone who is serious about becoming proficient in special-effects garment printing should research what’s available and how to use the newest formulations. Ensure that the ink company or distributor supplies all of the necessary technical documentation regarding application settings. Ask for printed samples that showcase the inks’ capabilities and demonstrations their visual appeal. Most ink companies conduct extensive R&D testing on the products they release, so be sure to take advantage of their knowledge and experience.
Paying attention to and documenting how the inks behave in real world situations is a vital part of your success in working with special-effects inks. While extremes of temperature or humidity can affect the performance of any ink, changes in environmental conditions may actually reveal new and fresh ideas for applications. Can you imagine taking printed T-shirts from your reject bin, showing them to the creative director of a chain of major retail fashion outlets, and having those same garments approved for production? It can happen. You just have to keep an eye on how the inks you use behave in different situations. Keeping detailed, accurate records can lead you to profit from what would otherwise be considered a loss.
Mesh and screens
Choosing a screen mesh for a regular, flat print is usually a straightforward affair, whether you’re printing a single-color or multicolor design. You might select a 110-thread/in. mesh for your underbase, 156- to 230-thread/in. mesh for your spot colors with no fine lines—or higher if a softer hand is required—and your halftones on 230- to 355-thread/in. mesh. But choosing screens for special effects requires that a lot of attention be paid to original intent, especially where thick stencils or capillary films are concerned.
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