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Special Effects: Taking Your Shop to the Next Level

(February/March 2018) posted on Tue Apr 10, 2018

By mastering the ever-expanding range of special effects that can be achieved on apparel today, you can take your relationship with clients to an entirely new level.


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By Lon Winters

As many successful print shop owners have learned, adding the hottest special effects to your product offerings allows you to add sizzle to your sales. We all strive to set ourselves apart from ordinary apparel decorators, and that’s why we reach into our bag of special-effect tricks. Plus, screen printers have resources and tools at their disposal that decorators using other processes don’t, enabling them to add that extra something that can win the order. 

Special effects also play nicely into fashion trends, as they have for some time. Most of us remember brands like Ocean Pacific (OP) from the ‘80s. We weren’t the only ones wearing surf shorts and very cool corduroy shorts. Many of today’s styles are still rooted in surfing and skateboarding as fashion has morphed into a hybrid drawn from many cultural influences – extreme sports, urban landscape, music, and ultimate fighting, among others. No matter where you shop, special effects are everywhere, breaking all the rules of design, printing, and applications.



This revolution in decorating techniques has steadily increased the perceived value of the shirt and placed a premium on dimensionality, with effects that literally rise out of the traditional flat print. Today’s printers have tool boxes packed with multiple decoration processes that can be combined to give garments unparalleled visual and tactile appeal. Though it may seem at first glance that the garment market has few truly new special effects, the reality is that inks, fabrics, and printing processes are constantly evolving in response to consumer demand. The slow but steady trend toward PVC-free inks and the popularity of performance fabrics are just two examples that have driven innovation in our processes that, in turn, give you the ability to continually show customers embellishment choices that are truly new and different.

These developments give screen printers a unique opportunity to look beyond special effects and redefine themselves as specialty printers. I frequently present seminars and workshops at trade shows and other industry events, as you may know, and over time my topics have changed from special effects to specialty printing. It may sound like semantics, but what I’ve learned in my business is that it’s the difference between selling a process and creating value. Specialty printing means turning an ordinary print into something special. Great art combined with effects creates products your customers will be willing to pay for, increasing your margins.


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