Screen Printing Myths

So, you’ve been considering placing an order for some t-shirts but are a little hesitant about the screen printing process. We hear rumors every once in a while about screen printing, and are going to debunk a few of the most common myths.

You can only order in bulk. Though it is true some screen printers have minimums, it isn’t exactly as “bulk” as you might expect. For example, we ask for a 12-piece minimum, which we think is pretty reasonable. We know that you don’t always need 36 shirts, and we can cater to that.

They don’t offer samples. We would never want you to buy something without seeing it first. We can obtain samples of specific shirt styles and/or materials for you, to ensure that you’re getting exactly what you’re looking for.

 

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You can only ever order t-shirts. Though it seems plausible for many online stores, this is simply not the case. We offer a variety of garments and products to screen print on, such as koozies, tote bags, and shorts to name a few.

Screen printing locally is too expensive. Being a local company means we know a thing or two about our customers, their budgets, and how to provide quality work. Our prices are competitive, and you will receive deeper customer relations than you would with online stores that outsource their services.

If you’re searching for the right place to fulfill your screen printing needs, Identity Ink & Custom Tee is the business for you. We are here to make the process as easy as possible for you, and to make sure you get your custom shirts printed effectively and efficiently. Give us a call today at (716)876-9798.

Printing T-shirts: Screen Printing vs. Heat Transfer

Screen Printing T-Shirts

A screen printing press looks a bit like an octopus. It has multiple arms, each supporting a single screen. Although one name for the process is “silkscreen,” the screens are now usually nylon or metal. Each screen prints one color on the t-shirt, and each color station includes a flat, ironing-board-like support for the shirt. You place the t-shirt around (as opposed to just on top of) this support as though you were “dressing” the support panel. This places only one layer of fabric on top of the support and therefore keeps the fabric absolutely flat once the screen has been lowered.

Once the screen is on top of the fabric, you can pour the thick ink mixture onto the screen and draw the rubber squeegee across the mesh, forcing the ink through the open areas of the screen (but not through the areas masked off by the design). Once this step is complete, the ink must dry. (Usually the solvent is flash dried with intense heat, although UV inks are now often used in screen printing, and these dry instantly upon exposure to ultraviolet light.)

To step back a bit in the screen printing process, the masks used to block out certain areas of the design while allowing ink to pass through other areas are prepared in the following way.

  1. You create the design on a computer using a raster art (bit-mapped) or vector art (line art) program, such as Photoshop or Illustrator. Alternatively, you can scan an image and save it in Photoshop. For this process, you need a positive (rather than negative) image.
  2. A light sensitive emulsion is slathered across the bottom of a screen stretched over a wood or metal frame.
  3. The art (laser printed in black toner on clear acetate) is placed on the glass of a Lightbox. The stretched screen with the light-sensitive emulsion is placed over the art
  4. The intense light within the light box exposes the emulsion on the screen.
  5. The screen is then hosed down with water. The water washes away the liquid from the area that had been blocked by the artwork. The non-image areas of emulsion, which had been hardened through exposure to the light, do not wash wash away.
  6. Then the t-shirt can be printed, as noted above (one color per screen, consecutively, with each color in register with the others).

Benefits of Screen Printing T-Shirts

Screen printing ink is thick and saturated. You can print brilliant colors on fabric, and the t-shirts will withstand many washing cycles without the printed art showing any wear and tear.

T-Shirt Heat Transfers

Both laser printing and inkjet printing can be used to create artwork that can be fused to a t-shirt. Special transfer paper (designed for either inkjet printing or laser printing) is used in the process. The operator prints the graphics and type backwards (in a mirror image) so it will be “right-reading” once transferred to the t-shirt. Using heat and pressure (a hot iron against a t-shirt placed on a rigid surface) the operator can transfer the image from the carrier sheet to the fabric of the shirt.

Screen Printing vs. Heat Transfers

It has always been my experience that custom screen printing allows for thicker ink deposits with brighter colors, as well as more durable designs. That said, screen printing is not cost-effective for short print runs since preparation for a screen printing run takes a lot of time.

In addition, many t-shirt printers can only apply one or two colors to a t-shirt with custom screen printing. However, the more skilled screen printers can actually print 4-color process work (including halftone images). It’s just more tricky to produce this level of detail on fabric using the thicker screen printing inks, so the image will not be as precise as a sample of 4-color offset lithography on paper. In addition, some screen printers have the skill to print on darker colored fabrics while others prefer to only print on white t-shirts.

Heat transfers (laser or inkjet) are cheaper than screen printing for shorter runs since they do not require set-up time. It’s also easier to transfer highly detailed artwork to the t-shirt, since the transfer actually sits up on the surface of the shirt rather than seeping into the fibers of the fabric.

However, heat transfers are not as durable as screen printed t-shirts, and the inks are not as brilliant as custom screen printing inks.

What Makes A Great Shirt?

We talked to a few individuals and asked “What makes a good shirt?” to find out what people really want in the perfect custom printed t-shirt. Here’s a summary of what we heard back:

An abstract message. A creative way to express the message of the company without using a logo. Using logos are cool if they’re a part of the overall design that include other elements, but they shouldn’t be the main focus. Simple designs resonate with me more, but a cool graphic is fun if it’s done well or by a really awesome designer.

How it fits and feels. A shirt that is light and has breathable fabric is the best. It’s nice if they are super soft but have good structure – the cut of it, the neck line and the sleeves are important. Long is good. Something that is fashion friendly and up with the trends, but not clingy and not too loose. Most blends are great because you don’t have to iron them!

It goes with everything. Neutral colors are my go to. Black, white, and grey are the best colors. They go with everything. Other colors are cool too especially if it’s for a good cause or representing my favorite sports team.  I don’t mind wearing bright colors for something like that.

Get rid of the tags. No tags, please! They are super itchy and irritating if they are constantly scratching the back of my neck. If a tag is super super soft, then that’s fine and I don’t notice it.

Buffalo Collage Tees (Available in store & online)

Screen-printing Defined

From beginning artwork stages to the final end product, screen-printing is complex progress. We understand that customers may not understand all the terms we use in our production. To better understand our lingo, here is a compiled list of definitions that will help give you basic knowledge of what we mean when we say “vectorized artwork”, as well as, how reclaiming and burning screens makes your apparel come to life.

Artwork: Common term for an image or text that will be used for printing.

Automatic Press: A screen printing press in which the printing and the operation of the machine is accomplished through the use of electric servos and hydraulics. An automatic screen printing press has a much higher production rate than a manual press and will typically produce a higher quality print result.

Blockout: An emulsion like chemical that is used to cover pin holes and to block out any area of the screen that you do not want ink to pass through.

BMP – BMP (short for bitmap) is a graphic format used internally by the Microsoft® Windows®graphics subsystem and used commonly as a simple graphics file format on that platform. BMP files are usually not compressed and are typically much larger than compressed image file formats such as JPEG or PNG. Despite some shortcomings, the simplicity of BMP and widespread use in Microsoft® Windows® and elsewhere (as well as the fact that this format is well-documented and free of patents) make it a very common format. As such, many image programs are likely able to read in BMP files.

Burn: To expose an emulsion coated screen to a light source to create a stencil.

Coating: The process of applying direct emulsion to a screen.

Conveyor Dryer:   A belt dryer used for curing inks.

 

Cure: The process of using heat to completely fuse plastisol ink. Technically incorrect term for “drying” ink.

Dark Garment–  Shirts darker in color such as black, royal, green, red, etc.

Darkroom: A room devoid of light used for the purpose of drying screens coated with emulsion or capillary film.

Degrease: The process of washing a screen with a cleaning solution to remove all traces of dirt and oils prior to coating with emulsion.

Dehaze: using a caustic cleaning agent to remove ghosted images from a screen.

Dehumidifier– Used to remove water vapor in the area. Making a dry environment for screen preparation.

Discharge inks – used to print lighter colors onto dark background fabrics, they work by removing the dye in the garment leaving a much softer texture. They can be tinted with color pigments but exact colors are difficult to control.

Dots per inch (DPI) is a measure of spatial printing or video dot density, in particular the number of individual dots that can be placed in a line within the span of 1 inch (2.54 cm).

Durometer: unit of measurement used to describe the “hardness” of rubber. In screen printing, durometer relates to the “hardness” of a squeegee blade.

Emulsion: Photosensitive chemical in either liquid, roll or sheet form that is applied to a screen and used for the purpose of making a stencil.

Enamel:  A high gloss multi-purpose ink designed for long term outdoor application.

Exposure: Exposing an emulsion coated screen to light to create a stencil. Also known as “burning” a screen.

Film: A light sensitive material, used to create a stencil, that when applied to a screen with water adheres to the mesh by capillary action.

Flash Cure: To partially cure a print by subjecting the print to a heat source for a short amount of time.

Flash Cure Unit: An infrared heating element that is typically attached to a rotary turntable, positioned above the platen and used for the purpose of bringing a print to a partially cured state so a second print stroke can be applied to achieve desired opacity. A flash cure unit can also be used to completely cure a print.

Four-Color Process: Also known as CMYK or Full Color Process. A printing technique utilizing four ink colors (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black) to print the entire color spectrum.

Full Cure: A state in which the plastisol ink film has completely fused, typically when a temperature of 320 degrees has been reached.

Glitter/Shimmer – metallic flakes are suspended in the ink base to create this sparkle effect. Usually available in gold or silver but can be mixed to make most colors.

Gradient: The representation of halftones dots from 100% to 0%

Halftone: A color or grayscale image that has been converted into a series of large and small dots.

Halftone Dot Types: Shapes of halftone dots. An elliptical dot is the ideal dot shape for screen printing. Round, square and diamond shaped dots are also used.

Halftone Line Count: Number of lines per inch (LPI) also known as line or screen frequency. The lower the LPI, the larger the halftone dots will be. Common halftone line counts for garment screen printing is a range from 35 LPI to 65 LPI.

Hand: How a print feels when touched. A print is commonly described as having a soft hand or a rough hand.

Infrared: Specific energy wavelengths which produce heat. IR radiation is typically used to develop the heat in a heating element of a flash cure unit or electrical textile dryer.

Ink: Common term used to describe the printable substance that is used to make a print. In the textile printing business, the most widely used ink is plastisol.

JPEG– This term stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. It is the name of the committee that developed the format. A JPEG is a compressed image file format. The JPEG format is best for compressing photographic images. If you see a large colorful image on the Web, it is most likely a JPEG file. However JPEGS are NOT VECTORIZED Artwork.

Light Garment: White or pastel colored garments

Line Art: Black and White artwork consisting of no halftones or color.

Manual Press: Press used for transfer ink to a substrate manually.

Mesh: Woven material that makes up the printable portion of the screen.

Mesh Count: The number of threads in one square inch of screen fabric, measured in both directions. The lower the number, the coarser the mesh and the larger the screen opening.

Micro-registration: a mechanical adjustment on the print head of a screen printing press used for precise movement and alignment when lining up or adjusting a print job.

Off-contact: A method of screen printing of having a slight gap between the screen and the substrate for improved printability.

Opacity: An ink’s ability to cover the underlying color of the substrate.

Overexposed: Exposing a screen for too long of a period of time resulting in a screen that will be difficult or impossible wash out.

Platen Adhesive: Adhesive in either spray or liquid form that is used to hold down garment on shirt board when printing.

Platen Mask: A paper based tape that is applied to a shirt board (platen) for protection.

Pantone : A set of standard colors for printing, each of which is  specified by a single number.

Pinholes: Unwanted tiny specs that appear in the stencil after exposure.

Plastisol: A screen printing ink primarily for textile printing composed of the following components: PVC (polyvinyl chloride), color pigments, and plasticizers.

PMS : Pantone Matching System a system for mixing various inks to achieve the specified color as determined by Pantone.

Positive: Also known as film or film positive.  Any media used to completely block out UV light in the design area during the exposure process.

Pre-Press: All processes performed prior to actual printing.

Print-Flash-Print (PFP): Screen printing technique used to achieve an opaque print result by printing, flash curing the print and then applying another print stroke.

Print Side: The side of the screen that touches the substrate being printed on.

Proof: A computer generated mock-up to represent how the design will be printed with detailed specs.

Puff Ink: A special effect type of plastisol ink that “raises up” or expands dimensionally during the curing process.

Reclaim: To remove old emulsion from a screen so the screen can be reused.

Registration: The process of lining up the screen image to the original art and/or separations on a printing press and/or exposure unit.

Registration Mark: “Crosshair” target marks used for aligning a screen image to the source art.

Retensionable Frames: Special frames that allow the mesh to be applied over the screen without the use of adhesives or stretching equipment. The mesh is drawn tightly over the frame using either a roller or telescopic tightening system.

Safelight: A light that should be used when working with photosensitive materials like emulsion or capillary films to prevent accidental exposure to ultraviolet light. A yellow “bug light” works well for this purpose.

Scoop Coater: A metal trough used to dispense emulsion for the purpose of coating screens.

Screen: A wooden or metal frame with mesh tightly attached to it.

Solvent: A liquid that dissolves a solid.

Squeegee: Wooden or metal handled tool with a rubber blade used to drive ink through a stencil by pulling the squeegee across the screen.

Squeegee Side: The side of the screen the ink is applied to.

Spot Color:  Color reproduced by an opaque, premixed, standard ink chosen from a color system such as the Pantone Matching System

Stencil: The portion of an exposed screen containing the image to be printed.

Step Wedge Test – Exposure test to determine proper exposure time with a series of stepped exposures on one screen.

Substrate: Term for the item that is being printed.

Tension: The “tightness” of the screen mesh, measured in newtons.

Underlay: A thin coating of ink printed first and cured to act as a base for which all other colors are to be printed on. Underbasing is usually required when printing multi-color designs on colored shirts.

Underexposed: Insufficient screen exposure time, resulting in a soft stencil that can break down prematurely during the print run.

Vector Art- Images that use points, lines, curves and shapes based on mathematical expressions. These images are usually created in programs such as Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Photoshop to name a few. Vectorized files are often given in .ai, .psd, .eps., .pdf. These are the BEST possible files to give our art department.

Viscosity: Commonly perceived as the “thickness” or “thinness” of an ink.

Water Based Ink: Non plastisol inks that can be air dried.

Washout Booth :  Booth used for washing out stencils and reclaiming screens.

(For more definitions visit our sources used in the creation of this post: http://www.ryonetblog.com/screen-printer-terms/)

Carly’s Club Charity Sale for February & March

 

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We’re very excited at Identity Ink to have partnered up with Carly’s Club this year from February to March! Carly’s Club is a not-for-profit organization that manages donations sent to Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

What does this mean? 

For every item purchased in our exclusive Carly’s Club Charity Sale web store, Identity Ink will be donating $5.00 directly towards Carly’s Club. We have a variety of items.. from St. Patricks Day and Valentine’s Day apparel to Buffalo themed merchandise. Our popular tailgate hoodies (with built in koozies) are a part of this fundraiser as well.

You can show your support through our Carly’s Club-specific designs or showing hometown pride with our Buffalo-themed apparel.

Here’s a few items you can purchase during this fundraiser (and many more where that come from):

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What is Carly’s Club?

Carly’s Club is a Roswell Park Alliance Foundation not-for-profit organization that manages all donations made to Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They describe their mission as “Carly’s Club for Kids & Cancer Research in WNY exists to offer support programs to make life more manageable for children diagnosed with cancer and their families, and to raise funds for pediatric cancer research seeking cures at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.”

They are a wonderful organization that uses their donations towards family counseling, therapeutic play programs, in-room/clinic visitation, educational advocacy, family-centered events, caregiver support programs, stocked pediatric in-patient kitchen and patient “comfort bags”.

You may read more about Carly’s Club mission and what they do here & learn more about Roswell Park Cancer Institute here

Support a great cause today! Our fundraiser will be going on from now until April 1st. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us today at info@identityink.com

What kind of art files to submit for screen printing?

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We sometimes receive questions from customers who are unsure about which file formats to send to our designers regarding screen printed work.

To hopefully clear up some confusion, here’s a rundown of what we would prefer and not prefer when it comes to art file submissions.

FILE FORMAT

To ensure the highest quality of print, we prefer vector files. Vector artwork allows us to resize your design without it losing quality. We also need your artwork to be high resolution (300 DPI).

Vector Formats:

– .ai (Illustrator) file

– .eps file

If you cannot send us vector artwork, .psd (photoshop files) and .pdf are second best. But please remember to submit high resolution (300 DPI) art and to have artwork created at the size you would like printed.

Please avoid sending us .jpg, .png, sketches, photographs or anything low-resolution. If you must, please have artwork created at the size you would like printed.

We have two designers on staff who would be more than happy to create unique designs for you or help with your existing artwork. Please inquire about art development fees.

COLOR MATCHING

We try our best to match the colors you want. Colors vary slightly from computer monitor to computer monitor. If you want the most accurate results, you may come into our store and pick a color from our Pantone swatches.

Again, if you ever have questions when submitting artwork, our two designers on staff would love to assist you. We also do custom graphics for small businesses, company apparel, athletic apparel, events and more! Check out our team store page and shop page to get an idea of what we offer.

New Apparel!

After a successful and fun weekend debuting our designs at Buffalo On Tap, our design team is currently hard at work updating our online shop with fresh new designs. We are particularly excited to have these designs available on J America Tailgate Hoodies. Not only are these high quality hoodies lined with 9oz fleece, but they even feature a built in koozie pocket to store your beverage and an attached bottle opener for quick easy convenience. To view all our apparel, click the shop tab at the top of the page or click here to be redirected to the shop page. Be sure to check back frequently for new apparel, as well as, like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep updated.

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Camp Good Days

Excited to announce that we have launched a web store filled with CGD’s and Buffalo related Christmas designs available on short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts, hoodies, etc…

Each product we sell we will donate $5.00 directly to Camp Good Days.

Click here to learn more – http://www.campgooddays.org

Anatol Volt

So we are about 1 month into production with our new automatic screen-printing machine, the Anatol Volt.  It is awesome!  As strange as it sounds…it has improved the overall morale of all employees in the company.  It is quiet and clean.  The Volt is all electric, so no more loud air compressor, no more broken air lines and “oily” air shooting throughout the building.  The crispness of the designs we print are noticeably improved…not to imply that our old machine made poor prints it didn’t…just that the Volt is that much better.  Our screen-printers can now micro adjust with ease and they even more proud of what they do.  There was definitely a learning curve as this machine has quartz flash units that burned a few pieces of poly until we learned the tricks and tips of operating with that style of flash.  Overall very happy!

Exciting things are happening!

Exciting things are happening here at Identity Ink in the upcoming months. Not only are we introducing this great blog (filled with design/printing tips & tricks, highlights of our Buffalo community and event info), we will also be introducing a new wave of t-shirt designs and an easier online ordering system. There’s a few other surprises, but we will have to reveal those!

We thank all our customers for their support and patience. Keep an eye out for all our great changes.