Whether you’re a newbie screen printer or an industry O.G. who knows most of the things, it’s always a smart idea to see what other printers are doing in their shops. We asked around to get some of the freshest technique tips and artwork tricks.
From block-style fonts to weathered overlays to patch-style graphics, industry experts weigh in on what their athletic and corporate clients want in 2021.
Plus, have you thought about creating a retro-appeal halftone with one ink color? Or removing the white underbase on certain elements of a design for a tonal effect? Some of the best screen printers out there share their insider tips for stunning prints.
And of course, since masks aren’t going anywhere for awhile, we’ve got a great primer from a mask-printing guru on how to do it right, for maximum art appeal and breathability. So let’s dive in!
USE (AND LOSE) YOUR UNDERBASE.
Here’s a not-so-little thing that screen-printer Jonathan Ornelas does to jazz up his designs (and save time and money): Remove the white underbase on parts of a design. “That way, some of the ink gets printed directly onto the T-shirt and some gets printed onto the remaining underbase,” says Ornelas, owner of Success Print Shop. “This technique creates an entirely different or darker shade of that particular color.”
Plus, this technique saves Ornelas and his team from making another screen to add another color. “It’s great because it’s one less screen we have to set up on the press, remove the tape and ink from, and then reclaim,” he says. “Even better, because of this technique, we save our customer from having to pay for an additional color and screen charge.”
Expert Tip: At Success Print Shop, Ornelas’ team individually folds, bags and size tags all orders 200 pieces or less. “This makes organizing and passing T-shirts out to group members a breeze,” he says. “This also gives us the opportunity to look over each garment for one last quality control check as orders go out the door.”
CREATE A SINGLE-COLOR HALFTONE DESIGN.
While this isn’t an entirely new idea, when was the last time you tried creating a halftone design with a single color? “This technique gives your print a vintage look with a very soft hand,” says Howard Potter, CEO and owner of Utica, NY-based A&P Master Images. “To get that weathered look, use a 230 or 305 mesh screen with a little bit of reducer in your ink.”
If you want your halftone design to include solid printed bright text, use a 155 mesh screen.
CREATE A POP ON PERFORMANCE WEAR.
When you’re working with super-popular performance fabrics, the order of how you apply and cure the inks makes a big difference. “When you’re combining silicone and plastisol, make sure the two inks don’t touch each other,” says Charlie Taublieb, screen-printing legend and owner of Colorado-based Taublieb Consulting. “Plastisol can’t stick to the foil so if it’s on top, it’ll peel off. If the silicone is on top of the plastisol, it also will peel off.”
SCORE BIG BY GOING BACK TO THE BASICS.
The overall trend in the team and sports marketplace right now is all about simplicity, according to Craig Mertens, general manager at Digital Art Solutions. “That translates into clean screen prints without complex graphical elements,” he says. “Stripes are currently a popular graphic element incorporated into athletic graphics.”
The classic retro look with athletic fonts and script text continues to rule, and you’ll see this in designs for athletic clients as well as on the business side. “The overall font trend is leaning heavily into block styles, comic book styles and handwritten scripts,” Mertens says. “Weathered overlays continue to be a popular style across all marketplaces.”
Tip: You can use a digital library or graphics builder or head to the alphabroder Design Studio to get access to lots of fonts and images to offer your clients lots of screen-print-ready options.
GET PATCH-Y WITH IT FOR CORPORATE CLIENTS.
In the corporate branding marketplace, Mertens sees a heavy use of patch or label style graphics. “Instead of using a company’s logo, the name of the business gets incorporated into a graphic, with elements from the logo or elements that reference the type of business.”
Expert Tip: Organic and Earth-inspired design elements—like trees, plants, flowers, leaves, mountains and water—continue to influence apparel graphics. “The overall theme in current graphical trends is less is more,” Mertens says.
PRINT MASKS—ONE OF THIS YEAR’S TOP FASHION ACCESSORIES—LIKE A PRO.
We know that masks aren’t going anywhere soon, and in fact, black cloth masks are a top fashion accessory since they go with everything. Here are some quick tips for successfully screen printing on face masks, from Ryan Moor, CEO of Ryonet, Allmade and ROQ.US.
1. Choose the method.
Screen printing can be a great way to decorate a mask for simple designs. However for more complex designs, a full-color, water-based transfer from a transfer house like Supacolor.com could be a good option, if you use a flat or cap transfer press depending on the shape of your mask. For screen printing, here’s a great place to start.
2. Choose the right ink.
Water-based inks are ideal for the job, but your mask material will dictate whether you use a low-solids, high-solids or hybrid water-based ink. For example, most cotton or cloth masks will accept normal T-shirt ink; however some specialty or medical masks may require specific ink or ink additives. Water-based inks are safer, don’t contain plasticizers or PVC ink, and don’t have an odor. Finally, these inks are ideal for printing because they flow easily through the screen mesh, especially if you’re using a lower solids or thinner water-based ink. If you use a low-solids, water-based ink, it’ll wrap around the mask fibers, leaving room for airflow. While most logos are airy in design, some will have heavier coverage, so it’s best to use the ink that allows for maximum breathability.
As for dark masks, this ink choice can present a problem, since you’d typically use a high-solids white like Comet White. Discuss with your customer about printing either an off-center placement of their logo or a redesign that allows for more airflow. Conversely, you can also work on a vintage look. Thinning down the ink will allow for less bridging of the garment, providing better breathability.
3. Choose the right screens and hold down.
If you’re using water-based ink, prepare a water-resistant screen. Typically, you don’t need a thick OEM or emulsion coat to achieve a water-resistant screen. You’ll need a strong stencil and post to harden your screen for longer runs. For a mask hold-down, there are different sizes of platens available depending on your mask style. Action Engineering does a great job offering a big selection of mask platens. You can also use something as simple as a 3X3 platen that allows for printing on the front or side of the mask. Remember it’s best to keep the design simpler for screen printing.
4. Place the mask and the print correctly.
You typically print masks in two areas: in the front of the mouth or on the side, usually in the top corner down the side. The great thing about masks designs is that they’re small, about 1 to 2 inches. While designs may be larger or smaller, each mask requires little ink usage and it’s easy to print.
Tip: If you’re printing on a single platen, be sure to center your screen, and use the artwork accordingly to your platen. This may be right-side-up and or upside-down, depending on the mask and your platen setup.
5. Consider your curing.
You’ll need to be careful of elastic and masks that stick up through the conveyor. Go lower and slower, especially with water-based inks. Since masks are small, you can stack the conveyor dryer. If you don’t have a long dryer or you’re having a hard time getting a proper cure you can use a product like Warp Drive Catalyst for water-based inks, which will set the ink after 48 hours as long as it’s dry to the touch.
6. Handle the masks correctly after they come off the conveyor.
Wear a face mask and use gloves to place the masks directly into your packaging to send to your client.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
Take a second look at this plethora of tips, and see what you can implement in your shop today, whether it’s a technique, artwork tweak or the way you decorate masks. What we love about the screen-printing industry is that shop owners are willing to share what’s worked for them, so grab these tips today and run, not walk, over to your presses and get going.
For gyms and athletic clubs, decorators are moving beyond imprinting the gym’s name and logo on uniform and member pieces. “We’re now adding fun and motivational sayings, like on the backs of T-shirts,” says Alison Banholzer, owner of Wear Your Spirit Warehouse in Huntingtown MD. Another trend that she has seen is T-shirts or other wearables that show off different milestones, like “100 workouts completed” or “500 miles rhttp://wearyourspiritwarehoue.com/un.” “As Peloton home fitness has ‘gamified’ the workout routine, I’ve found local gyms are also going this route, with visible products for their members to wear showing their achievements,” she says.
Laurie is part of the marketing team for the leading supplier in the industry, alphabroder. During her free time, Laurie likes to ride horses, sail and spend time with her husband and her two children. Reach her at Lprestine@alphabroder.com