The mover-and-shaker shops are the ones that constantly innovate their designs and how they decorate garments for their clients. To kick off 2022, we’re bringing you some of the most stand-out multimedia, multi-location decorations and just all-around cool designs. Five shops share some of the work they’re most proud of, and of course, you’ll see why their clients are their number one fans.
Authentic Dye-Sublimated Appliqué
The team at Logo Unlimited created this fashion-forward hoodie for an in-person Amazon event (that is, pre-pandemic) called re:Invent. “Of course, Amazon is a massive company with branches and employees based around the world,” says Artem Ionitsa, president of Logo Unlimited. “We had to create a unique design that was authentic to Seattle, where Amazon has its roots.”
Full appliqué is on display front and center on this streetwear-style hoodie. Ionitsa’s team dye-sublimated the tackle twill appliqué with images of Pike Place, The Space Needle and Mount Rainier. Then, they cleverly laser-etched the hood lining with a tone-on-tone AWS (Amazon Web Services) re:Invent logo.
Eye-Catching Laser-Etch & Embroidery Logos
What if you replaced the traditional left-chest logo with a multimedia application that’s more daring and eye-catching, but still super-professional?
That’s what the Logo Unlimited team did for several clients. “We created a laser-etched design and then layered left-chest embroidery over it for a classic, branded look that still stands out,” Ionitsa says.
Alaska-based Marine Fishing International wanted staff shirts for their employees attending the annual three-day Seafood Expo North America, held in Boston that year. Since Marine Fishing’s main products are crab, shrimp and salmon, the team took inspiration from those sea creatures to create three different shirt looks. “Since the event is three days long, we thought it would be a great idea to give them a new shirt for each day, to create interest around their different products,” Ionitsa says.
Then, a brand-new Toyota dealership told Ionitsa they wanted to move their employees from dress shirts to more casual polo shirts. “They wanted us to come up with a unique, but subtle, design,” Ionitsa says. “After a few trials of different designs, we landed on the lightly etched Toyota logo climbing to the left shoulder, with the crisp white embroidered logo on top. They loved it!”
Multimedia Masterpieces With Laser Etching
Ionitsa loves combining laser etching with other decorating techniques on hoodies to create custom looks for brands. “Laser etching is a unique, fast-to-produce, and high-value-adding decoration technique,” he says. “It takes minutes to set up, and then a very fast process, with most designs taking between five and 15 seconds to fully laser etch. Once you purchase a laser system, you’ve already set yourself apart from most other shops, because not as many decorators offer this service.”
A long-time client of Logo Unlimited, Workblocks loves how the shop goes the extra mile with custom multimedia decoration in multiple locations. The goal? Create a multimedia piece totally unique to their company. “This garment has a little bit of everything: first, a laser-etched hoodie liner, cuffs, and a pocket with icons from the client’s website,” Ionitsa says. “On the front of the hoodie, we embroidered the squares and used vinyl heat transfers for the text.”
This T-Mobile jacket is one of Logo Unlimited’s favorites because it was a challenge to work out, but ultimately resulted in a beautiful piece. “We used an Ogio jacket for this piece, and then chose our decorations deliberately, so they harmonized,” Ionitsa says. The decorations start with: a debossed toggle “T” logo on the left chest and a debossed yoke with the word “T-Mobile.” The team also laser etched inserts and panels on the chest and the cuffs. The presentation is rich, dynamic and tasteful.
Salesforce is a great example of a simpler, more affordable, multimedia design that still offered the excitement and prestige of a multimedia, multi-location branded jacket. The Logo Unlimited team laser etched the entire right-chest panel and embroidered the Salesforce logo in white thread on the left chest. “The client had a lower budget for this piece, so we only laser etched one jacket panel, rather than both,” Ionitsa says.
The Logo Unlimited team has laser etched garments all over: the side panels, cuffs, hood liners, smaller inserts on shoulders, pockets, zippers and more. “Generally, once a client picks which garment they’d like, then our team determines the best location for laser etching,” Ionitsa says.
Moon Landing Spectacular in Screen Printing
Mike Kupfer, CEO of Chicago Signs, expanded his reach by starting a Chicago-themed art brand, 606 Apparel. In case you didn’t know, all zip codes in the Windy City start with the digits “606.”
Kupfer’s team has sold this cool “moon landing” print both online and at wholesale to retail stores in Chicago.
“The inspiration for this art is three-fold,” Kupfer says. “It’s a tribute to the Apollo 11 mission, the first to land on the moon. We also reference the iconic 1980s MTV ‘moon man.’ Finally, this design speaks to Chicago’s civic pride and our desire to accomplish big things.”
“With DTF, if you can imagine it, you can print it. I love DTF because it has little to no hand, and it’s more efficient and cost-effective than screen printing to produce.”
Tanya Doyscher, The Visual Identity Vault
Pro Tip: Chicago Signs lead graphic artist Sam Schilling created this design to work with the t-shirt’s black background. “When you’re working with a dark t-shirt, it’s always a good idea to work with lighter colors so that the art pops off the t-shirt like it does here,” Kupfer says. “While printing on black definitely isn’t the least expensive from a cost and time perspective, the results of printing a two-color design like this on black really can’t be matched by any other background.”
Old School Appliqué
This feminine and floral appliqué, sublimated tackle twill and embroidery design debuted at a college Kappa Epsilon sorority event where big sisters got paired with their new-member little sisters to help identify them and create a sense of inclusion with the new group. The A&P Master Images team used tackle twill embroidery along with dye-sublimated tackle twill as two layers. “The tackle twill gives you that old-school feel, while allowing your second layer of twill to give you a full-color design that pops and catches people’s eyes,” says Amanda Potter, co-CEO.
Pro Tips: If you’re creating a design like this, first create a base layer with an outline that’s roughly ¼-inch with a zig-zag stitch. The second layer of white twill is what you’ll sublimate to create your design. You’ll print a sheet of your design pattern (like the florals here) onto sublimation paper. Then heat press your design onto 100% polyester twill, and die-cut it using an Ioline cutter. Next, create your regular zig-zag sew files to create your outline stitches for placement, and then your zig-zag stitches to sew the material in place one layer at a time, starting with your base layer.
An Array of Appliqué & Embroidery
Carolyn Cagle, owner of Strikke Knits Embroidery, loves to experiment with multimedia in her business, and creates one-of-a-kind art coats and capes for one-of-a-kind buyers. “I describe a piece like this one as being purposely sewn ‘ramble scramble,’” she says.
This eclectic black-and-white hooded houndstooth jacket is the perfect base for this riotous celebration of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Cagle placed rose appliqués on the hood and sleeves, along with an appliqué of one of Kahlo’s best-known quotes, “Feet, why do I need you when I have wings to fly?”
An oversized rose embroidery covers most of the center back, with a trailing stem of serged green fleece sewn down for texture that disappears over the side hem and connects with Frida’s face.
The coat’s crown jewel is an appliqué of Frida’s face, up close and personal, which Cagle separated and colored from a stock design, and had expertly digitized by Vitor Digitizing. “Her flower crown is puff embroidery, and the appliqué is winter white wool felt with backing,” she says. “I definitely put my own flair into this art coat!”
The Great New World of DTF
The Minnesota-based Martin County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition exists to prevent and reduce underage drinking, marijiana use and prescription drug abuse. A coalition of local community members, including parents, law enforcement, businesses, religious organizations, schools, teachers, coaches and beyond, work together to reduce substance abuse by using a variety of evidence-based prevention strategies.
“Laser etching is a unique, fast-to-produce, and high-value-adding decoration technique. It takes minutes to set up, with most designs taking between five to 15 seconds to fully laser etch.” Artem Ionitsa, Logo Unlimited
Tanya Doyscher, owner and graphic designer at The Visual Identity Vault, was tasked with printing t-shirts, front and back, for the group. She used direct-to-film (DTF) printing for this powerful design. In case you don’t know what DTF printing is, it’s a newer technology that allows you to print designs onto special films. Then, you transfer the design onto a t-shirt using a special adhesive. Decorators who love DTF say these transfers rival the longevity of screen-printed designs. “We’re doing a lot of DTF for our clients,” Doyscher says. “We can do multicolor designs fast, and it’s much less costly than screen printing or embroidery.” She also loves the feel of DTF, as it has little to no hand.
“With DTF, if you can imagine it, you can print it,” Doyscher says. “The key is ensuring that you’re setting up the file for the color shirt or substrate you’re printing it on.” For instance, the Martin County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition sent Doyscher this artwork, which included the gray color of the shirt. “I wanted to use the shirt gray as the gray of the design,” she says. “That’s extra ink that doesn’t need to be laid down. Plus, the gray in the design wouldn’t match the shirt’s gray tone.”
DTF saved The Visual Identity Vault tremendously on screen costs, as well as being more efficient to produce. This job would have been three screens for the front, with two of them being consistent. “There’s room for error to get the third color aligned properly each time,” Doyscher says. “So instead of burning screens for all the various colors, we just had to get the file set up for print and then press.”
Pro Tip: “Turning out DTF is a matter of setting up the art file, printing it and then heat pressing,” Doyscher says. “You can also send your files to another printer to create the DTF transfers. For our shop, this is a huge time savings and the shirts look fantastic!”
Your Takeaway Today
The decorators we’ve featured here have used imprinting methods in several key ways:
- Created one-of-kind multimedia designs to get their clients’ brands noticed.
- Used multimedia and multi-locations to create a brand experience from all angles.
- Used decoration techniques that save time and money to still turn out wow-worthy designs.
In your shop, take a look at what decorating methods you offer, and how you can combine them in new and exciting ways like the shops shown here have done. It’s also important to test your techniques to see what works best, since many successful shop owners build in trial-and-error time to get it just right.
SHOP alphabroder USA, alphabroder CANADA and Prime Line BRANDS TO FIND PRODUCTS OF THE MOMENT.
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
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