Best Printing Styles for Screen Printing

There is an ongoing debate over the best way to screen print. Threadbird Printing has been working to develop an answer so that we can continue to deliver the best possible product to our customers. What we’ve found is that each style has its pros and cons and there is not one perfect process. It also comes down to who is doing the actual printing (there are good printers and bad printers) and what the customer is looking for. Personally, I like my prints to be soft, either no-feel or with a slight hand (barely any feel). However, some customers associate a thicker print with higher quality.

One of the things I love about screen printing is the science behind it. The ink, as well as the shirt itself, have such an effect on the end result. The shirt color and fabric can affect the outcome of the print. An experienced printer knows this and can help you better understand what results you will get. For example, some people believe you can only use discharge on 100% cotton shirts. This is not true; however, discharge does work “best” on 100% Cotton. On tri-blends or 50/50 blends, a discharge print will come out looking faded and vintage which may be the look you are going for. If you are not looking for a vintage print and want to use discharge ink, 100% cotton is the only option.

So, let’s take a look at the 4 most popular print styles today: plastisol, waterbase, discharge and hybrid.

Plastisol

Plastisol is the traditional style of screen printing that has been around forever. It is the most commonly used ink for screen printing because it is the cheapest and most user-friendly. It works on all types of fabrics, produces bright colors and is perfect for color matching. Like the name implies, plastisol inks are essentially plastic. The major downside to using plastisol inks is that the thickness of the ink can make the final print a bit on the rough side, which can feel heavy and less breathable. Colors can also bleed together when they touch and you do not get as much detail. Very detailed prints with small dots or lines may not print well.
Plastisol

Waterbase

Waterbase inks are as they sound, water-based. This makes them eco-friendly and easy to clean up. The water is mixed with a dye or pigment and then evaporated during the drying stage of printing. You have a slight hand (soft feel) after printing with waterbase inks, but it becomes no-feel after its first wash. Waterbase ink blends into the shirt instead of sitting on top of it. One downside of using waterbase inks is that they are less opaque, so the color of the shirt will influence the print itself. For example, a bright red ink on a black shirt will come out as a very dark red. Waterbase delivers the best results on white or very light colored shirts with dark colored inks. When printing lighter colored inks on dark colored shirts, the ink colors will change resulting in a more vintage look. Because of this we can’t guarantee color matching when using waterbase inks.
Waterbase

Discharge

Discharge is waterbase ink with an added bleaching agent. This allows us to print waterbase ink on dark garments by bleaching out the color of the shirt and replacing it with a new color. Discharge inks are also no-feel once washed. Discharge produces the best results on 100% cotton shirts because cotton is the “only” fabric that will bleach. You can use discharge on other fabrics, but you will see the texture of the polyester (and other threads) through the print. This could result in a very cool “distressed” looking print. There are exceptions to the rules, for example, if you are printing on a poly-cotton heather shirt and the poly is white, you will see great results using discharge. Unfortunately, certain colors like royal, red, kelly green and purple do not discharge completely. Like waterbase, the ink color will be affected by how well the shirt will discharge, so we cannot guarantee color matching. Print colors are also usually more muted when printing with discharge.
Discharge

Hybrid (Discharge Underbase/Premium Standard)

Premium Standard is a name we created. This is our standard ink which is used on 80% of the jobs we print. It’s a hybrid between discharge printing and plastisol. We use discharge as the underbase (bottom layer) with a soft style plastisol on top. The end result is a really soft print with brighter and more accurate colors – the best of both worlds! You may be thinking, “That sounds great! Why don’t you use it all the time?” Premium Standard may sound like your best option, but it isn’t perfect. As we mentioned above, using discharge requires a garment that discharges well. If we can use the discharge to make the underbase white or as white as possible, the top coat will print much better. If the underbase does not discharge well, the top colors will not look as good, however they will be brighter and more accurate than using discharge alone.
Hybrid

So which printing style is the best? Personally, I would go with the hybrid (Premium Standard), our most popular printing style. There is no additional charge for Premium Standard because the best quality printing is what matters the most. In the end, the best style comes down to personal preference and what will work best with your garments and final design. Each design is different and we are here to make sure yours look amazing! Reach out to one of our printing experts today and lets make something amazing together!


5 Financial Mistakes For New Clothing Companies

We work with hundreds of different clothing companies every month.  Over the years we have seen lots of people with aspirations of starting their own clothing company have their dreams come crashing down around them, losing thousands of dollars along the way. There are many different reasons why this happens, but oftentimes, it’s a case of unrealistic financial expectations. Here are 5 mistakes I have seen time and time again.

Not Enough Money

So, you got a $300 tax refund? Why not start your own clothing line and  turn $300 into $100,000? While I won’t say it’s impossible, I will say it’s not likely. $300 will barely get you 50 printed t-shirts, which doesn’t leave enough money for a website, marketing, paying designers, etc. Plus, having a single t-shirt design doesn’t make you a clothing company. First, research how much it’s going to cost to launch your brand. How many designs you are going to start with? How many of each design will you print? What other expenses might you have along the way? If you don’t have enough money to do what you want right now, just wait and keep saving. This will give you more time for planning and research.

Spending too much money to start

I have had new clothing lines approach us ready to drop $20,000 to launch their brand. They release 15 designs out the gate, all with finishing’s and custom packaging. They end up spending more money than any new clothing company will ever be able to make back. You will, most likely, make a lot of mistakes starting out and you want to limit the amount of money you are spending while making those mistakes. You don’t want to print a few thousand shirts and decide your designs are not very good and find out that nobody wants them. Find a reasonable place to start (a few thousand dollars will do the trick) and start slow. Try launching your first line with 3-5 designs.

Spending money you don’t have

I have seen some great clothing companies crash and burn by spending money they don’t have. They put everything on a credit card, thinking they will make the money back fast. They print lots of product for a music festival, and it doesn’t sell. Take your profits and use that to reinvest into your business for growth. Don’t try to grow too fast or do too much. Know your limits.

Not spending the money on what matters

This can go two different ways. First, you can go super cheap on everything and put out a bad product that nobody wants. You end up trying to do everything yourself . You design your product instead of hiring a professional. You let your friend screen-print your shirts in his garage. Next thing you know, you’re stuck with a finished product that you aren’t proud of. Presentation is everything, and if you want people to take you seriously as a clothing company, then make sure you do it right. On the other hand, you can spend too much money. You use the most expensive blank t-shirt on the market for quality. You order hem tags, printed tags, hang tags, poly-bagging and custom mailers. You hire an amazing artist that charges $1000 per design and you build a website/online store from scratch. Next thing you know, you have to sell your shirts for $50 each just to make your money back. When starting out, having a quality product is important, but you don’t need to go over the top. Find a good blank that is well-priced. I’m a fan of the Anvil 980 and Canvas 3001. If you want to do custom printed tags, go for it. But, choose one finishing, not all of them. A customer isn’t going to refuse to buy your product because it doesn’t have a hem tag. Find a good designer in a price range that makes sense and choose the right printer that does quality work. Instead of focusing on the price of the printer, look at the type of work they produce. Most printers will send you a sample of their printing (not of your design).  You want to be able to sell your product at a reasonable price and make your money back plus more. Remember, your first line is important, but make sure it’s not also your last.

Starting a clothing company to get rich quick or trying to turn it into a full time job

Want to make some quick money or quit your job to become your own boss? This is probably not the right business for you. It takes lots of time and effort for companies to make a real profit, and for a while the profits they do make end up going back into growing the business. Very few people I know run their clothing company full time. Most of them work a full time job, and operate their brand on the side for fun. Some have a part time job on the side (like being a freelance designer). Avoid paying yourself with your clothing company for as long as possible. Just like any business, it takes time to build awareness and a following. It’s not likely that you will release your product online and sell out in the first few weeks. But, if you work hard and develop a good product, a few years down the road your dreams could become reality.


Short Sleeve Ring Spun Cotton Comparison Chart

You’ve heard us say it before… not every t-shirt is created equal. When you start brainstorming your next order, you will be confronted with a long list of available garments in each Fabric category. This week, we’ve created a comparison chart to highlight the 6 most popular garments in the “Short Sleeve Ring Spun Cotton” category. In short, Ring Spun Cotton is a tighter, stronger weave with a softer feel. In the apparel industry, Ring Spun is often referred to as Fashion Fit. These shirts are a nice step up from your Basic Cotton shirt and are often preferred in the Clothing Industry.

In the following chart, we have listed the 6 most popular Ring Spun Cotton Short Sleeve T-Shirts, showing their price per garment based on the number of colors in the print. To help you better understand how to use this chart, let’s take an example:

Acme, Inc. wants to print a 2 color design on the Gildan 64000. Using the following chart, they would find G64000 under the header ‘2 Color’. The price per garment is $5.85. Since they are printing 100 shirts, they would multiply $5.85 x 100 shirts to get their total of $585.

Be sure to read the Manufacturer’s description following the chart to find out more about each particular garment. Please email us any time if you have questions about a particular garment or if you would like a recommendation.

Chart Comparing Short Sleeve Ring Spun Cotton T-Shirts

American Apparel 2001

Manufacturer’s Description:

Weight: 4.3oz | 100% Ring Spun Cotton | 100% Fine Jersey Cotton (Heather Grey contains 10% Polyester). Durable rib neckband. Made of 100% fine ring-spun combed cotton, this lightweight fine jersey is exceptionally smooth and tight-knit, making it a perfect surface for screen printing.

Anvil 980

Manufacturer’s Description:

Weight: 4.5oz | 100% Ring Spun Cotton | 100% Combed Ring Spun Preshrunk Cotton Jersey. Side seamed with shoulder-to-shoulder tape. Double-needle stitching on sleeve and bottom hem.

Canvas 3001

Manufacturer’s Description:

Weight: 4.2oz | 100% Ring Spun Cotton | Comfort and style with a super-soft drape you want to sleep in. 30-single 100% combed and ring-spun cotton 4.2oz shoulder taping.

Gildan 64000

Manufacturer’s Description:

Weight 4.5oz | 100% Ring Spun Cotton | Narrower 3/4″ rib knit collar. Deluxe 30’s ring spun softness. Euro style fit in neck/shoulder/sleeves. Seamless double needle collar. Taped neck and shoulders. Double needle sleeves and bottom hem. Quarter-turned to eliminate center crease.

Next Level 3600

Manufacturer’s Description:

Weight: 4.3oz | 100% RIng Spun Cotton | 100% Combed Ring Spun Jersey Cotton. Set in collar.

Tultex 0202

Manufacturer’s Description:

Weight: 4.5oz | 100% Ring Spun Cotton | 30/1’s fine knit jersey. Tubular construction. Ribbed crew taped neck and shoulders with double needle sleeves and bottom hem. Tear-away tag. Reactive dyed. Dischargeable (Heather – 90% Cotton/10% Polyester).

 


Unisex Shirts… Not Really.

The term Unisex in the garment world means that it will fit most “everyone, male or female. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be flattering. With current trends in fashion, most people are looking for a slim-fitted look. Unisex shirts will be slim and fitted on some, mostly men, but they will not be slim and fitted on women. Let’s face it, men and women are built differently, so doesn’t it make sense that clothing is built differently for men and women? Most people want garments specifically cut for their fit, and most, if not all garment manufacturers know this and make a “Unisex” (or men’s cut) shirt and a Women’s cut shirt.

The 6 most popular Unisex soft style ring spun cotton shirts in the printing world are listed below, along with their women’s equivalent.

American Apparel

American Apparel 2001 – Unisex (Men’s Cut) vs. AA 2102 – Women’s Equivalent

American Apparel 2001
American Apparel 2102

Anvil

Anvil 980 – Unisex or Men’s Cut vs. Anvil 880 (Women’s)

Anvil 980
Anvil 880

Bella/Canvas

Canvas 3001 – Unisex or Men’s Cut

Canvas 3001
Bella 6004

Gildan

Gildan 64000 – Unisex or Men’s Cut vs. Gildan 64000L (Women’s)

Gildan 64000
Gildan 64000L

Next Level

Next Level 3600 – Unisex or Men’s Cut vs. NL 3300L (Women’s)

Next Level 3600
Next Level 3300L

Tultex

Tultex 0202 – Unisex or Men’s Cut vs. Tultex 0213 (Women’s)

Tultex 0202
Tultex 0213

In the current market, especially for up and coming indie brands, people are wanting to appeal to as much of their demographic as possible, so why not print on Men’s and Women’s cut shirts? At Threadbird, this is not a problem. If you are wanting to print a design on both Men’s and Women’s cuts, we will be happy to help you put that together. All you need to do is print at least 12 of each style. Feel free to send us an email at printing@threadbird.com if you have any questions, or if you would like to get an estimate started!


Why Does My New Shirt Look Old? Fibrillation.

There is a simple one-word answer for this question: Fibrillation.  To simplify a complicated issue, fibrillation in screen printing is when the fibers of a garment stick through the print, giving the shirt a post-washed or vintage, faded look. It is often mistakenly assumed to be an ink problem such as wash-out. The difference between wash-out and fibrillation, is that wash-out tends to happen in patches, whereas fibrillation appears as a more even “faded” look to the print. See the gallery of photos below – a real life example of fibrillation:

  • Fibrillation 1
  • Fibrillation 2
  • Fibrillation 3
  • Fibrillation 4
  • Fibrillation 5

The main problem with fibrillation is that it is completely random and fairly difficult to predict, even though there are situations that cause it to occur more often than not. We have found three factors that cause fibrillation most frequently: 

1. Dark on Light: When printing dark colors (with large coverage areas of ink) on light garments (mainly white), or when your design and garment have a high contrast. 

2. Soft Garments: We’ve also noticed that the softer the garment, the more likely fibrillation will occur. Manufacturers are making garments softer, thinner and more comfortable. This can compromise the cotton and sustainability of the garment, and ultimately the print. 

3. Thin Ink: When ink is thinned down to create a soft print, it doesn’t bind all the fibers together and creates a situation where fibrillation is more likely to occur, but this does not necessarily mean it will happen 100% of the time. 

Screen printing has changed over time. In the 80’s and 90’s, screen prints were traditionally thicker and less comfortable, but fibrillation was virtually nonexistent. The general public wanted softer shirts and softer prints, demanding that the screen printing world adjust to their desires. As of late, the ultimate goal in screen printing is to achieve a super soft, bright print. Most printers attempt to achieve this by manipulating inks, adding softeners and other additives to make sure that the print feels like it is part of the shirt and not an annoyance to who is wearing it. However, when you compromise the ink during production (by thinning it) you compromise the print on the end product.

At this point, you’re likely asking yourself, “What can I do to avoid fibrillation on my order?”. While easier asked than answered, we do have a few suggestions to combat fibrillation:

1. Let us know if you’re looking for a “soft black” or a “true black”. Soft black is likely to experience fibrillation where a “true black” will print thicker and will be less susceptible to fibrillation. 

2. Use discharge or waterbase inks. These inks dye the garment instead of covering it with ink. This will dye the fibers, and when they stick up, you won’t be as likely to see them. 

3. Add a clear coat to the top of your print to “seal in” the fibers. This will cost the same as adding a color (e.g. a 3-color print + a clear coat will be charged as a 4-color print). The advantage to a clear coat is that it locks the fibers in, the drawback is the additional cost and thickening of the print. 

4. Plan for fibrillation. If you have a design you think may experience fibrillation, add some distressing to the design and turn the negative into a positive. Use the “faded” look you may get to your advantage and add design effects that imply it is supposed to be that way. 

At the end of the day, it is always our goal to provide our customers with the highest level of quality. That said, Threadbird is constantly trying to better our production by experimenting with and testing things to avoid fibrillation and other issues that can occur. We cannot predict fibrillation, but we take efforts to avoid it and we hope that this article has better educated you on ways that you can become involved and help ensure that you get the product you’re looking for. 


Understanding Discharge Printing & Waterbase Printing

Customers frequently ask us about discharge printing or waterbase printing and why it works on some garments but not others. There’s a lot of information floating around promising that discharge will or will not work, but oftentimes the information lacks insight about the effectiveness or limitations of the ink. When working with discharge ink, there’s a difference between “Will this work?” and “Will this look good?”. We wanted to take a moment to discuss discharge, equipping you to make the distinction between these two questions and enabling you to determine what is best for your project.

The first thing to look at is the ink itself. Let’s start with an important point: all discharge ink is waterbase (water based) but not all waterbase ink is discharge. (You may need to re-read that last one a few times). The distinguishing factor between discharge and waterbase is that discharge contains an additive called ZFS (Zinc Formaldehyde Sulfoxylate for the super technical). ZFS creates a chemical reaction that essentially removes the dyed color of the material, allowing the waterbase ink to re-dye the material at the same time. For this reason, waterbase ink works best on light colored garments and discharge ink works best on dark colored garments.

When considering waterbase or discharge ink, you might try thinking of them as “dyes”. When waterbase ink is applied, the shirt color will affect the ink color, as the waterbase “dye” interacts with the material “dye”. For example, a white waterbase print on a red shirt will appear somewhat pink. Or a yellow waterbase print on a blue shirt will appear green. These results are not bad in and of themselves; in fact, they may act in your favor depending on the vision you have for your project. Some customers are intentional about these results to achieve a faded/vintage effect. Take a look at the following image for reference:

Understanding Discharge Printing & Waterbase Printing

You may already know that discharge ink is primarily used on 100% cotton garments. The ZFS interacts only with Cotton. It does not interact with Polyester or any other materials. To achieve an even color across your print, 100% cotton will create the best results for discharge prints. However, this does not mean that 100% cotton is the only material that you can use with discharge inks.

Threadbird Discharge Printing

In the photo above, the 100% cotton shirt in the middle has a very even and consistent white color, while the tri-blend (50% Cotton, 25% Polyester, 25% Rayon) on the left shows the heathering of the garment through the ink and the 50% Cotton/50% Polyester on the right has a very muted mid-range grey print. Results can be somewhat inconsistent and aren’t guaranteed to have an even texture depending on how the knit in the shirt is blended. If the knit is inconsistent (patches of cotton or poly and not an even heather) the print will look inconsistent. This is not something that printers can account for, nor does it really qualify as a misprint, it’s just the nature of the beast when using these inks.

Discharge Printing on a 50/50 Heather

Now that you’ve committed all of these things to memory, let’s throw another wrench in the system when using discharge and heathered 50/50 material. Some manufacturers blend their garments so that the white “heathering” of the shirt is polyester and the colored portion of the garment is cotton, garnering a better discharge effect. This is a great chance to do something out of the ordinary that usually cannot be accomplished. However, not all heathered 50/50’s discharge well, and it’s largely a case-by-case scenario. If you have a project that you think would be a suitable option for using discharge on a 50/50, just ask us and we’ll be happy to look into it for you. Below is a picture of a print using 4 colors, the white is discharge, the grey, black, and red are waterbase.

Discharge Printing on a 50/50 Heather Shirt

The Question: “When is it ok to use discharge on a tri-blend or a 50/50?”.

The Answer: “Only when you’ve done your research and you know what is best for your project or brand.”

We hope you have learned something after reading this post. If you have any questions please reach out to us. We would love to answer any questions you may have to make sure that you get the best results possible.

printing@threadbird.com / (407) 545-6506