How To: Getting the Best Screen Print from Your Design Files

So you’re ready to place a garment order. What’s next, you ask? There will be a number of steps to make sure we have everything you need, one being “high resolution or vectorized artwork”. What the heck does that mean? Well, allow us to explain.

High quality artwork is crucial in the screen printing process. The design you print is a major selling point for any clothing brand, band or retail company. It’s the reason your customers want to buy it from you, and we want all of our customers to succeed. Below we’ll answer some of the top questions that our customers have about artwork files.

“What’s a vector file?”

A vector file is a scalable art format that is most commonly associated with Adobe Illustrator. It’s a file that can be sized small enough to print on a baby onesie or large enough to fit on a billboard without any degradation or loss of clarity. It’s the favored file format of screen printers because it can be easily resized should the artwork require it.

“What does ‘high resolution artwork’ mean?”

It means that when zoomed in at 100% on an image, it has well defined, crisp lines. The two images below help illustrate that. On the top you see two seemingly identical images, but when you zoom in on the two images you’ll see the contrast between the two. The left image is muddy and not well defined. The image on the right, however, is clean without any blurriness or distortion.

  • Low Resolution Artwork File
  • High Resolution Artwork File

In order for a design to be printable it absolutely has to have sharp, clean edges. If it is even a little blurry the screen that the image is burned onto won’t pick up on the fine details and the final product won’t look right. For more information on the process of screen printing and more specifically burning a screen read our previous blog.

All vector artwork is high resolution, which we covered. But let’s say you created your artwork in Photoshop, Gimp or another design program. What then? What steps can you take to prevent your artwork created in those programs from being unusable?

  • Design everything in 300dpi. Dots Per Inch, or dpi, is literally a measurement of how many dots of color are in every square inch of a design. It’s the industry standard for almost any kind of graphic art as it produces a very crisp edge and is easily translated to print.
  • Create your project at the desired size you want it printed. When creating a new photoshop document with the intention of designing a new shirt, always favor a larger canvas than a small one. You can always shrink it down to work on the garment but you can’t ever stretch it out to make it larger without pixelating the artwork.

setup

These rules definitely are not common practice for even graphic designers, but when dealing with screen printing they make all the difference. Taking these steps will help to not only make your artwork printable, but the best quality you can get. They will make everybody’s job easier and guarantee the best final product!

Ready to order? You can go here or contact us at printing@threadbird.com with any additional questions! You can also find answers to some other file prep questions here.


Turnaround Time: What’s Really Happening?

So you’ve placed an order with us and are wondering, “What’s next?” or “How long is all this production stuff going to take?” Well, we can assure you that the Threadbird team is hard at work to keep your order moving and to get the best final product possible to your door.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 9.54.14 AM

Here’s what happens once you submit and pay for your order.

Your digital mocks are created. Our Art & Mocks team immediately starts working to put together your designs and all necessary details for your approval before handing the final mock off to the printing team. You should receive it within 24 hours and the faster you approve the faster we can keep your order moving.

Our purchasing department orders your blank garments. We order your blanks right away to speed up your turnaround time. If you want to change your blanks, please let your customer service rep know as soon as possible to prevent additional delays and/or fees.

Your order goes into production. The average production time from mock approval is 5-7 business days. Any finishings or complex jobs may require additional time, which means turnaround time is an estimate and not guaranteed. If you have a specific due date, please be sure to let your customer service rep know when placing your order. If you have any questions or concerns about your order in the meantime, please contact us at printing@threadbird.com.

 And finally, your order is on the way! We’re big fans of this part. We love when our customers finally get to see their finished product in person. Once you receive your order let us know what you think! Share some pictures and tag us on Twitter or Instagram or let us know if we can do anything else. We want to know how your experience was.

And that’s it! Not too bad, huh? If you’re ready to start the process, you can go here, or you can contact us at printing@threadbird.com.


Threadbird Apparel Finishing: What are Hem Tags

“What the heck is a hem tag?”

A great way to add an extra branded touch to your shirts is by having custom tags sewn onto the shirt. We can put them in the neck of the shirt, but we can also put a hem tag on the sleeve or at the bottom of the shirt. Threadbird does not manufacture these, but if you supply them we will take care of adding them to your shirts. We recommend ordering your tags from www.clothinglabels4u.com.

“Are there different types of hem tags?”

There are two kinds of hem tags, and it’s really just a matter of preference. Both are great options!

  • Center fold – These labels have a center fold and the edges are heat sealed, to prevent fraying. You would wrap this label around the bottom hem of your t-shirt/beanie and top sew a tad below the top heat sealed part.
  • Manhattan fold – These labels have a top and bottom fold and a center fold as well. So you would wrap this label around the bottom hem of your t-shirt/beanie and top sew along the top folded part. Gives a neat finished look.

“What size does my design need to be?”

Hem tags are commonly created in 1” X 1” (25.4mm X 25.4mm) squares (open label being 1” X 2”). However, most manufacturers can adjust the size to guarantee it works best for your design. NOTE: Be sure to include an extra 1/8 SA on top for sewing when folded.

“What’s all this talk about damask labels?”

When discussing hem tags, you might hear the term damask labels referenced. Damask refers to the size of thread used and there are two kinds – 100 denier damask and 50 denier damask. 50 denier damask yarn will be half the size of the 100 denier damask yarn, resulting in finer detail and a softer feel. Damask is made of polyester yarns and comes in hundreds of colors. Now you know!

“How much longer will my order take?”  

One thing to note when ordering hem tags is that manufacturing the actual tags can take up to a few weeks, so plenty of time needs to be allowed prior to us receiving the tags to add to your garments.

On our end we estimate roughly 2-5 additional days to the turnaround time per finishing on standard orders. Our team can help to offer better timeline estimates once your order has been placed and all approvals have been made.

“So, how much??”

We’ve mapped it all out for you. One thing we recommend, however, is that you send us extra hem tags. If you include a buffer of about 10% extra that allows room for loss, error or manufacturer defects. Again, the pricing below is only for sewing the hem tags on – not the actual manufacturing.

Hem Tag Pricing

We’re big fans of this finishing option for an extra branded touch on garments. Check out the site if you’re interested in placing an order or have any other questions.


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 screen printing 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. Water-based printing allows the ink to blend 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 apparel printing 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.


Fibrillation in Screen Printing

Why does my new shirt look old? 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.