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


American Apparel 2001: T-Shirts for Screen Printing

Hello Threadbirds!

Today is the start of a new series called “Drawing a Blank”. This blog series will hopefully give you an insight into the world of blank shirts. We understand that choosing the perfect brand and style is crucial when setting up an new order for your clothing line, brand, startup, band or personal event. We at Threadbird want to give you an insight on every shirt we have to offer, so that you can make an informed decision on what shirt to choose for your apparel printing needs. Today’s shirts are a standard, in the screen printing industry.

<h3″>American Apparel 2001 – Made In The USA

These blanks are known for excellent quality. These are very comfortable shirts with just the right amount of cloth thickness, also is soft to the touch and are 100% ring spun cotton, also this shirt take well to different types of screen printing inks (Premium Standard, Plastisol, Waterbase and Discharge Inks). American Apparel shirts are known to be a little bit on the pricier side, but it’s one of those “you get what you pay for” type deals. Many independent clothing lines, look to these as the go-to shirt for their apparel printing needs. *Premium Standard & Discharge ink doesn’t discharge well on these colors (Kelly Green, Red, Royal, Royal Blue, Lapis, Cobalt, Purple, Forest, Teal and Turquoise)

To Fit or Not To Fit:

Personally, the AA2001 is one of my favorite shirts to wear. They are fitted, but don’t have a ridiculously tight form to them. I wear a large shirt, but it isn’t a shirt that I have to bump up in size just to fit. If you go on American Apparel’s website you notice that everyone is a slim fit in that shirt, but don’t let that detour you from trying one on for yourself. They are great shirts for any size.

Size Matters:

The American Apparel 2001 offers sizes ranging from XXS – 3XL. To be sure about what size you would fit in, I would recommend checking out their sizing chart to help choose the correct fitting. Also, they are Unisex shirts.

Colors, Colors, Colors:

The American Apparel 2001 comes in a variety of vibrant colors. Attached to blog post will be a color chart and a few photos of the AA2001 shirts for you to review. Currently they offer 52 stunning colors! So, if you’re looking for something poppy, smooth or even dark, they have many colors to choose from.

If you have any questions about these shirts or would like to talk to a representative about them, please feel free to reach us at printing@threadbird.com.

  • American Apparel 2001 Color Chart
  • American Apparel 2102 Royal Blue
  • American Apparel 2102 Gold
  • American Apparel 2001 Summer Peach
  • American Apparel 2001 Cranberry

Threadbird Printing 101

For anyone new to Threadbird Printing, here’s a basic rundown of how our screen printing ordering process works. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments, and I’ll be sure to answer them. Thanks!

Step 1: Get Acquainted

When you start thinking about placing a print order, take a few minutes to look through the Website. We list our pricing, file prep and provide tons of tips. Reading through this info will make sure you don’t hit any surprises along the way.

If you can’t find something you’re looking for, drop us an email and we can get you a custom quote.

Step 2: Your Design

Next, you’ll need to get your design ready for printing. Your artwork should be sized to print, in either a 300 dpi file or in a vector file format. See our File Prep page for more info on how to prepare your order, including downloadable shirt templates and imprint sizes.

We like to receive your files with colors separated into different layers, but if you’re not able to do that yourself, we can do it for you. If you’re not sure how many colors it will take, feel free to ask in advance.

We would also prefer to set the halftone pattern. If your design has large halftone dots it isn’t a big deal, so just ignore this, but if it is for detail and shading, your print will come out better if you allow us to set them. We have everything calibrated for the dot gain we will get using our inks and it is impossible for us to adjust for dot gain if the half tone is preset. Another issue that can come up is moire pattern, that is where we get an unwanted pattern in the final print caused by the halftone angle being set incorrectly.

It also helps us a lot when you know the Pantone color of the inks you want to use, so if you know those, please include them.

Step 3: Place Your Order and Send Your Art

Using our online order form (Coming Soon), you’ll give us your contact info and specify your print placement, product, sizes and colors. Very important: If you need your order by a certain date, be sure to note it here.

Email all artwork files to printing@threadbird.com. If the files are too big to email, please use YouSendIt.com.

Step 4: Approve Estimate and Pay Invoice

Once you place your order, we’ll use our trusty FreshBooks system to send you an estimate with your final charges, including shipping costs. If you need to make any last changes, this is the time to do it.

Once you accept it, we’ll send you the invoice, which you can pay online by credit card, PayPal or through the mail by check. If you mail a check your order maybe delayed until the check has been received and the money has cleared.

Once your order is paid, we’ll order your blanks and get rolling!

Step 5: Approve Mock

Before we put your items on the press, we’ll send you a digital mock up for final approval. It shows your garment color, print placement, print size, ink colors and final quantity. We do this to make sure everyone is on the same page. Once you approve it, we are smooth sailing.

Step 6: On the Presses

Step 7: Receive It and Love It… and Sell It!

You will get the shirts in 8-12 business days, plus average shipping time, via UPS.


Why Great Apparel Photography is Important

As we develop our blog to provide more information for our customers as well as the
general public, we will be having friends of the company come in and provide
info on areas that are outside of our areas of expertise. Adam Assoian,
professional photographer, agreed to write an article about the importance of
photography when it pertains to your clothing brand.

Hi. My name is Adam Assoian , and I own and operate Focused in Photography, (http://www.focusedinphotography.net) a photography company based out of New Jersey that specializes in serving you guys, independent clothing lines. Last week Shane of Threadbird asked me if I’d be interested in writing up a blog post for them about the importance of photography, and obviously I was glad to. So keep on reading to find out why you should be hiring a professional photographer, and how it can help your business (aka why you should care). I’ll be writing this as bluntly and transparently as possible, telling you exactly how it is, both from the photographer’s point of view, and from the point of view from a consumer of your shirts.

First and foremost, I want to tell you why you should care that you have great photography on your site. First, realize we are talking about great, not good or good enough, but great. Look, clothing lines are an inherently visual field, you put a lot of energy, money, and time into each of your designs; I am sure a lot of you gave up a social life for your brand. So now after you’ve finished a design (which is completely awesome), you get it printed and what do the majority of you do? Well I’ll tell you; you go take photos of it with your iPhone or have a “photographer” friend do it for free (aka poorly), or you take your siblings camera they got for their birthday and you take a photo of it yourself on some decent looking friends that you call models, and you post them up on your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to advertise and sell your new design. That, or you just use the same template everyone else has on their site, which is your design on a shirt that’s lying on the ground, and every shirt has the same exact creases and sleeve fold.

Labyrinth Clothing Photography

So now that you’re thinking to yourself, “crap, I totally do that! I don’t think it looks bad, I mean, it’s good enough…” let me tell you why it’s not “good enough”. First, when it comes to your business, your baby, your pride and joy that you put all of your money into, there should not be a “good enough” option. You’d never put a design on a shirt that you thought was, “good enough”. Why? Because, “good enough” doesn’t sell shirts when you’re competing with hundreds of other independent brands. So now that we all agree that “good enough” isn’t an option, let me tell you why you shouldn’t be taking your own photos. Simply put, for the large majority of the time, it looks like your models have jaundice (a disease where the skin turns yellow). Not only will people be looking at the skin (and thus not your design), no one would be attracted to the design because it’s surrounded by something unflattering.

To emphasize that last point, if you look through any fashion magazine, what is something you realize about the people in the ads? How about the fact that they are all ridiculously good looking people? As brazen as it sounds, sex sells. You would sell more shirts with an attractive model, than you would if you took that same shirt and put it on an unattractive person. And the reason is simple, when people are shopping online, they want to believe they will look good in your shirt. Likewise, you can take a shirt from your favorite brand, slap it on Johnny Depp or Mila Kunis and it would look great! But if you took that design and put it on Honey Boo-Boo’s mom and dad, it’s not going to look so great.

Great Apparel Photography

The last reason to make sure you have great looking photos is simple; people will think you are only as successful as you portray yourself to be. So if you want to come off as a professional brand that knows what they’re doing, you should have a professional presence. The images people see on your website when they’re shopping around are the only images they get to see before they buy it, so you better make sure those images can convince someone to buy that design. Think about it, your customers don’t have the leisure of trying on the shirt and looking in the mirror before they buy it, they need to trust that the design they see on the site, is exactly what they’ll get in the mail.

Since they don’t get to try it on and look in the mirror, they should be able to see exactly how it will on the body. Women will want to know if the design is going to wrap around their torso, or if the design will look odd once there are boobs and hips adjusting it. Guys and girls both want to know how deep the v-neck you’re selling is, how tight it is on the body, how long the shirt actually is. All of these questions are usually answered in a dressing room. Well their dressing room is now your online storefront.

Winky Boo Shirt Photography

So now that we’ve agreed that you’ll stop taking the photos yourself and on your phone, let’s discuss what a professional photographer should be able to offer you. Bluntly, you should only be working with photographers that you feel can help you get to the next level by giving you that professional presence. The right photographer will be able to tell you everything I’ve just said; how you need to show how the design will look on the body, and all of that fun stuff I listed above. Your photographer should be able to offer you exactly what you want, whether it’s indoor shots against a backdrop, or outdoor shots in the woods. Listen, you’re paying a fair amount of money to get your photos looking great; don’t settle for anything less than what you want. Sure, you’ll have to pay a bit more than you’d probably like to get great photos, but it’s a solid investment. Great photos help sell your shirts and more shirts sold equals a happier you.

So to wrap this up, please do yourself, and your business a favor and hire a professional photographer. While I’d love to work with you (no matter where you live we can work something out), there are other photographers out there (but you should still hire me because I am awesome, and you’re awesome, and you want awesome photos…which I produce) that can give you great photos. Please don’t settle for anything that leaves you saying, “these will do”, or “these are good enough”, etc.

Labyrinth Clothing Good Photography

Don’t think you’ll hurt your friend’s feelings if you don’t let them shoot your brand, remember, this is a business your running, your business, not your friend’s business, and you need to make smart business decisions that will push your brand forward. And lastly, please, please remember that you can always reach out to me via Facebook (www.facebook.com/focusedinphotography) or my email (focusedinphotography [at] gmail.com) if you have ANY questions at all. I will always respond within 24 hours, and I promise to give you the attention you and your brand deserve. So don’t be shy.

Oh, and one last thing. The amazing team over at Threadbird work really hard to get your shirts looking absolutely perfect, and they want your shirts looking as perfect as possible not only when people wear them, but in your photos too. So, what they have graciously agreed to do is this: if you get your order printed with them AND hire me for a shoot, you will get 25 cents off of each shirt in your order and 5% off your shoot with me. Just contact them for more details and they’ll put you in touch with me so we can work out all the pricing.

Thanks so much for your time.


The Missing (L)ink! – Know Your Screen Printing Inks!

When it comes to printing new apparel items, it’s always good to be prepared and know what you’re getting into, especially when it comes to knowing your inks. The most commonly misunderstood decision that a client makes when placing an order is what type of ink to use. The options are many and each one of them has pros and cons. Also, there are situations where they do work and don’t work on certain apparel choices. So, where are we now? Decisions…Decisions…

This guide will help you understand what inks to use, why to use them and how to use them. We’ll break apart each ink, give you the details on what to expect, and leave you feeling awesome, I mean “prepared” to place your orders in the future.

Premium Standard

Premium Standard is Threadbird’s ink style of choice. This is a blend of multiple printing types, a discharge ink underbase, and house blended topcoat of ink. The topcoat is a plastisol base with additives to soften the ink and take a lot of the shine out of the print. Many shops have tried to duplicate our style and haven’t been able to do so. You’ll see print facilities offer Fashion Soft inks and say they are comparable, but they are not. Fashion soft is a softened plastisol, but the key component is the discharge underbase. This allows you to get the feel of a garment with one layer of soft ink while getting the brightness of a garment with a full underbase layer.

Pros: The big benefits you’ll see when using Premium Standard are softer prints and vibrant colors, pending the use of the correct garments. You won’t experience big “vinyl shield” prints that you’ll see from straight plastisol print shops (your standard local print facility). We offer this at no additional charge, so it’s a great option for those who want a good quality print on a budget.

Cons: Much like discharge inks, Premium Standard inks have restrictions for both garment type and garment color. Due to the discharge component, premium standard will not be able to provide true color matching on the following garment colors: Kelly Green, Red, Royal Blue, Lapis, Cobalt, Purple, Forest, Teal and Turquoise. These colors will cause a tint to the topcoat color. As a “for instance”, if you use a white or yellow ink on a Royal Blue garment and opt for premium standard, your yellow can come out with a green tinge and the white will look more like a light blue.

Garments That Work With Premium Standard Inks: The only garments that work with Premium standard inks are 100% cotton, 90% Cotton / 10% Polyester, 80% Cotton / 20% Polyester with 100% Cotton Facing. This means it’ll work on most of your standard t-shirt options, and works well with fleece items made by American Apparel, Independent Trading Company (ITC) and Bayside. Companies like Hanes are also trying to creep into the market with PrintProXP items that are 80/20.

Sample Photos With Premium Standard Inks:

  • Sleep Terror Premium Standard Printing
  • Sleep Terror Clothing - Premium Standard Printing
  • Native NYC - Premium Standard Printing
  • Native NYC Clothing - Premium Standard Printing

Waterbase (Water Based) Inks

Water base ink, much like the name would imply, is ink with a water base, not a PVC base like Plastisol ink. Water based ink is a translucent ink with lower opacity than plastisol or premium standard, which means it can give very visible results on white or very light shirt colors, but on darker colored garments the colors will be heavily influenced by the shirt colors beneath. Water base inks are also more eco-friendly, free of more harmful PVC’s and phthalates.

Pros: This eco-friendly ink will give you a no feel print every time that will provide a vintage look immediately, working into the shirt to dye the fabric as opposed to sitting on top of the fabric like a plastisol print. This will help to create a life long print that will not crack, peel, split or otherwise be wrecked by constant wear.

Cons: The vintage look is a double-edged sword, if you know what to expect, it’s fantastic and one of our favorite looks. If you use it incorrectly, it can wreck a perfect design quickly. Using water base on dark colored garments will cause the garment to overwhelm the ink color, causing your design to appear incorrect on the shirt. We would not recommend the use of water base on dark colored garments for first time clothing brands or people whom aren’t familiar with screen printing.

Garments That Work With Water Based Ink: The benefit of water based ink is that it will work with most any garment, but you need to be mindful more of garment color than material make up. There are certain cases and situations where water base inks won’t work (nylons, 100% polyester, etc.) but you won’t run into many with normal screen printing items.

Sample Photos With Water Base Ink:

  • Dribbble Infinity - Discharge Printing
  • Dribbble Ampersandwhich - Discharge Printing
  • Salvation Army Abolition Tee - Discharge Printing
  • Hook & Irons - Discharge Printing

Discharge Inks

Discharge is a form of water base ink, but with a bit of a twist. Discharge inks have an additive in them, abbreviated as ZFS (Zinc Formaldahyde Sulfoxylate) that will remove the dye used by the manufacturer. I know the chemical name may sound awfully imposing, but truthfully is quite safe. There are three different versions of discharge: clear, white and pigmented. Clear will only remove the dye from the garment, leaving either the color of the garment pre-dying behind or the color of the garment after interacting with the ZFS (as for instance, Royal Blue, will turn to a mid-grey color). White is as you would expect, white, and pigmented discharge will remove the dye in the garment and replace it with a pigmented dye. As discharge is a water based ink, it will work it’s way into the fabric, giving you the most long lasting print you can get, but there are some drawbacks.

Pros: Discharge can give you a no feel print, with bright colors on dark garments. Resting in the garment as opposed to on the garment, this will give you a long lasting print that, like water base, will not crack, peel, split or otherwise be wrecked by constant wear. To get the no feel print, the shirt must be washed to rinse the residual ink out of the garment.

Cons: The most frustrating con with discharge ink is the coloring issues caused. Right off the bat, discharge is not recommended with the following garment colors: Kelly Green, Red, Royal Blue, Lapis, Cobalt, Purple, Forest, Teal and Turquoise. As a whole, when using discharge, there’s a storm of different factors at play, bleaching additives, possible manufacturer over-dying, pigments, there’s no fail-proof formula. That said, we can print discharge on 100 shirts and get varying shades of the color you chose, it’s an arduous and often times impossible task to color match using discharge, so it’s best to use this ink in a situation where the design isn’t anchored to having exact colors.

Garments That Work With Discharge Inks:

The only garment types that work with discharge inks are 100% cotton and tri-blend material. Please note on tri-blend material you will see a great deal of the heathering through the print.

Sample Photos With Discharge Inks:

  • Thought Space Clothing - Discharge Printing
  • Iconic Black Detail - Discharge Printing
  • Wicked Clothes - Discharge Printing
  • Machete Choose Your Weapon - Discharge Printing

Plastisol

Plastisol is your standard screen printing ink. Sitting on top of the garment as opposed to in the fabric, plastisol will give you the brightest possible print and it’s what you may be used to seeing from screen printed garments from most print shops. Plastisol is a suspension of PVC particles in a plasticizer and can be printed on virtually any surface that can be heat cured and is porous enough to permit good ink penetration. If the item isn’t porous, like in the case of a nylon windbreaker, we can add a bonding agent to help the ink stay on the garment. Plastisol inks do not color the fibers like a dye. Instead, the ink adheres to the fabric when printed and heated, forming a bond with the material. You can add a handful of additives to plastisol to make it work in different ways, so the applications are very versatile.

Pros: Plastisol will work on every type of garment, providing the brightest prints that you’ll be able to achieve. It will allow you to manipulate it in many different ways to have different applications.

Cons: The biggest cons in printing you will usually see with plastisol inks. The hand of plastisol printing is the heaviest of all print types that we offer. We won’t provide you a vinyl shield like other shops, even with plastisol inks. The other issue with plastisol inks will be the differences in texture with printing. As the ink is thicker, it sticks to the screens when printing, so the prints can either be very smooth or it can come out rough, it’s unpredictable for the texture of the print, it can be swayed by ink color (whites are thicker than other colors), ink coverage amounts, there are lots of deciding factors.

Garments That Works With Plastisol Inks: Plastisol inks will work on all garments.

Sample Photos With Plastisol Inks:

  • Capitl Clothing - Plastisol
  • After Eleven Sugarskull - Plastisol
  • Cherry Sauce - Plastisol
  • Machete Premium Cuts - Plastisol

We hope this guide helps you make an informed decision on what inks to use on your apparel choices. If you would like to know more information on other print types (metallic, foil, glow, gel, puff, etc.) please feel free to reach out to us at printing@threadbird.com. We’ll work to get you the information you need!


Your Order Has Been Placed… Now What?

At Threadbird, our two biggest goals are to provide you as the customer with amazing items and the highest level of customer service possible. A lot of our customers have said they’re unsure of what happens after their order is placed, so here’s a quick crash course from A to Z!

Threadbird Press & Ink Wall

After you place an order and pay for it, we transfer it from our invoicing system (Freshbooks) to our order management system. We have different staff for each process (tees, stickers, buttons, offset/digital printing, etc.) so each item has a different process, but our most common and lengthy process is for custom printed garments. The following information will walk you through the steps.

Order placed | Stock ordered

1. The order is submitted to our shop staff. We have a stock supervisor who orders materials, a production manager who schedules all printing, and an art department to translate your order from an art file to the working product.

2. We order stock as soon as your mock is approved. We do not keep any stock on hand at the production facility to ensure that you get the freshest materials possible. Stock arrives in 1-5 days, depending on the supplier, so it is important to consider stock choices when placing rush orders to ensure we can obtain the stock in time.

Shirts Waiting to be Printed

Art & Film: One of the most important parts of the process

There are lots of screen printing shops out in the world, the one thing that sets us apart from all of them is quality. That all starts in the art department. At Threadbird, it is mandatory that every order for printed garments is mocked up. Our mock approval shows you the artwork off of the shirt, the artwork as it will be placed on the shirt, the ink colors (with PMS assignments), as well as the detailed information about what stock it will be printed on. We will also note warnings on the mock if the print will go over the seams.

Threadbird Mock Approval Sample

One of the most important things to remember in the mockup process is that not every computer screen is calibrated the same way. A color can show up on your screen different from how it will appear on our screen. This can create an issue on a rare occasion when the two colors aren’t close, which is why we provide the PMS number. We always recommend, if you’re getting serious about your brand, to purchase a Pantone Plus Series Solid Coated Formula Guide. The cost $99 from Amazon. The cost is well worth it to ensure that you always get the color you want on your shirts.

Pantone Book

The only occasion where we do not guarantee PMS color matching is with waterbase inks, discharge inks or on tri-blend garments. See our Specialty Inks PDF to reference that.

The mockup is usually sent out within a week of paying for your order at Threadbird. The mockup must be approved before we can print your order, which is important to remember when you are under a time crunch. A delayed approval will mean a delayed order. It’s ok if you have changes, just try to give them to us all at once so we can make them in one fell swoop.

One the mockup is approved, we will print the films. This step is absolutely crucial. Without good films, you will not get good screens. We use a very high end machine for this. The standard screen print shop uses a printer that can run films for $0.50 a sheet, but they won’t hold registration and are susceptible to pinholes. Our films are about sixteen times as expensive, but will hold registration top to bottom regardless of how large the print is and pinholes become a rarity. Another example of the old phrase we were taught as kids, “you get what you pay for”.

Films Being Printed

Screens: Don’t settle for sub par. They’re important.

One of the most awful misconceptions in the screen printing world is that a screen is a screen is a screen. That’s simply not true. There are so many factors that go into making a good screen.

Smaller print shops only have one set of screens they reuse for multiple projects. Threadbird believes that your order is too important to cut corners by using the same screens for everything. Each different style of printing requires a different type of screen. Waterbased and discharge prints require particular types of emulsion and setting processes, more detailed prints require a higher mesh count screen so that the flow of ink doesn’t blow out the details. These are just a few of the details that are often overlooked when people order t-shirts.

Threadbird Screens

Another commonly misunderstood idea is that screens can be saved. While we appreciate each and every one of our customers, we cannot hold onto your screens. We don’t do it for any of our customers. The reason is that we only have a limited amount of screens, and our high quality screen frames cost upwards of $150 per frame. If you’ve got a 5 color print job, that means there are $750 in screens tied up with just one job that may not be reprinted for 2-3 months. We do save the films created by our art department and can quickly remake screens if you need to reorder.

  • Placing Screens to be Burned
  • Threadbird Making Screens
  • Screens Waiting to be Reclaimed

Burning screens can take up to 4 hours for an order from the start of the process to the end. Much like a mosquito, our screens live a very short life. All our screens are constantly rotating, once the job is printed, the screen is reclaimed within two hours. We don’t usually have screens sitting unused, which is why it can be difficult to shift due dates once an order has been placed. We need to set our screen schedule at least 2 days in advance.

Inks, Setup & Production: The meat and potatoes of screen printing

Our printers rank among some of the most skilled in the U.S. Printing of the shirts is a two part process: setup and printing. The setup process takes the longest. During this time, the printers have to mix the inks and register the screens within our machines. Our inks are unique and you won’t find them at any other shop in the world. We custom mix all of our inks in house, and they’re made of several different components that are ordered from different ink suppliers so that no one else knows exactly what goes into it.

  • Threadbird Ink Wall
  • Threadbird Inks Close Up
  • Threadbird Mixing Inks
  • Pouring Ink on Screens

It is this special blended ink that makes our shirts super soft while still remaining bright! Mixing inks is a very specific, time consuming process, but it’s one that is extremely important. Each color is mixed to match the colors on the mockup.

Up next in the process is registration. This is extremely important. You have to make sure that each screen is lined up correctly, if they are not, you will see a gap between the colors or an overlap where one color prints on top of the other.

We have highly skilled printers and we do our best to avoid errors. If you ever have any print defects in your order (we are all human, mistakes do happen, even though our error rate is less than 2%) simply email us and we’ll address it.

Once the printers have the job registered and the inks mixed, a garment is printed and taken to our art department for approval before the order can be printed. Our art department will often ask the printers to tweak a color slightly, or even have them reburn a screen if something isn’t correct. Once the printer and the artist are happy with the product, it will be printed in full. The printers are trained to spot any defects and address them, like lint in screens, that can cause unacceptable prints. At the end of the dryer, our catchers are the final quality assurance cache, filtering out any items they find with holes or rips. After that, the garments are boxed up and shipped out for you to enjoy!

  • Threadbird Shirts on Dryer
  • Threadbird Shipping Boxes