Professional screen-printing is widely done mainly using machinery, but there are some manual parts in the steps. This means better overall quality versus other methods, but with it come a few things to keep in mind. These 10 common screen printing misconceptions hold true for screen-printers all around the world.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You have spent months working with your artists and designers getting your vision exactly how you want it on a t-shirt. You are all set and about to place your first t-shirt order with your screen printer (hopefully Threadbird ) and then it hits you. What size tees should I order?! I can say from experience there is really nothing worse than losing a potential customer because you do not have their size!
So what size tees should you order?
Unfortunately there is no magic answer, equation or rule to answer this question. Conventional thought is that you should order with a 1-2-2-1 ratio and honestly if you have no clue where to start it is not a bad ratio to follow. A lot of customers will be able or willing to go up a size in a tee and try to shrink it. Weighing everything more towards the middle just makes common sense with the thought that the majority of people fall somewhere in the middle and thus you will be covered most of the time.
There has to be a better way!
Although there is no magic formula and it always seems like you run out of the size you need, knowing your customer base is really the key to getting your tee order right. After several runs and releases of different lines with your company you will and should start to be able to see a pattern of what sizes are selling best. But if this is your first release I recommend trying to stereotype your customers as much as possible. Yes, stereotyping is usually not a good thing, but in this case it could really help you.
Know your customer
Really think about whom your customer is and what type of demographic they fit into. For this I’ll use a first hand example. I run a company called Pong Deck that makes a game that goes along with Beer Pong. Aside from our Pong Deck game we also sell a few t-shirts. When ordering these tees, I literally took into consideration that most beer pong players, like to drink copious amounts of beer and thus not all of them are in the most fit shape and are a bit larger than the Warped Tour emo crowd. So when placing my order I made sure to heavily weigh my ratio towards XL and 2XL shirts. On the other hand if your demographic is the emo crowd whom love skinny jeans and tight shirts you probably aren’t going to be ordering a ton of XL shirts. I know it sounds mean to stereotype your customers, but you have to be honest with who your demographic is, because you are trying to meet their needs!
Bottom line, know your target market to the best of your abilities.
Of course there is no perfect solution when ordering sizes, just try and do your best to put yourself in the shoes of your market and if all else fails resort to the 1-2-2-1 method.
There are tons of different t-shirts brands out there, so don’t feel bad when you have no idea where to start when ordering yours. Hopefully this guide can help you out. Here are our four most popular shirt styles:
This is probably the most common style of tees out there. When in doubt, go with a 100% cotton shirt. These shirts are affordable, produce great printing quality and work great with discharge inks — one part of our top-secret ink recipe, which produces a super-soft print that we have won multiple awards for. But 100% cotton is also known to shrink a little bit in the wash. Our most common 100% cotton options include:
Basic weight is 5.3 oz., but you can also request the heavier 6.1 oz. in these brands, which costs a bit more.
When you buy a t-shirt at a non-specialty store, you are probably buying one of these 100% cotton options.
Why you might choose 100% cotton tees:
- If you are on a tight budget — you should go with a basic 100% cotton shirt. It’s the cheapest option.
- If your audience is Joe the Plumber — the average t-shirt wearer usually likes this shirt.
- If your shirts are to be worn for any type of physical activity — you defintely want to have a thicker shirt, so opt for the 6.1 oz. weight.
100% Ringspun Cotton
This is our second most popular shirt and a heavy favorite for clothing companies. When it comes to quality, this is the route you want to go. Ringspun tees are thinner and softer than normal 100% cotton basics, and often called “fashion tees.” These provide you with great printing quality, and they can be printed with our discharge inks. Ringspun cotton shirts include:
- American Apparel (most popular in this category; organic options available)
- Alternative (organic and recycled-content options available)
- Anvil Fashion Tees (organic options available)
- Next Level
If you are buying a tee in a store that is a bit “higher end,” you are probably buying one of these shirts.
Why you might choose ringspun cotton tees:
- If your audience is more discriminating than Joe the Plumber — if you can spend even a little bit more, I would recommend going with an affordable ringspun brand like Tultex or the Anvil Fashion Tee.
- If you are a band — bands are almost always on tight budgets, but I always think bands should at least upgrade to the ringspun as they can be only 50-75 cents more than basic shirts if you print through Threadbird. You get a nicer shirt without killing your bank account.
- If you are a clothing company — definitely go with the American Apparel 2001/2102 or the Alternative Apparel AA05, as this has become a standard in the industry. Clothing companies, your goal should be to print on one of these two brands. If you can’t do it off the bat, at least use the Tultex/Anvil Fashion Tee as you build up some cashflow.
50/50 Poly/Cotton Blend
These are nice shirts, usually a little softer than 100% cotton, and they don’t shrink as much. They are 50% cotton and 50% polyester. The only problem with them is that we can’t print on them with our special soft inks. Threadbird Printing uses a discharge underbase on all shirts except 50/50 tees. The best printing alternative for 50/50 tees is waterbase inks, which also produce a soft print, but which cost a bit more. If you don’t want to pay extra for waterbase, know your inks will be thicker. You can get 50/50 blend tees from:
- Gildan (5.6 oz.)
- Fruit of the Loom
- Anvil (organic options available)
- American Apparel (this one is extremely nice)
When we printed our first set of Threadbird logo tees, we decided we wanted to go all out. We wanted a shirt that made people go “wow” when they first touched it — and they do. We went with the
And of course, you can request virtually any other t-shirt blank available. We have wholesale accounts set up with most blank tee companies known to man, and if you ask us about something new, we’ll probably be able to make something work if you just ask nicely.
So which option is right for you? It really comes down to cost, who your audience is and what you are going for. These options are not necessarily listed in order of price, and pricing can vary quite a bit per style and per brand. For pricing options, view our price chart at Threadbird Pricing, or email me for a custom quote.
As for me, my personal choice is Alternative. It’s what I am wearing right now and what I can probably be found wearing 75% of the time that I am wearing a t-shirt. If not, then I’m wearing American Apparel. But at the end of the day, I do feel like American Apparel 2001 is the best all-around shirt for getting the results you really want.
Any questions or thoughts? Just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.