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.


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!


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

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!