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

Common Printing Misconceptions: Screen Printers Can Print Samples

One of the most common questions and misconceptions clients have when it comes to screen printing is that they will be able to get a “sample” print before their entire run is printed. While rules are made to be broken I can guarantee that almost every screen printing company in America will not print you a sample without charging you a fortune and here is why. To understand why screen printers can not print samples is to first understand the screen printing process.

First thing you must take note of is that screen printing is indeed a “process” that involves several steps before your t-shirt can come to life. While I am not going to go into deep details here are the basic steps for the screen printing process.

1. Preparing art for print

Art is separated by color into different layers. This is done because with the screen printing process each color in a design requires a separate screen. For example a five color print will require 5 different screens which layered on top of each other will form the final image.

2. Films:

While not all screen printing companies use photo emulsion, a lot of them do and here is the process. Basically the original image is transferred onto an overlay such as acetate, usually by photocopying. This is once again done for each layer in the design.

3. Screens:

Each piece of photocopied acetate is then burned onto the emulsion covered silk screen using ultraviolet light. The areas that are clear harden the emulsion. After this the screens are washed and the areas of emulsion that were not exposed to the light get washed away leaving you a negative of each layer of the artwork.

4. Printing:

Each screen is then attached to the printing press where each layer/color is laid down individually by squeegeeing ink through the screen and onto your tee. This is done for each layer until you have your final image.

5. Drying:

After all layers have been laid down on top of each other and the final image has been created, each tee is sent through a high powered dryer to cure the ink and form your final product.

As you can see even when breaking down the process to the simplest form there are a ton of steps involved in bringing a t-shirt to life. Each step requires labor, time and of course money.

The setup process is truly the most expensive part of screen printing. Once a press is setup and ready to go it really doesn’t make that much of a difference if you are running 50 tees or 500 tees. When you increase your total quantity it allows the screen printer to eat up a lot of their overhead cost. This is why you get a much better price break when going with a larger quantity of tees!

As you can see without even looking at the individual costs for screens, films, ink, labor, and the tee itself making just one t-shirt as a sample is an extremely expensive and time consuming operation to pull off! Remember it is called the “Screen Printing Process”, and it is indeed a process.

There is however a bright side when printing with Threadbird, you are provided a photo-realistic example of how your tees will turn out! While of course nothing ever beats having the real thing in hand, having a photo-realistic mock really helps a client and printer get on the same page as far as placement, size and color. Whenever you are printing make sure that your screen printer always provides you with a mock up before they go to print.

Threadbird Mock Approval Sample

So the next time your screen printer tells you that they can not print you a sample, just know that it is nothing personal it is just all apart of the process.