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!


Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2013 – Aug 16-18, 2013

This year, Threadbird Printing is going to be a part of something stellar, something creative and all about a community of dreamers and doers. Weapons of Mass Creation 2013 in Cleveland, OH.

WMC is short for Weapons of Mass Creation. It’s an independent art, design, and music event in Cleveland, OH with a thread of DIY and entrepreneurship behind it all. It features 20 speakers, 20 designers, and 30+ bands over three days. Four years ago, after years of going to shows and various fests in the DIY punk scene, I wanted to start my own music festival and sprinkle in my other interests in art, design, and film. The goal was to create my ideal fest that I would want see right in my own backyard. It started as a side project but it had great synergy with what we were doing at Go Media and we decided to combine our efforts. We wanted  to showcase those who inspired us creatively and to share that inspiration with the community.

This is festival’s 4th year, how has it grown and what is different now from previous years?

The first year, it could have been called Jeff’s Fest, because it was largely based on my own taste in music and art and who I knew. I had to try to convince artists and bands to come to a fest that had no track record and I had to prove to people that this thing was real. After adding Jesse Sloan as music director in 2011 and Joseph Hughes as speaker director in 2012, our lineups have grown to include a more diverse collection of styles and genres we are sure will inspire our fans.

We probably had about 200-300 attendees our first year and spent more money and time throwing it than we gained back. Last year we had around 1,300 attendees and it forced us to find a venue that could handle more capacity.  We’ll be taking over the entire Cleveland Public Theatre building and using all their stages. Now for the first time, we’ll have ONE single venue instead of multiple buildings spread out along the street. We feel this will create a more cohesive and intimate experience and allow attendees to bounce back and forth between speakers and bands at their leisure. Something that was harder to do in years past.

Weapons of Mass Creation 2011 Video – Check It Out!

This will give them a taste of what WMC is all about. First time attendees can expect to be inspired and energized by everything. Lots of people express feelings of friendship and camaraderie that they can’t get at other conferences. It’s like summer camp for the alternative/creative crowd.

What things, if any, should attendees be made aware of before showing up?

Just having a ticket does not guarantee you access to a particular speaker. It’s a first come first serve, so if you want to see a speaker, make sure you show up to their session ahead of time to get a seat. We should be able to seat 300 people at the main stage, but we’re expecting 1,500+ people over the weekend. And secondly, bring some spending money because artists and bands will be selling their merch and if they don’t make money, they can’t keep coming back to WMC Fest. We need to support our creative community as much as possible.

What do first time attendees need to bring?

If they bought a ticket online in advance, they should print and bring their e-ticket to the door. Bring some extra spending cash to support the bands and artists selling merch. Bring a notebook to draw or jot down ideas. Bring a laptop if you want, there will be free wi-fi (but it might be slow with so many people accessing it, so don’t expect amazing internet access). Bring a positive attitude. No jerks allowed. 🙂

What are the highlights from previous years?

Aaron Draplin’s talk from 2011 (WMC2) was the first epic win for WMC Fest. He brought the house down. No footage is available from his talk, but he did this interview outside the festival. That same year, Jessi Arrington led an impromptu rainbow parade in honor of my 29th birthday and is something I’ll never forget. Last year Kate Bingaman Burt made people cry with her incredibly inspiring talk. Also the power went out during Blueprint’s set on our main music stage. All lights and sound were killed. It was a terrifying moment, but we were able to reroute the power in under 15 minutes to lots of cheers from the crowd. Blueprint picked up without missing a beat. And finally, at the end of the night, my music director went streaking down Detroit Avenue and it was amazing.

What are you personally looking forward to at this years festival?

Besides my inspirations and my favorite and soon-to-be-favorite bands, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces and meeting a lot of fresh ones too. The epic breakdance battle that will take place is always a site to see. I’m looking to see our organizing team make this the most simplified and straightforward WMC Fest yet. I am hoping we can actually be profitable so we can afford to keep doing this every year. So far things are looking good.

Any secrets you can let us in on for the festival this year?

One thing I’m really excited about is the Adventures in Design podcast will be doing a live taping at WMC Fest and fans can watch and participate. Host Mark Brickey of Hero Design has also agreed to take center stage as our MC on the speaker stage. He’ll be keeping people entertained between speakers! If you haven’t listened to the AID podcast, you’re missing out. It’s my favorite design podcast. After our own of course.

Check out some photos from past events!

  • Weapons of Mass Creation
  • Weapons of Mass Creation
  • Weapons of Mass Creation
  • Weapons of Mass Creation

For more info: visit this years Weapons of Mass Creation Festival here: WMC Kickstarter page.


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

Threadbird Celebrates 2 Years, Big Sales!

That’s right folks, it’s been 2 years since we rebranded Threadbird. We’re rolling out the red carpet as we celebrate and bringing on the deals for you! We’ve got $0.30 off per shirt on all t-shirt orders up to 3 colors. We’ve got 10% off all vinyl sticker orders. We’ve got 10% off all Screen Printed poster orders, not to mention a radical drop in poster pricing!
We’ve also cut our tag setups in half. Instead of the usual $10.00 per tag setup, they are now only $5.00 per setup.

Celebrate with us! Join in on the fun of our Threadbird sale. We love our customers and we wanted to come up with a special way to say thank you for making our jobs great.


Foalio Combines the Power of Portfolios and Creative Jobs, Offering Everyone Access to Amazing Artists and Designers

Foalio (http://www.foalio.com) has upped the ante on helping Artists find Jobs. From the creators of Threadbird, Foalio offers free creative job listings and portfolios.

  • Foalio Home Page
  • Foalio Project Page
  • Foalio Projects Page
  • Foalio Artists Page

Over the past few years at Threadbird, we’ve received requests for artists and designers, from clients who need to hire one but don’t know where to look,” says Foalio Co-Founder Scott Anderson. “We saw a huge need to help jobs find artists.

Unlike other portfolio sites and job posting services, Foalio doesn’t charge anything to post a creative job listing. When jobs are posted, they can be seen and applied for by anyone browsing the site. Artists are also notified by email when a job is posted in their creative field, helping them get the work they need.

It’s not uncommon that people searching for an artist are on a tight budget,” says Foalio Co-Founder Nick Rocccanti. “Most sites are charging $100-200 just to post a job. If your budget is $300, you’ve just spent half of it and still don’t have an artist! We want everyone to have fair access to hiring the right artist.

Foalio also includes the following features:

  • Artist portfolios to showcase projects, descriptions, links and items for sale
  • Browse projects and artists to find the style you are looking for
  • Share projects and jobs on Twitter, Facebook and via email
  • Resume builder for easy access to more info on an artist
  • See which artists are currently available for hire
  • Mark an item as “Pre-Made” and sell it as a ready-to-go template

For more information, please visit http://www.foalio.com.


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.