Screen Printing Essentials: Dealing With Different Fabrics
Oct 14, 2019
Screen printing can be tricky for the newbies who have no previous experience in this type of printing method. To master this art of printing, you need to know all the rules of this trade. Among the most common issues that screen printers face is dealing with different types of fabrics and garment construction.
While screen printing produces best results on a 100% cotton t-shirt, you can experiment with the different types of fabric with this printing technique to print beautiful texts, logos and custom patches. However, you will need different materials and tools to produce sharp prints onto a specific fabric.
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If you haven’t experimented with different fabrics for producing screen prints, then let us introduce you the different types of fabrics you can try out in your screen printing facility as well as the techniques that will help you create eye-popping prints on each of them:
Cotton is a natural fabric which makes it a perfect material for screen printing. Unlike artificial fabrics, cotton has natural fibers that are more absorbent to ink and thus produce significantly better prints than you would get from any other form of printing.
In addition, cotton is a soft fabric which further enhances its permeability and allows the ink to easily spread over every area of the fabric. This results in better coverage and more vibrant prints than you would get with any other type of material.
Just like cotton, silk is also made from natural fibers that can produce bright prints on a fabric. One thing that you should keep in mind is that silk comes in different textures which can affect the outcome of a print. A thin silk is going to consume less ink than a thick silk and vice versa.
Silk is prone to shrinkage and it can change its size if you don’t prewash it before the printing process. Besides, silk is a slippery fabric which means it can move during the printing process unless you secure it tightly over the platen. Therefore, you should keep these considerations in mind when screen printing a silk fabric.
Wool is another naturally produced fabric but a rather difficult material to screen print an artwork. Since wool is known for its warmth and coziness, it is largely used to make winter apparels like sweaters, hoodies and cardigans. A wool fabric with higher wool count creates better screen prints.
Similarly, you need to factor in the thickness of wool as it might affect the ink consumption. The thicker a wool fabric is; the more ink it will absorb. A chunky wool fabric is not an ideal option for producing intricate artwork since it requires large deposits of ink which might result in “clumping” which is an accumulation of ink on random areas of a print. You can get sharper prints for simple designs on wool materials.
Wool tends to shrink when exposed to heat which can be an issue during curing and flashing. Therefore, you should always preshrink a wool fabric when imprinting designs on them.
Polyester is the trickiest fabric to screen print an artwork. Since polyester is a heat-sensitive fabric, its dye can react with ink of the design and can change its colors. To avoid this issue, you have several options to consider.
Firstly, you should print the polyester fabrics with a special ink that is specifically made to print on a polyester fabric or its blends. The best option is to use “International Coatings’ 7100 Performance Pro” which is a highly bleed-resistant ink and can cure under 300 °F.
If you are in t-shirt printing and print slogans, logos and custom made patches on tees, then you can use specially-made polyester t-shirts from SanMar which include t-shirts and hoodies with high bleed-resistant dye that don’t cause dye migration issue.
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There is one more thing that you should be concerned with polyester. Polyester tends to shrink a bit during flashing which means you should always preshrink it to avoid shifting the design. It is recommended to test out a few samples when screen printing on polyester fabric or its blend. This will help you set the right configuration to get perfect prints on a polyester fabric or its blends.
Jersey is another commonly used fabric for screen printing. Known for its stretchy material, jersey fabric can produce really vibrant prints since it easily absorbs the ink. To get crispy designs on a jersey fabric, you should use water-based ink rather plastisol ink.
Jersey is a knit fabric known for its lightweight, therefore it is suitable to use water-based ink when screen printing this material. A water-based ink is a more suitable ink for this type of fabric since it easily sinks into the fibers of jersey material and thus it has a soft touch unlike a hardened feel of plastisol ink which creates a layer of ink on top of the fabric.
The aforementioned list defines some of the common fabrics and explains tricks and techniques to screen print on each of them. Now we will look at two of the trickiest apparels that frequently cause issues to printers: ribbed shirt and zipped hoodie.
Ribbed Shirt: A ribbed shirt is often made from cotton and its blend. The construction of this shirt makes it difficult to print a design on this clothing piece. Since a ribbed shirt has series of ridges on its surface, an artwork can only be produced on those raised lines.
Besides, a ribbed shirt stretches a little when you wear it. So it will show print gaps when you wear it after getting a print. This is why a ribbed shirt is not the best clothing piece to get a screen print.
Zipped Hoodie: A zipped hoodie is another tricky clothing item to get a screen print. Since it has raised pockets, seams and zipper, you will find print gaps after printing over a zipped hoodie. To create a print on this type of garment, you need to use a special pallet that are made to fit into the printing requirements of a zipped hoodie. But even then you might produce some print gaps unless you are a professional screen printer.
This article gives an overview of some common fabrics that screen printers use to make fancy impressions. The information in this write-up will serve as guidelines to help you create flawless prints on each of the mentioned fabrics and garments.
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