Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The ghetto guide to printing light colours on dark fabrics

You have a professional quality stencil made. Your screen is ready to print. In this guide I will explain which ink to use on a low budget so that you are producing a quality product that will sell well.

Know your printing inks

There are two common types of printing ink; Water Based & Plastisol

Water Based Inks

Water based inks are easy to use; they air-dry on the garment and can be heat-set with a clothes hand-iron.

The upside: Air-drying, easy to heat-set with three minutes at 180°C with clothes hand-iron with the cotton setting. Bright colour /coverage

The down side: There really isn’t one.

Plastisol Inks

Currently the industry standard Plastisol ink gives bright colour and coverage. If you go into your local chain store you will see row after row of Plastisol printed T-shirts. They are easy to spot; ink sits on top of the fabric, and feels kind of like rubbery plastic.

The upside: Bright colour/coverage on dark-coloured garments.

The downside: Plastisol inks do not air dry at all and are required reach a temperature of 320°C to 330°C. To be honest they really need to be baked in an oven to heat-set.

The print garment industry uses both Plastisol and water based ink depending on the item’s material.

Contact your local screen print supplier for ink stock:
If you are in New Zealand use CCG Industries: Screen printing.
If you are in USA use Catspit Productions, LLC.

Choosing the right ink for the ghetto printer

When you’re starting out on a low budget you need an ink you can rely on to deliver quality. Opaque water based heat-set inks are the way to go if you are starting out on a budget, trust me on this. I recommend you use an OPAQUE water-based printing paste suitable for both light and dark fabric to print your T's upon. You can also buy PEARL PASTE, which is an opaque print paste that with the addition of concentrated dyes can be mixed to make any colour. This method prints bright, opaque colours on dark fabric. This OPAQUE print paste differs from normal water-based textile ink as it is thicker, and gives better coverage and brighter colours upon dark fabrics.
Opaque White ink and Opaque Pearl paste
OPAQUE print paste differs from normal water-based textile ink as it is thicker, and gives better coverage and brighter colours upon dark fabrics.

When black is the only option

The acid test for printing a light colour on dark fabric is printing white on black. All the T-shirts I print on are black and I print a lot of white on black. This method is sound. When you go to heat-set the garment make sure the ink is dry first (leave to air dry), then heat-set for 3 minutes at 180°C with a clothes hand-iron. You probably have one lying around but if not get one cheaply.

A final word on Plastisol ink

Don’t try to heat set Plastisol without the proper equipment. Some people try to use their own garage methods to heat-set Plastisol ink such as using heat-guns designed for paint stripping. I don’t recommend this as it can burn the garment or fail to heat-set parts of the ink properly, but if you are dead-set on using Plastisol ink then your best option is to buy a Flash Cure unit for around $750 -$1000. A flash cure unit will enable you to heat-set the Plastisol ink properly. I'm not saying Plastisol is bad or not to use it so if you can afford to get the proper equipment to heat-set it then go there but I don’t try to heat set Plastisol ink without the proper gear as it will likely lead to a product you can’t sell.
I am using opaque water based inks to print and it is totally commercially viable for the start-up screen printer, people are buying my T's and I receive consistent and positive feedback. You can do it to.

Where to buy T-shirts

If you’re going to sell T-shirts you will need to buy blank T-shirt stock. Buying blank T-shirts is really easy and you can find T-shirt wholesalers online or at your local Walmart, The Warehouse, or other chain-stores. In the book Threads not Dead, Jeff Finley talks about sourcing T-shirt stock in detail and he lays out what products the industry uses and where to locate them as well as advice on ordering quantities and sizes and loads of other essential information that if you’re going to get into the rag-trade I recommend as essential reading.

Now you’re ready to start selling T-shirts.

You have your screen ready, you have your ink sorted. You know how to heat-set it so that your image will be a permanent print on your T-shirts and you you’re your blank T-shirts ready to print. Now it’s time to start selling.

Bringing your T-shirts to market.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to bring your T-shirts to market is via auction websites. Ebay or Tradme are easy to operate for minimal cost. Running online auctions is a breeze. Maybe you’re not ready to launch your own brand, or can’t afford the cost of a website, then auction sites are the way to go. Even if you want to test a design out on the market to see how it performs auction sites are great.

Here are a few tips to getting good results from auction sites.

  • Use great photo's or mock-up templates to create striking images that sell your T-shirts. If you have access to a good camera, and by that I mean a DSLR, models and lighting then you can’t go wrong with great photographs. If like me you don't have access to good photographic equipment then Gomedia offer T-shirt mock up templates that are really excellent. They enable you to present your T-shirt in the best possible way with clear, sharp images. The templates are easy to use in Photoshop and are flexible. IF you don't have Photoshop then Gomedia also have the website which enables you to make T-shirt mock ups directly on the website without Photoshop. Again, this is an excellent way to make T-shirt images and I encourage you to make use of it. These images will sell your T-shirts

  • Once you have your T-shirt image make use of it by adding it to your auction and have it displayed as a gallery item. This will display a thumbnail image when people are browsing listings (recommended). Again, the images will sell your T-shirts.

  • Set your reserve price. Your reserve price should cover your expenses and make you a profit. It should be at least 100% more than the cost of the T-shirt. I'm not going to tell you what price to set, count your costs and look at the market to see what other people are selling similar T-shirts for. Just make sure you cover your costs and are making a profit when you set your reserve.

  • Set a buy now price. This should be more then reserve. Think about what you would like to be selling your shirts for. If the reserve covers your costs and make a profit, then a buy now price is about making more profit and is aimed at the impulse buyer. Make sure your buy now price is higher than the reserve price but not out of reach. If multiple people are in a bidding war for your T-shirt they might choose the buy now price rather than fight it out to win the auction and some people will use the buy now option to process their purchase faster rather than waiting for the auction is set to run its course.

  • Use a concise title to inform your audience of exactly what your T-shirt is. The description should have more detail about your T-shirt.
Start your auction and get selling.
Take it easy,

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  2. Forgive me, but I'm not clear what kind of effect you get when you print white heat-set water-based inks on dark fabrics. I'd like to print images with lots on white on colored shirts, but I despise the plastic, rubbery look of ink sitting "on top of the fabric" as you describe in your Plastisol section. It seems to me you would get that same sits-on-top-of-the-fabric effect with thick, opaque, white water-based inks as well. Am I wrong? I hope so.

  3. Is there any further reading you would recommend on this?

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  4. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful!
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  5. Hi your article is nice and good information with custom t-shirts you can either design your own t-shirts or use one of the standard designs offered by those firms that specialize in t-shirt printing.

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  6. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. Thanks...
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