Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dye Sublimination Printing

Originally employed as part of photographic printing, it has only recently been turned to applications in apparel.

Inkjet -like printer sprays ink in a reverse image onto paper which is then applied to the fabric and heated. The heated ink becomes gaseous and permeates the material before solidifying.

Can easily resize image and can use digital, no set-up costs.

Inks and equipment are expensive. Probably not the best option for the everyday hobbyist.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Screen Printing

This is by far the most common technique used for printing t-shirts, and in fact a lot of other stuff too. Here is a decent tutorial worth mentioning on how to do your own screen prints for cheap.

There are two main types of screen printing. The first one produces full color graphics using CMYK printing. The second method is more similar to stenciling, and involves discrete areas of color, which is the one commonly used for t-shirts.

A porous fabric such as silk, or more recently nylon or polyester, is stretched over a wood or metal frame, the negative space of the image is blocked out using a non permeable application of a material, usually something that can be washed out so the screen can be reused. Then when the ink is run over the screen with a squeegee it seeps through the screen and leaves a print on the shirt.

Methods for creating your stencil image on the screen vary from hand painted application to photo emulsion, a more modern technique that uses exposure to light to make the negative space impermeable. This can be achieved with a simple transparency photocopy of your design, a strong light, and the emulsion prepared screen.

Lots of sites will sell you a basic starter kit with everything you need to get set up screen printing t-shirts. These range from $300- to several thousand dollars. Be sure to be clear what it comes with, and whether it's a screen printing press for t-shirts, or some other use. Be aware that you can print multicolor designs with a one color press by setting up each color separately and lining it up like a puzzle, but this is more difficult, and can be tedious.

Screen Printing has great print quality, nearly unlimited detail, and is really one of the best t-shirt printing options available. If you're looking to get a bulk order of shirts made for your team, organization, band, etc. this is the way to go. It doesn't fade like digital transfer prints, and it takes a lot of abuse before it starts to crack, and heck even then it's not old, it's vintage.

Unfortunately it takes a considerable about of time to set up a screen and unless you plan on printing in bulk (at least 6 shirts, but usually around 20-25) screen printing can get real expensive real fast. This is where technologies like plot printing, digital overlay, and dye sublimination have an advantage, as it's easier to print small quantities. This has birthed a whole slew of print on demand fulfillment partners, which is an important thing to be aware of if your a shop owner, or even a hobbyist.

In the next few weeks we'll be covering some of the other print processes mentioned above, so stay tuned.

Welcome to Common Threadz

My name is Kevin Warner, and this blog's purpose is to share information about t-shirts. How are they made? What do all those print process terms mean, what is their history and origin, how can you get started making your own, or where you can find someone to make them for you...everything you've ever wanted to know about t-shirts we're here to tell you.

Full disclosure: I do run my own sucessful t-shirt shop and I may occasionally make reference to it, or use it or one of the designs there as part of an example or demonstration. I may also post Coupon Codes, so pay attention!

Our first series will be covering different print methods, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Look for it later this week!