Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Curing Screen Printing Inks

Often overlooked, one of the most important aspect of screen printing is the curing process of the ink. Ink a tricky substance to deal with and if not properly handled and cured, the print will fade and crackle after the wash, or normal wear and tear.

There are many different types of inks and each has a unique way of curing. Our choice of ink is plastisol ink. Plastisol ink is pretty much just melted plastic along with some other substances which is in a liquid form at room temperature.

Water based inks can generally just air dry, because the water evaporates from ink evaporates from the surface of the shirts leaving the ink to dry up on the fibers. On the other hand, plastisol inks cure/dry much differently. In order for plastisol inks to dry it must be heated to about 325 degrees Fahrenheit. This doesn’t mean that the oven or dryer that she shirt is being cured in must be 325 degrees, rather that the actual plastisol ink on the shirt must reach 325 degrees.

At around the temperature of 200 degrees the ink comes to a state which the surface is dry, but is still not bonded with the fibers; this is called the semi-cure state. Once the ink reaches 325 degrees it chemically fuzes with the fibers on the shirts (almost as if it becomes one with the fibers) and becomes “cured”. It’s crucial that the whole surface of Ink on every layer that is printed reaches the cure temperature (325 degrees). This can be done by slowing down the belt speed of the dryer and/or raising the temperature of the dryer. Our dryer is set to a speed of 5.5 and a temperature of 1025 degrees; it seems to work for us.

If ink is not properly cured it can crack, fade or wash off. This is obviously not what you want as a screen printer, so here are some easy ways to check if the ink is cured. The method that I like and the easiest method is by using a temperature gun. This gun measures the surface temperature of the shirt and should read between 325-350 degrees. You point the gun at the ink on the shirt as it is coming out of the dryer. The other way to check is fairly simple, it’s called a stretch test. What you do is try and stretch the shirt and see how much of the ink cracks. Ultimately you want to make sure that cracks stay to a minimum. The last and best way to check is by throwing the shirts in the wash. If the ink doesn’t come off you did it right. Now go ahead and start printing custom t-shirts!

If you are interested in getting some custom t-shirts in Brooklyn New York or anywhere in the U.S. don’t hesitate to ask us!

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Printing Inner Tags

Screen Printing tip of the Day: Printing Tags

 

For most production involving screen printing the outside of the garment is 95% of most prints, however, with some clothing lines and other designs some customers may want a tag printed on the inside of their apparel to give it a little extra touch of customization. Tags are a great way from them to market their brand and create a unique piece of clothing. That’s where this tip comes in. As great as they look their often difficult to print and require a little bit of tweaking here and there, and your best print for tags may come from an entirely different technique. Here is our step by step process:

Step one: Burnin’ the Screen

For our specific tag printing we take our film and basically turn it upside down on the screen so that the sizes of the tag (S,M,L,XL) are facing up or out toward the frame horizontally like a normal image. What this does is allow us to print on our sleeve pallet without turning the entire shirt inside out. If you want to keep it simple you can burn your screen normally, and flip the shirt inside out (say if you don’t have a sleeve pallet) and print it as you would a normal garment. Using the sleeve pallet typically saves time and energy.

Step two: Sizin’ Up

As your printing, you’ll finish one size and move onto the next keeping track of your sizes and staying organized. On the screen leave open the size you plan to print and tape over the remaining sizes. If you want to start with S, tape over M,L,XL etc. so that as you move on you can remove the tape and reapply the tape accordingly so not to print multiple sizes or get ink clogged up in your image as you’re printing. It’s a somewhat tedious process but the goal is to give a clean, crisp tag that your customer will be satisfied with. Taking your time and adjusting for each print is key.

Step three: Flippin’ N’ Rippin’

With your screen burned, set up, and ready to print get your shirts ready and your pallet locked in. As you print you’ll need to tear or cut the tags (tear away tag shirts are ideal). Be aware of your sizes and its often best to start with small and work your way up to stay organized.  If you’re printing with a normal pallet put the shirt inside out and place it normally so the tag prints about 1” from the collar. If using a sleeve pallet you’re going to take the shirt and basically slide it up the sleeve, where its lined up with the according size, keep the area for the tag facing up and basically turning it inside out from the collar without having to adjust the whole shirt. It might take a little bit of adjustment but its much faster than turning the whole shirt inside out.

Step four: Let em Dry

As you remove and dry your shirts be careful to take them off keeping the tag up and open and laying them on the dryer so the entire tag gets exposed. In order to cure you can’t have the collar overlapping the tag and you don’t want ink to get on the collar so be careful and lay it face up letting it cure properly. As you print keep track of the sizes and stack em up as they finish and there you go! Fresh tags for some fresh T’s and a satisfied customer. Good luck printing!

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Reclaiming Screens

Whether you’re a fully operating shop or a do-it-at-home printer there is always one problem all printers will eventually encounter: what to do when you’re out of available screens?

Buying screens is always easy, but they can be expensive and if your local supplier isn’t close by going to get them can cost you time.  Either way you’re spending money on something that can be recycled and reused pretty easily, and if done right relatively quickly.

Re-claiming is a process involving taking previously used screens that you’re completely through with, removing all the ink and emulsion with a series of chemicals, and washing them clean so emulsion can be applied again and a new image can be burned. Here are the steps to guide you through it:

Step 1: Get Em’ Together

Gather up all the screens you’re not using.  Old, new, dirty, weird, beat up, or otherwise and bring them to the reclaiming space in your shop or home. You’ll need to be close to a water supply, a hose or faucet, and for the best results and really the only way to do it right you’ll need a pressure washer. There are two approaches to take from here. You can either use a dip tank provided at your local screen printing supplier that is filled with emulsion and water, or you can use chemicals by themselves if you don’t have the means or necessity in terms of smaller operations.

Step 2: Take a Dip

Screen Printing Dip TankIf using a dip tank leave all tape on screens and submerge them completely in the emulsion mix for three minutes. After three minutes remove your screens and take the first screen you’re going to reclaim and set it up over a drain of some type.  There is going to be a lot of water and a lot of chemical runoff so make sure you have the proper area to re-claim in before you begin.

If you’re not using a dip tank take the emulsion remover you purchased and apply it to the entire screen while using a scrubbing brush to work the chemical in so it can work faster and break down the emulsion.

Step 3: So Fresh, So Clean

screen printingAfter the emulsion process the next chemical you’re going to use, along with your pressure wash is called an ink wash. This helps break down residual ink and clean the screen back to its (relative) original state and clarity. Using a scrub brush again spray your ink wash over the ink and scrub it into the screen. Take your pressure washer and blast away making sure to pull the trigger off the screen and then moving onto it while it is running to avoid creating holes.

This is the process. Back and forth, front and back, blasting and scrubbing, spraying and washing, until the emulsion and ink is completely gone. It could take up to 15 minutes for some screens and you may not get the results you desire in terms of their clarity but even if you can see the old image in your newly reclaimed screen it can still be used effectively and again in another job.

Step 4: Air It Out

Once you’ve worn yourself getting out that ink and emulsion and your screen is clean again ready to have emulsion applied and used for another job remove your screen from the cleaning area and take it somewhere in a dust free environment where it can dry. When the screen is dry its ready for emulsion and the burning process once again.

 

Re-claiming is the best way to save yourself some money and use your screens again. Even though it’s a process and sometimes a pain for all screen printers it’s the most effective way to keep the shop moving and make sure you keep making money and some quality apparel printing. Now get that power washer primed and all your old screens ready.

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Applying Pallet Tape

The application of pallet tape in screen printing is an integral process of a solid print and consistency in the clearness and detail of your design. Without the use of pallet tape regular tack spray or glue can be used but usually the results are less than satisfactory. Here at It’s T-Shirt Time we regularly change our pallet tape to make sure are prints are above the average and our customers walk away with a product they can be proud of.

Step 1: First remove previous, used tape completely from the pallet including all residual scraps and pieces so the next layer of tape has constant contact. Get your roll of pallet tape, a boxcutter, pair of scissors, or razor blade of some type, glue, and glue applicator (usually a roller or rag or sponge) and a squeegee to remove all air bubbles from under the tape.

Applying Screen Printing Pallet TapeStep 2: With the previous tape removed and your pallet ready grab your roll and place the edge with 1-2 in. of overhang on the far side of the pallet. Press lightly across the top to create a way to unroll your tape and cover the entire pallet trying to keep it square as possible and leave 1-2 inches of overhang. Use your box cutter or razor or scissors to cut the tape and put the roll aside. It may take some application and reapplication to get the tape square on the pallet, its not essential, but closely as possible gives the best results.

Applying Pallet Tape

Step 3: After your tape is ready to be applied full your can either use the roll itself or your hands and press down and outward from the center of the pallet to give the first contact of the tape smoothing it out. Wrap the 1-2 inches of over under the pallet pressing firmly to give them good contact. The harder your press the better as the tape relies on contact with the pallet.

Step 4: Now that the tape has its first contact on the pallet take your squeegee and remove all air bubbles that may have occurred when applying the tape first. Press firmly and look closely because air bubbles will alter the look of the print and the less air bubbles the better. You pretty much don’t want any. Keep working until you get them all out if needed you can use your box cutter again to open the air bubbles up and work the tape onto the pallet again.

Step 5: Finally with all the air bubbles out get your glue and pour about a 1-3 inch circle of glue in the middle of the pallet, grab your roller or rag or sponge and apply an even coat of glue over the entire pallet including the sides. Once all the glue is evenly distributed you can sit back let it dry and get ready to print. Good luck!

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Artwork Preparation

With having a great print comes many steps and preparation. Besides actually printing the shirts, applying the emulsion, or burning the screen it’s necessary to have good quality artwork.

Many customers tend to come in with hand drawn images or very low quality images that are pulled from the web (which usually contain a watermark). These images are usually at 72 dots per inch or even lower, which is almost always going to come out distorted when printed. One of the most common images customers supply is a 72 dpi multi color jpeg file which has many fades and colors! This is by far the worst mess to start breaking down, that’s why you are better off creating artwork from scratch, or have this type of professional artwork supplied to you.

Files should always be at least 300dpi and should generally be scaled to size. Since our film size is 13 x 19 inches we always make our canvas size 13 x 19 at 300dpi. This insures the design to come out very smooth with no crackled edges. In addition you want to try and not stretch anything your image. So for example if you are looking to put a brown horse in your image at roughly 6 inches wide, draw it at 6 inches wide – not 2 inches then stretch it. Stretching usually throws off the image and causes for distortion of pixels. In addition you want to try to vector all shapes and text. This can be done on photoshop by right clicking the layer and pressing convert to shape. (On illustrator all shapes are automatically vectored) Once you have your file set correctly, design your image and you are good to go!

If the customer is looking for a real sharp and nice print, they should have no problem spending an extra few bucks on design work.

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Aligning A Multi-Color Job

Aligning a multicolor screen print job sometimes seems complicated, but can be bet easy if done correctly. Aligning the multiple screens is crucial for obtaining a good multi color print.

The first parts starts on Adobe Photoshop (or whichever image editing software you are using). After you have separated your colors into separate layers and overlaid them with black ink, align them all to the part of the film you want them printed on. I suggest grouping them before moving them, this way they will not move out of registration. Then in the custom shapes tool, you will see a shape that looks like a bullseye with some cross hairs, select it and make 4 of them (preferable the same size, I just copy and paste he same one 4 times). You want to place one in the top center, bottom center and in be middle on both sides.

Once the films are printed and images are burned on to the screens (make sure to put all the films in the same area on the screen before exposing) you can begin aligning the screens on the press. The next step has to do with squaring up the screen on the press and this can be done by one of two methods. You can either use a physical t square and place it on the pallet while aligning the screens above it, or use the t square to draw a line down the middle of the pallet and a few going horizontal. I personally prefer drawing the lines, but either should work. You can then use the registration marks that were made on Photoshop (which are burned on the screen) to align the screen to the lines drawn on the pallet or to the t square that’s placed on the pallet. The center registration marks align with the center line drawn on the pallet and the horizontal ones align with the horizontal lines on the pallet. Once you do the same for all the colors you are ready for a test print. If any adjustments are necessary, you can do so using the micro-registration system on your press.

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Choosing The Right Mesh Count

Something well known to many screens printers is what we call screen mesh count. The mesh count on a screen is referred to the total number of mesh being intertwined per inch. So if you take a 305 mesh count for example, you will find that in each inch there is 305 lines of mesh. Obviously the more lines of mesh, the smaller the holes between the mesh will be which allows for less ink to flow through.

So which mesh count do I use? Well the answer for that varies depending on what design you are printing, what color garment you are printing on and what type of ink you are printing with.

If you are looking to print a very thick consistency of ink it will be necessary to use a low mesh count, allowing the thick ink to flow through larger holes. On the other hand, if you choose to use a high mesh count you will struggle to push the ink through screen. If you choose to use a very thin consistency of ink, a higher mesh count can be used since the ink can flow through smaller holes.

Screen printing mesh On a different note, there is another factor to consider wen choosing the right mesh count. If you are printing an image without to much fine detail, then using a low mesh count is not such a problem. But if you are printing an image with lots of detail and or halftones, you should try to use a high mesh caught. The higher mesh count allows the details to expose more properly on the screen.

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Screen Preparation

One of the most important part of screen printing, often overlooked by customers, is the screen making process. Most customers who are not familiar with the method of printing think its easy as 1, 2, 3 and your design is on the shirt. Little do they know how much work goes into preparing their screens.

After preparing artwork in the right format, each layer is printed on a film positive using black ink. These films are then used to expose screens, allowing UV light to flow through the clear areas and not flow through the areas with black ink.

When preparing a screen it’s imperative to coat it properly with emulsion, otherwise you will find yourself with pinholes, damaged screens or simply a bad print quality.

screen coating

First off, make sure the room you are in is light safe. By this I mean you do not want any UV. You can then take the emulsion and poor some into the scoop coater. You do not want to poor to much, otherwise it will leak from the side when coming the screen. Everyone has their own method of coating whether its inside then outside, or outside then inside, but I personally choose the outside then inside. The reason is because wen you coat the outside it causes the emulsion to go through the mesh and be thicker on the inside. Then when you repeat the process on the inside it causes the emulsion to now be thicker on the outside, allowing for a nice crisp print. Slowly scoop upwards on the screen (in whichever order you decide) and when you are finished lay your screen in the screen and dry it off with a fan. light entering the room and this can be done by using a safelight. This “safelight” filters out the UV rays from the fluorescent bulb, therefore not allowing the emulsion to become exposed. You then want to make sure that the room you are in dust free. As dust settles in your emulsion, it will end up on your screen and will cause for tony pinholes.

Once the screen is dry it’s ready for exposure. Just tape up your film and throw it in the exposure unit and you are ready to start screen printing!

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Screen Printing Tip Of The Day: Making A White Underbase Using A Choke

When screen printing light color inks on dark colored garments, it’s almost always necessary to include a white under base. The main reason for this is to make the surface of the garment light enough for the colored layer to be visible.

The white layer is printed as a base and flashed to a semi cure state before the color layer is printed above it. In this state the ink does not fully bond with the fibers in the garment, but is dry when you touched with the finger. Once the color layer is printed, the shirt can be cured at around 325 degrees Fahrenheit .

Since the white under base is being laid underneath the color layer, just a little ink bleeding, or off registration will cause the white to show beside the color layer. Therefore It is necessary to use something called a choke. A simple choke will make the under base white layer slightly smaller than the color layer, allowing the color layer to slightly overlap.

This can be done on Adobe Photoshop, the steps are as follows: First take your color layer and overlay it with black. Then duplicate the layer and double click the layer. Once the layer options are open, open the stroke tab and give the layer a 2-3 point inner stroke in white. Since your printer will not print any white ink (usually) this layer will come out a bit smaller when printed.

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A Humor T Shirt Lights Up the Mood!

For those of you living on the east coast the weather has been completely disgusting lately.  Does not matter how long you wait, but as the day moves on it gets uglier and colder outside.  The wind is picking up.  The rain is falling more often.  And the sun has not been out for days.  Many of us are getting sick, staying under the covers, with antibiotics and drinking lots of hot fluids.  Just thinking about all this depresses an individual.  How could it not?  We all long for the days of sun, sand, beach and pool, not snow, wind ice and cold!

So how do we get out of these funky and depressing moods?  For starters, during this season Hollywood seems to take advantage of the cold weather, and thankfully there are many new movies that are constantly being released every weekend.  Many of these movies include a whole list of romantic comedies, funny animated movies, and a whole range of other hilarious movies to watch.  While sitting in the theater you cannot help but laugh and smile at some of the ridiculous things that are said on screen or at the hysterical antics the characters are trying to pull off!  Just sitting in that dark theater can help make your whole mood change for a couple of hours.

Another way to help change your mood is by wearing colors and clothing that make you feel relaxed and comfortable.  Studies show that the clothes you pick out every morning are a reflection of your mood, and whatever clothes you wear can change or magnify the mood you are in.  This means if you wake up in the morning feeling depressed you are much more likely to go for clothing of a darker shade and depressing undertones, but a way to help change that is to wear clothing that make you happy.  Some examples of “happy clothing” are shirts and t-shirts with bright colors and funny slogans.  There are so many funny tees and clothing to wear to lighten up your mood.  Some might even call such a t-shirt a humor t shirt because of how well it can make you and those around you feel on such gloomy days!  So listen up!  Put on some great clothing that makes you feel amazing. Clothing that will help you relax and laugh during these ugly days.  Go watch a funny movie and stop feeling like the whole world is coming to an end – it is not!

 

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