Print Do’s & Dont’s for Apparel Printing
We want your order to look as awesome as you do! We’ve put together a list of things to consider and things to avoid when preparing your order.
Why Not To Print Over Seams, Pockets or Zippers
To get the best quality print when screen printing, we need as flat of a surface as possible between the pallet (that the garment lays on) and the screen (that holds your design). The fronts and backs of t-shirts are consistently smooth and the same thickness, which allows us to get a perfect print every time. However, when you print over a seam, pocket or zipper, it creates an inconsistency, because these are thicker portions of the garment. When you print over these portions of the garments, it creates a gap in the print where the ink from the screen does not touch the shirt due to the ridge caused by the seam. Here is an example:
We do our absolute best to give you the highest quality print possible, but when a print goes over the seams, we cannot accept responsibility for any negative effects caused by this issue.
Note: For hooded sweatshirts, we do have special pallets that have indentations for the zipper and pocket seams but not every sweatshirt is exactly the same.
Why Not To Print On Ribbed Garments
Ribbed garments provide the best form fit of all blank shirts as they stretch to meet the size of the individual wearing them. This is great the for final consumer but makes printing on them a problem. When you pull a ribbed garment onto the press, it is not stretched out, so the ink only goes on the top of the ribs. Then, when the shirt is put on, the ink pulls apart, exposing a gap between the ribs that is not printed. We can apply more pressure on the press to try to force the ink into the gaps, but this limits the amount of detail that is actually shown on the garment. Because of these issues, we strongly suggest that you do not print on ribbed garments. Here is an example:
What Colors Don’t Discharge Well
Not every color garment discharges well. We did some testing to find out what colors worked and what colors didn’t when using discharge inks. Due to the intensity/amount of the dye used to make the shirts bright and vibrant, the following shirts do not work well when using discharge ink (which includes our Premium Standard Ink): Kelly Green, Red, Royal Blue, Lapis, Cobalt, Purple, Forest, Teal, and Turquoise. If you are going to print on these shirt colors, please note that lighter colors like white and yellow will be influenced by the shirt color remaining underneath.
What Garments Don’t De-Tag Well
Most clothing lines remove the manufacturer’s tags from shirts to screen print their logo and information into the shirt, branding it as their own. Most manufacturers understand this and make their tags easy to remove. There are, however, a handful of shirts that just don’t work well for de-tagging. Here is a list of garments to be aware of:
- Alternative Apparel Garments (These tags are sewn at both ends on top of the seam, not underneath the seam. The way they’re sewn in, you cannot remove them without making holes in the shirt.)
- American Apparel 2408 Tanks (These tags are sewn into the seam, not under the seam so they must be cut out of the shirts leaving a little bit of the tag left in the seam)
- American Apparel 2456 V-Necks ((These tags are sewn into the seam, not under the seam so they must be cut out of the shirts leaving a little bit of the tag left in the seam))
- Anvil 779 Tees (the material inside of these shirts is rough, so it’s difficult to print on)
- Fleece Garments ((These tags are sewn into the seam, not under the seam so they must be cut out of the shirts leaving a little bit of the tag left in the seam)
- Tultex 0213 ((These tags are sewn into the seam, not under the seam so they must be cut out of the shirts leaving a little bit of the tag left in the seam))
What Shirts Don’t Work Well With Jumbo Prints
Jumbo prints account for approximately 50% of all orders placed at our shop. People want as big of a print as possible. With standard unisex or mens tees, this is typically not a problem. However, some shirts have issues when printing Jumbo:
- Tank Tops: Most tank tops are low cut at both the neckline and the sleeves. Printing jumbo prints on these garments can cause print defects from printing over the seams.
- V-Necks: The neck line of the v-neck may cut into the design. Please take this into account when you are designing your shirt.
- Girls Tees: Jumbo pallets are wider than most girls tees. In order to get the girls tee onto the press, it has to be stretched. This can cause several issues: possible ripped shirts, loss of form from stretching past normal means, a distorted image due to stretching the shirt, and the design being cut off the bottom/sides of the shirt.
NOTE: Any print that goes over a seam will result in imperfections in the print. (Some customers find this effect desirable, but we discourage it and will not be held responsible for misprints).
What Garments Don’t Show Detail Well
With advancements in screen printing (including high mesh count screens and specialty presses) we can recreate a level of detail with t-shirts that was previously unattainable just 5-10 years ago. However, due to the way some garments are constructed, they will not work well with detail. The following is a list of those garments:
- Ribbed Garments
- Canvas Material (Aprons, Bags, etc.)
- Burnout Tees
- Pique Polos
These items do not work well with detail because they are not smooth like standard t-shirts.
Why Isn’t Every Garment Perfect
Contrary to popular belief, most t-shirts are not made by giant machines, they’re sewn together in facilities by hand.
Due to the human element, not every shirt will be 100% correct. You may have two large shirts that are both the same style but one may have a slightly different cut. Since Threadbird does not make the shirts, we cannot guarantee that every garment will be made correctly. We do our best to catch these issues before sending the shirts to you, but sometimes these defects can slip through our hands. You may find a hole in your t-shirt or you may see a seam that isn’t sewn up the way it should be. If you find any items with holes or rips in them, please let us know and we will work with you on refunding you for the defective items. However, we cannot give refunds for any shirts due to their fit.
What Issues Will Arise When Printing Hoodies
Hoodies are one of the more difficult garments to print on, but they are also one of the best selling items during the winter. The following are a few issues to be aware of when printing hoodies:
- Double lined hoodies can only print 1 color ink and no underbase. They slide around on the press so we cannot accurately register multiple colors.
- Pockets on hoods have to be glued down to print over them. Because of this, when you receive your garments, they may still have some of the glue spray in the pockets. This should wash out after one wash.
- Prints on the hood itself vary based on what brand of sweatshirt you are printing on. We may have to heat press the design onto the hood if it is double lined. Only single lined sweatshirts work with hood prints.
- We do have special pallets that have indentations for the zipper and pocket seams, but not every sweatshirt is exactly the same. When you print over these portions of garments, it creates a gap in the print where the ink in the screen does not hit the shirt due to the ridge caused by the seam. For this reason, we do not recommend printing over-the-zipper.
- When you print over the seams, it can throw the registration off. You may see white poking out from under the design.
- Hoodies are made with thick fabric and soak up a lot of ink. The color of the sweatshirt will often times influence the ink colors. To get the highest quality print when going over zippers &/or pockets, we recommend using a 100% cotton or 80/20 blend hoodie and using all discharge colors without an underbase.
- When printing hoodies, we cannot mix them with regular t-shirts on an order because they require a different set of equipment and settings on the printing press. If you would like to order the same design on both t-shirts and hoodies, we will need to set up your order as two separate designs.
What to do Differently on Tri-Blend Tees
Flash units on presses burn the tri-blend material, so tri-blend shirts are not underbased. Please take this into account when you order them. Without an underbase, tri-blend tees will have a faded/vintage look, which is what the shirts were intended for. When printing tri-blends we always recommend using either 100% waterbase ink or a waterbase discharge ink to get the softest print possible. If you don’t use waterbase ink, your only real option is plasitsol ink. Threadbird recommends that you only opt for a tri-blend tee if you are looking for a soft shirt with a soft print.
Why to Send Extra Hem Tags or Hang Tags
We do our absolute best to treat every shirt with the utmost care, including any additional items you send us, like hem tags and hang tags. When providing hem tags and hang tags, we strongly recommend that you send at least 10% extra when you place your order. During the process of sewing in the tags, they can rip on the machine and if we don’t have extras, we cannot ensure that all shirts will be tagged. Threadbird is not responsible for shirts that are not tagged if extras were not provided. If a tag is misplaced or damaged in the process, Threadbird will send the shirt untagged but will not refund the cost to sew the tag into the shirt that is missing a tag.
Warning: Absence of ink between ribbing
When a ribbed garment is pulled onto the press, it is not stretched out and the ink only lies on top of the “ribbed” part. When the shirt is worn, the material stretches and the ink pulls apart which exposes a gap between the ribbing that has no ink.
Is there any way to prevent this from happening?
We can apply more pressure on the press to try to force the ink into the gaps, but this limits the amount of detail that is actually shown on the garment. Because of these issues, we strongly suggest that you do not print on ribbed garments.
Warning: Loss of Detail
Process printing is best used for artwork with high amounts of detail or color. While the print will still be vibrant and highly detailed, you will lose some elements of detail from what you see on your computer screen to the printed design itself.
What is process printing and when should I use it?
If you are printing a complex design such as a photograph, or complex artwork with lots of shading, and want to retain the best amount of detail, process printing is the best way to go. We also recommend using lighter colored shirts for this type of printing.
Warning: Loss of Detail
When the human eye is up very close to the printed image, it will be able to see these tiny dots. Your image will lose some detail when printing with halftones.
What are halftones and when should I use this method?
Halftones are small dots blended in a printed design that vary in size and space to create the effect of smooth, full-color imagery. If your artwork contains gradients or complex detail (such as a photograph), halftones are a great solution.
Can I save money by using halftones?
If you want to save money by simulating multiple colors – you have the option to use one color with halftones. Example: Use one red base color and by creating halftones on part of the image, it will look like you have both a dark red and light red.
Screen Printing Over Seams
Warning: Could Cause Inconsistencies
If the design is closer than 1/2″ to the seam, this can cause printing inconsistencies. The seams prevent the screen from being able to lie completely flat on top of the garment when printing. When the screen has to sit over the seams, this is what causes the ink to lay unevenly in that area.
What amount of space should I leave when printing near seams?
It is recommended that you leave at least 1/2″ of space between the edge of your design and any shirt seams.
If you have a “Seams Warning” on your mock and you notice there is plenty of room in between your design and the seam, keep in mind that the mocks typically show only two standard garment types: “medium men’s garment” and “small women’s garment”. If your order has garments that are smaller than the garment template used on the mock, this could be the reason for the warning.
Can I print over seams?
Printing over seams is not recommended. When you print over seams, a gap is created in the print where the ink from the screen does not touch the shirt due to the ridge caused by the seam. This causes inconsistencies in the print from shirt to shirt which is why we strongly recommend against printing over seams.
No PMS Matching
Warning: PMS Color Matching Not Possible in Some Cases
When using specific garment types, inks or garment colors, Pantone (PMS) color matching is not possible. This is a case-by-case scenario and we’ve done our best to cover some instances below.
When Using Specific Garment Types (Fabrics)…
The use of tri-blend or blended garments can cause the colors in your final printed design to vary from what you see in the mock when you use waterbased or discharge ink. The ink typically takes on the color of the garment and can appear muted. If you’re going for a vintage-y or less vibrant effect, consider using waterbased or discharge inks.
Tri-Blend garments also have a unique blend of materials that cause the ink to not permeate the fabric as well as 100% cotton garments. We do not recommend printing on tri-blend garments if you are wanting vibrant colors or need to match specific pantone inks.
When Using Waterbase or Discharge Inks…
Due to the nature of waterbase and discharge printing, it is not possible to match colors printed to the pantone colors used. Certain garment brands, colors, and fabrics perform better with these ink types than others – please reach out to your customer service representative for more information.
When Using Specific Garment Colors…
Avoid the following colors when printing with Discharge or Premium Standard inks: Kelly Green, Red, Royal Blue, Lapis, Cobalt, Purple, Forest, Teal, & Turquoise. If you are going to print on these shirt colors, please note that lighter ink colors such as white or yellow will be influenced by the shirt color remaining underneath.
I printed on the same ink type/garment type combo in the past – will the final product look exactly the same as last time?
If you printed waterbase/discharge on a certain garment brand in the past, the final product may differ from your current order order. This is due to the manufacturing process of the shirt itself. It’s possible to have a batch of 100% cotton garments, for example, that waterbase/discharge differently than any other given batch.