When looking for a screen-printed shirt for your company’s uniform or their next corporate promotional event, you have many options to choose from. You are likely trying to balance quality with cost, and that can be tricky without some knowledge about the printing process. You may have a vibrant, perfect design, but how do you know if it’s printed correctly and will last? Here are some tips and factors to consider making your next screen printing choice.
Ensure Your Design is Correct
Screen printing is one the oldest and best methods for customizing clothing. However, it’s not the best method for highly detailed, overly colorful designs. Each color requires a separate screen to produce your selected graphic. This can get pretty costly. Screen printing becomes cheaper per item the more you order, as the cost of making the screen remains the same between one shirt and 1,000 shirts.
Once you have confirmed your design is a good fit for screen printing, you will want to find local screen printers who will provide proofs. You can typically get by with a mock-up, but you may want to splurge for the cost of producing a prototype. This is critical for complicated, custom designs so you don’t end up with a massive production of items that aren’t right.
Pay Attention to the Fabric
Not all fabric is created equal, and it’s not all suitable for screen printing. Even a perfectly printed design is only as good as the garment beneath it. Your choice of fabric can also change the look of the finished product. For example, the tri-blend of cotton, polyester, and rayon will give your design a soft vintage look, so steer clear if you want something crisper.
The best fabric for a clean, classic, durable design is 100% cotton. However, cheaper cotton is carded, feeling rough, heavy, and of lower quality. It’s likely to have random fibers that can ruin your design’s clarity. It may also be less durable. Selecting a combed cotton shirt will ensure your shirt will hold up against wear and tear and be soft and comfortable. Hold your shirt samples up to the light. If you can see through them easily, it’s more likely to get holes quickly and wear out.
Wash and Wear
Especially if you have paid for a prototype of your design, test it out by washing and wearing it. Before washing, read the label on your shirts and care instructions from the printers; laundering without following directions will also harm your design. 100% cotton shirts might arrive preshrunk, but some will lose their size if you don’t wash and dry them with care.
Cheaper quality fabric or ink will fade or crack quickly. You can check the ink quality by stretching a piece of the fabric with your design on it. It will break if the printer doesn’t set it correctly. If the ink and material aren’t compatible, you can also see issues after washing. However, specific ink selections won’t last as long, no matter what you do. For example, metallic gold and silver finishes are shiny and impressive, but they are guaranteed to wear out quicker than others, losing their luster after each trip through the laundry.
Defer to the Experts
When in doubt, speak to some experts. They can provide input on what materials, inks, and colors will work for your design. They can run through the pros and cons of metallic or glitter ink and foil printing if you’re looking for a shiny design.
Gel printing is an excellent option for a multi-dimensional look, and flock printing, the screen printing choice for textured sports jerseys. Or you can get high-density printing that combines the 3D look of gel with the textured feel of flock printing. The most common choice is plastisol ink because it works with the widest variety of fabrics and designs.
There are also printing techniques that you won’t find online without speaking to an expert. You can get tonal printing, where the ink will be slightly lighter or darker than your shirt’s color. Or you can get discharge printing, where a small additive to the ink bleaches dark fabrics while depositing the pigment. You won’t learn about these specialty options or know to specify their use when ordering online. Search for “screen printers in my area” to speak to a screen printing artist.
In the end, you will get what you pay for – cost doesn’t always guarantee the quality, but it helps discern some of the lower-quality printers and shirts. Unless this is a one-time wear, you want a comfortable, breathable shirt with smooth seams. Especially if you’re looking for branded company shirts, you don’t want to deal with stray threads, scratchy tags, or a design that runs down the drain the minute it gets wet. Keep these factors in mind when making your next screen printing purchase.
Robert is the founder of Thrive Screen Printing and enjoys helping businesses learn how to enhance their brand through screen printing.