But there’s one issue that can’t always be avoided, despite screen printers’ best efforts: fibrillation. Sometimes avoiding fibrillation means adding steps to the screen printing process, or even accepting that certain products are going to tend toward fibrillation despite your attempts to curb the problem.
Many novice screen printers are surprised by fibrillation. It creates a hazy, faded look in finished prints that can leave printers wondering whether their ink is washing away. In reality, fibrillation involves garment fibers breaking loose and sticking up through the ink. It causes the print to look fuzzy and, because the un-inked portion of the threads are now showing, faded.
Some garments are more prone to fibrillation than others. While there are some general guidelines — fabrics with a “vintage” or softer feel tend to fibrillate more — it’s difficult to know in advance whether a shirt is going to be likely to experience fibrillation. You probably have your go-to garments that print well and hold up for your customers. The challenge comes when customers want a softer shirt or a different style. The only way to determine whether a new garment will fibrillate is to lay down a test print and run the printed garment through several wash and dry cycles. If your usual printing methods result in fibrillation, there are some steps you can take to minimize or even prevent the garment from fibrillating.
When your desired garment shows fibrillation with your usual printing tactics, the first step is to try another print, laying down a heavier ink deposit. While that may solve the problem, this solution can be limited: Sometimes matting down the garment fibers requires so much ink that the print has too heavy of a hand. If you can’t strike a balance between laying down enough ink to prevent fibrillation and laying down little enough ink to maintain a decent hand, here are some other methods you can try:
The first step in preventing fibrillation is to be aware of the problem; you don’t want a dissatisfied customer to be the first to bring it to your attention! Make sure you test all new substrates with your usual printing techniques, and from there you can use the above methods to combat fibrillation.
Looking for some more screen printing quality control tips? Check out this blog post: