Some garments are more delicate than others and require special care when screen printing to get a quality result.

Summer’s here, and for screen printers, summer usually means more orders of lightweight garments. Whether it’s requests for sports-weight shirts and tanks for charity runs, fashionable burnout shirts or just lighter weight cotton, lightweight materials are popular orders from all types of clients when temperatures rise.

Printing on these lighter weight materials come with some complications, and successful screen printing on lightweight garments takes a few tips and tricks.

Laying down a lighter ink deposit

Most of the challenges that come with printing on lightweight garments involves laying down a lighter layer of ink. Too heavy an ink deposit on a lightweight garment can cause a variety of problems. A heavy hand on a light garment can make what should be a soft and cozy shirt uncomfortable. It can interfere with the drape of the shirt. Too heavy an ink deposit also can cause the ink to leak through the fabric of the shirt, leaving behind a ghost image on your pallets. To lay down a lighter layer of ink on lightweight garments:

  • Use an image with less coverage. It’s hard to get a lightweight feel when your image calls for a solid block of ink. When you plan an image for a lighter garment, use negative space to break up the ink. Consider giving the inka distressed look.If a client insists on a large, solid image on a lightweight garment, be sure to warn them of how the print might interfere with the feel of the garment.
  • Consider anink additive.An ink reducer can make ink flow more easily through the screen, requiring less squeegee pressure and resulting in a lighter ink deposit during printing. A soft hand additive can make your ink feel less plasticky and more comfortable after printing. Just remember that when you use an additive, it can make your ink less opaque and make color matching more difficult.
  • Use a higher mesh count screen.A screen with a 230 mesh count or higher is recommended when printing on lightweight garments. If the print requires an underbase, use a 155 to 180 mesh count screen for the underbase, and a 230 or higher mesh count for the subsequent colors.
  • Consider water-based or discharge ink.To get the softest hand feel on a lightweight garment, consider using water-based or discharge ink. If you’ve never used a water-based or discharge ink, you will be surprised by how user friendly some of the inks are. Of course, these types of ink work best with garments that are 100 percent cotton, though you might be able to experiment for successful results with blended-fabric garments.

Handling lightweight garments

Lightweight garments require more gentle handling, as many lightweight materials will snag more easily, stretch out of shape or shrink or scorch under the heat of the flash cure unit. When working with lightweight garments, make sure you treat them more delicately. For materials that can stretch out of shape, make sure you are using pallets that aren’t too big. To avoid scorching or shrinking, first test the garment under the flash cure unit to identify any problems. If scorching or shrinking occurs under your normal settings, you may need to change the setting on your flash cure unit so the ink flashes for a longer period of time at a lower temperature.

Anatol’s new and improved Rapid Wave quartz flash with temperature sensor helps keep
your curing under precise control to avoid overcuring and scorching delicate garments.
(Compatible with Aries 2-equipped presses)

Curing screen prints on lightweight garments

Successfully curing screen prints on lightweight garments also might mean giving some other strategies a try. How you cure screen prints on your lightweight substrates will depend on the substrate you use. With a lighter ink deposit, you might be able to increase the speed on your conveyor dryer and cure prints more quickly. If the material of your substrate is synthetic, you have to worry about the fabric shrinking, scorching or discoloring your ink during curing. Avoiding dye migration might mean using a low-bleed ink additive. Dealing with scorching or shrinking, or shortening cure times due to the lighter ink deposit will require some experimentation. Make use of temperature probes or heat guns to measure the temperature of your ink and garment during the cure, and alter the temperature and the belt speed of your conveyor dryer to fit with the needs of your lightweight garment.

Lightweight garments have become increasingly popular as customers seek more comfortable and better-fitting clothing. Lightweight garments are especially in demand during the warm summer months. If they haven’t already, your customers will be demanding screen prints on lightweight garments, and successful screen printing on lighter shirts requires putting some tips and trips to use to overcome challenges like a heavy hand, shrinking and scorching, and complications during the curing process.