Offering customized jackets is a benefit to screen printers, but printing them has some challenges to consider!

Jackets provide great opportunity for screen printers. Jackets are a popular choice to complete a work uniform, and fall, winter and spring sports teams love to have coordinating jackets to wear on the road and on the sidelines.

For customers who don’t seek out logoed jackets, having a lineup of jacket options you can offer to your customers gives you the chance to upsell with nearly any order. The opportunity provided by jackets doesn’t come without challenges, however. Jackets can be tricky to screen print on, unless you know a few of the methods needed to successfully print on any jacket.

Know Your Jacket Type

Once upon a time, when you referred to a jacket in a screen printing shop, you were referring to a nylon jacket of some sort, generally either an unlined windbreaker or a lined nylon baseball jacket. Today, apparel wholesalers offer endless options for jackets, from plush fleece quarter-zips to smooth athletic jackets. Meanwhile, nylon jackets remain a popular option. Successfully screen printing on a jacket begins with understanding the material of your jacket and the challenges it presents. From there, you can develop some strategies for printing on your particular jacket product.

Use an Ink Additive

Regardless of what type of jacket you’re printing on, you will need some sort of ink additive to successfully screen print on that jacket. When it comes to smooth, nylon surfaces, plastisol ink simply won’t adhere without some help. There are additives for plastisol ink that are solely meant to make the ink adhere to the nylon surface. If you do a lot of printing on nylon, you could invest in inks that are specifically formulated for printing on nylon. If you’re printing on a polyester warmup jacket or fleece jacket, you will want to consider a low-bleed additive that will prevent the dyes in the synthetic fabric from sublimating and tinting the inks in your print during the curing process.

Secure Your Jackets to Your Pallets

Another problem with printing jackets is that they have a tendency to shift on the pallet during the printing process. This problem exists for nearly any type of jacket, but it’s particularly a problem for jackets with lining; the lining of the jacket sticks to the pallet, but the exterior layer you print on will shift on the press. The best way to combat this problem is with a jacket hold-down pallet.

Decorating Outerwear 01

Anatol can provide jacket hold-down pallets
to keep your jackets secure while printing.

These devices fit over your pallet to hold your jacket firmly in place during printing. A jacket hold-down is a worthwhile investment if you print on jackets frequently. If you don’t print on jackets often, or if you’re working with a windbreaker, fleece or other single-layer jacket, you can tie the arms of the jacket under the pallet to hold the jacket more firmly to the surface. You also can use a spray adhesive for a single-layer jacket or fleece.

Use the Right Screen Mesh Count

The material of the jacket you’re printing on also will determine the type of mesh you need. When printing on nylon, the additive will thin out the ink, and the ink will sit entirely on the surface of the jacket. To avoid laying down too much on a nylon jacket, use a finer mesh and a firmer squeegee. A plush fleece might require a heavier deposit of ink and will require a lower mesh count screen.

Pre-Heat Your Fabric

Synthetic fabrics, and especially nylon, will shrink when they’re exposed to heat. If your nylon jacket first faces heat under the flash cure unit or in your conveyor dryer during curing, it can alter your print. Avoid this by running your nylon jackets through your conveyor dryer before printing, or quickly put the print surface under the flash cure unit before you print so any warping of the fabric occurs before you lay down your print.

Cure at a Lower Temperature

Because nearly all jackets are made from synthetic fabrics, they need to be cured for a longer period of time at a lower temperature. Synthetic fabrics will scorch under intense heat. Also, when synthetic fabrics overheat, the dye held within the fabric will sublimate, or turn to a gas, and alter the colors of the ink. Both of those problems can be addressed by slowing the belt speed on your conveyor dryer and lowering the temperature. You will want to use a temperature gun, temperature tape or donut probe to ensure that the ink has come to the proper curing temperature and won’t crack or wash away once you have passed it on to your customer.

Wait to Package and Distribute Your Screen Printed Jackets

In screen printing, the goal is always to get the product back to your customers as quickly as possible. You generally run your prints through the conveyor dryer, give them a minute to cool down, then fold them and box them to pass on to your customers. When you’re printing on jackets, you have to wait before you box and pack your finished product. Nylon can hold heat for longer than cotton or polyester substrates, and the ink can remain tacky for quite a while after printing. If you fold and package the jackets too soon, the ink will stick to itself or to other jackets. Some of the ink additives, or ink that’s designed for printing on nylon substrates, require additional curing time. After they travel through the conveyor dryer, they may need to sit for 48 hours or more to fully set. If you pass them on to customers too soon, the ink may scratch or wash away. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s specifications for the ink or additive you use to print on nylon substrates and test your prints thoroughly.

Screen printing on jackets does pose challenges, but the value you get by offering jackets to your customers is well worth any adjustments or extra steps you need to take. You will find customers who specifically seek out logoed or personalized jackets, and offering jackets allows you to increase your sales by upselling jackets to your existing customers.

Want some more tips on screen printing outerwear? Check out these blogs:

Best Practices for Screen Printing on Hoodies

Understanding Different Types of Fleece