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Six simple steps for successful T shirt printing start-ups

WILLIAM SHORTER, moderator for Screen Printers of the World Unite, shares his top tips below for T shirt printing start-ups. P

roducing T shirts has come a long way since tie- dye and more small enterprises are attempting to move to screen printing. Screen printing offers distinct advantages like longer, faster and more economical print runs, as well as additional benefits such as more resistant end products. Screen printing can also achieve special effects simply not possible with other processes such as high build, glitters and metallics. This guide wonʼt help you become the next Giorgio Armani, but it will offer a few tips on the key things.

Tip 1: Think ink

Recent surveys suggest professional screen printers are divided between plastisol inks and their water-based counterparts – although plastisols appear to come out on top with many claiming they offer the best results.

Often your choice will depend on personal preference, equipment available and what youʼre looking to achieve. Water-based inks are easy to use, require basic equipment and have a good environmental profile.

Plastisol is durable and ideal for long runs where consistency from the first to last print is paramount. Plastisol inks have traditionally been a suspension of PVC particles in liquid plasticiser and these have come under scrutiny from an eco- friendly point of view. However, non-PVC alternatives are becoming more widely available giving printers and consumers a more sustainable choice.

Tip 2: Get emotional about emulsion Once youʼve pondered which ink to use, another choice youʼll need to make is which stencil emulsion you want to go for. It is often said that you can do a bad print through a good stencil but you canʼt achieve a good print through a bad stencil. Your choice of inks will influence your choice of emulsion – if

youʼre using plastisol inks then a durable ʻhigh buildʼ emulsion is recommended, with many print shops choosing faster exposing photopolymers. If youʼve chosen a water-based ink then you will need a water-resistant emulsion to match, especially if you are looking at ʻbashing the squeegeeʼ with longer runs. There are also ʻuniversally resistantʼ emulsions out there which can cover 90% of applications and print runs and perform well with a wide range of inks.

Tip 3: Get stuck into adhesives You couldnʼt do without a pallet adhesive to hold the garment in place while printing, but this also offers up some choices. The screen printing industry uses a lot of aerosol based spray adhesives. While these appear to be convenient at the point of use, the spray inevitably goes everywhere and might not do your equipment (or lungs!) a lot of good. People who have tried water-based platen adhesives, which can be applied (just to the pallet!) with a roller, have been completely converted and would never consider aerosols again. Again, if you have an environmental conscience, water-based pallet adhesives have the right credentials and some are available with GOTS approval.

Tip 4: Coming up clean

Nobody likes the clean up stage but using the right products can make the job a whole lot easier. Screen printers can use a large amount of solvents, so this is a good stage in the process to find a

safer and more sustainable alternative, stepping away from noxious and flammable compounds. Dedicated ʻpress washʼ products, specifically designed for screen printing inks, offer the user efficiency and peace of mind. As a minimum

requirement the cleaning solvents should not contain any materials classified as ʻharmful by inhalationʼ and best practice would be to use the lowest hazard and environmental classification available. Waste water generated during the screen

Equip yourself well

making and cleaning operations must be handled responsibly and you must check regulations that apply to your operation with the local water authority.

Biodegradable screen cleaning products are designed to be safely washed to drain during normal cleaning operations.

Tip 5: Waste handling

Managing waste is an important part of modern business and is becoming ever more regulated. Screen printing can produce a large amount of waste, from chemicals, inks, substrates and the usual assortment of packaging, with each element having specific waste requirements. The key here is to find out what the rules are that apply to you – and they will inevitably vary – and use specialist advice if you are at all unsure.

There are waste disposal companies that understand the needs of screen printers and have a lot of experience of handling our mix of waste so it makes sense to work with people who can offer specific solutions.

Tip 6: Equip yourself well

Equipment is one of the biggest investments you will make when starting out and it is critical to make the right choices. As with inks, you need to consider what you want to achieve now and in the future and what your target market is. Attending industry recognised shows such as Printwear & Promotion LIVE! and getting involved in screen printing communities such as ʻScreen Printers of the World Uniteʼ on Google+ will give you insight into the range of options available and contact with people that have first hand experience of using different types of equipment. Online reviews and personal recommendations are a good starting point, as long as you donʼt 100% rely on them. Overall, if youʼre going to take a professional approach you will be looking for equipment which will last you for the long term and allows you to offer the future services that your potential clients may require. After all, purchasing a poorly built four station hand printing carousel with no micro registration will cause you major headaches and youʼll soon start losing the profit margin due to rework and waste. Would you like to share your thoughts on this and more? Why

donʼt you join the debate with our Screenprintdirect community at

For more information call 01235 773120, email Website: June 2015 | 51 |

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