You’re excited when you get home from a trade show. A few days later you unpack your brand new direct-to-garment printer and get started. But sometimes you can’t quite achieve the same print quality you saw at the show. Your vendor didn’t trick you with smoke and mirrors, but there are a few things you need to know and do to achieve that same image quality.
The Right Shirt
The best garment to print on any direct-to-garment printer will be made from 100% ringspun cotton. When it comes to direct-to-garment printing, all shirts are not created equal. More tightly woven t-shirts will accept water base ink better than a loose weave. Here are just a few of the garments that have been tested by professionals and recommend:
Keya MC 180
Cotton Heritage 1082
American Apparel 2001
Next Level 3 600
Alstyle 1701R / 5301
Spectra Tees 3100
Fruit of the Loom 3931
There are new shirts coming every day that are direct-to-garment friendly, so keep testing to find the best garments for you.
The Proper File
Ideally, we need a 300dpi file saved at the full size it will be printed. Many customers will bring you a jpg file since this is a common way to save data, but a jpg limits your ability to manipulate the file if necessary. Specify a png, psd or eps file, saved with a transparent background for best results.
Using an automatic pretreat machine will give you the best consistency from shirt to shirt. On a tight budget, a handheld Wagner power paint sprayer is your second choice. Paint rollers, pump spray bottles and similar hobbyist application methods will give you inconsistent results and not recommended by industry professionals. Less is more when it comes to pretreating. A mist of pretreat on the shirt is plenty. Most new users tend to apply far too much pretreat solution.
Here’s the last step to a great finished print. Cure the ink on your heat press using LIGHT pressure. Too much pressure will result in the color ink on top and white ink below mixing together and muting the image. Heavy pressure can also press the ink into the fabric dulling the appearance of the image as well.
The vendors at trade shows are not performing magic when they print sample shirts for you. It’s simply a matter of choosing the right garment, pretreating properly, printing the best high resolution file, and curing the finished print correctly.