T Shirt Design Guidelines From Prep To Printing
An Introduction to Screen Printing
From the minute you tear open the bag of your delivered tee and slap it on your back, you forget about the complex process your t-shirt went through before arriving on your doorstep. Here, we will attempt to give you some basic knowledge and guide you through the pit falls of screen printing. Something all good designers should know. Screen-printing is an art form all of its own, and DBH has always pushed the boundaries of printing and taken on complex artwork in an attempt to scare our printers. They haven't been beaten yet!
Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. A roller or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink past the threads of the woven mesh in the open areas.
Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of silk or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface. It is also known as silkscreen, serigraphy, and serigraph.
The Basic Elements
Let's begin with the basic elements of screen printing:
When we do our screen printing, there are three different sizes that we categorize our designs into:
Standard prints are pretty simple, they are less than 18" x 18" and are fairly small in size just like fatheed's "A Simple Explanation" and sustici's "Watermelon City." Standard design sizes are usually the easiest and fastest to print due simply to their size. Easy to knock out, especially if they are just one color (which means one screen) like "Peace Bomb" by von_brandis.
Oversized prints are larger and cover most of the front of the t-shirt without bleeding onto the sleeves, collar, or hem; basically the edges like bortwein's "ISO 808." Designs like wotto's "The Gents" and tesseract's "Sophronia" are still considered oversized due to the fact that our printers are so good at what they do, they can line up the edge of the design just right to the hem (btw, the hem refers to the bottom of the t-shirt, or any piece of clothing for that matter).
Ah, the all-over design that we all are so fond of. These prints are exactly how they sound "all-over." A perfect example is alexmdc's "The Hidden People," which is also known as a belt print. As you can see, the print touches all edges of the t-shirt. In "When the Sun sets in the City of Sunrise; Another View," rejagalu has the artwork going off the collar, making it an all-over print. For SheViper's "Wonderless" the lion's head goes off the side of the sleeve, which means, that's right! All-over print! Here are some extra pointers to know about all-overs.
Things to take into consideration when designing your allover artwork:
SEAMS, SEAMS, SEAMS (AND COLLAR)! Remember that seams and ink don't get along too well, and if your design goes over the seams, (which an allover print will most likely do) it won't come out completely perfect, but it will be the best non-cut-and-sew printing anyone can accomplish around these parts. BeadlerWork's "Unification" and Mitohapa's "Red Run" are great examples.
SLEEVES! It's hard to put this into words, so we will just show you what we mean with pictures, It's a lot simpler and more direct!
One last thing to keep in mind about all-overs...
SIZES! Make sure your design is long enough, especially if your artwork has a cityscape. Additionally, understand that there will be inconsistencies between the size runs, since a size XXL is proportionally a lot wider than taller than a size small. For example, Inner-Monster's "The Optimistic Bot."
Printing Techniques & Appliques
For those who are new to the world of t-shirt graphic design and decoration, we would like to open your eyes to the many design possibilities available here at DBH and help get your creativity flowing. Along with standard plastisol inks, below are a few of the other techniques and processes we are currently offering to our designers. Keep checking back as this list will continue to grow and evolve.
COLORS, GRADIENTS, & HALF-TONES
Designs can be submitted using up to 8 colors per design and may contain gradients and half-tones.
HIGH DENSITY INKS
High density ink is used to give a design a dimensional appearance or texture. This type of ink can also be used to give a look similar to stitching and are available in virtually any color.
Flock is a technique that gives the design a fuzzy feel. It has a similar look and feel to felt and can be applied in many colors.
Foil is used to give a design a shiny metallic look. Foils are great for adding highlights to a design.
This type of ink, as the name indicates, has the look and feel of suede. When applied to a t-shirt it adds texture and dimension.
Metallic inks are used to give the design a metallic shimmer. The shine is not as strong as a foil and is great for subtle highlights.
Clear gel can be applied over a print to give it a glass-like look. Gel is also available as a high density gel for an even thicker appearance and rubbery feel.
Water-based inks are used to give a design a soft-hand feel and almost no-hand feel after wash. The result is a design that looks and feels like it is almost part of the fibers of the shirt as opposed to a plastisol print that sits more on the surface of the fabric. Water-based inks are often used to achieve a vintage look.
Discharge is basically a bleaching agent that is used to take the color out of the shirt. Discharge can be applied as raw discharge or tinted discharge. Raw discharge will give a dark-colored shirt a bleached look, and tinted discharge results in a more muted tone of the ink color that is used.