How to Create All-Over Screen Prints

January 8th, 2014 Uncategorized

With the competitive nature of our industry, it is certainly important to pay attention to what’s about to hit retail. Incorporating these trends in design makes it possible to offer customers a unique embellishing solution to many custom requests that follow what’s hot at retail. Fashion trends include designs influenced by music, sports, retro, culture, tribal, fight and urban lifestyles. What we once called the ‘board sports’ look in the 80s—think brands like OP that featured surf boards and sailboats—has morphed into skulls, wings and scrolls on new mainstream brands like Ed Hardy and Affliction.

Higher-end, fashion-cut, soft, thin, smooth Ts continue to pair upscale basic garments with hip designs that reflect a pricey chic look. And location is everything. No longer limited to front, back or left-chest placements, designs continue to appear everywhere—the underside of collars, wrapped around the garment, across hems, over seams and sleeve-to-sleeve. Vertical or horizontal artwork covering the length of garments, shoulder applications and over sleeves is not out of the question. Never before has a trend allowed locations on any part of a garment for embellishment, making creativity limitless. This makes it fun to be in our industry right now—we can give our clients a fashion edge with big designs and trendy placements.

So where do we go from here? Logic would take us in the direction of an oversize printing press, new all over platens (AOP) for every size garment, huge screens, squeegees, flood bars and.. and… and! If you have an unlimited budget, it’s easy to get set up. But how long will it last? The oversized trend took place in the 80s as well and many folks were left in real trouble when the look faded years later. If the trend continues this time around, it may make sense to make this type of investment, but if you don’t have oversize capabilities, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the market for doing all-over prints. There are some methods that won’t break the bank to address this trend in the short term and without a huge investment. The following are my tips and tricks to get you going on the all over look.

Go big

The design work for this new trend is not necessarily any different than most vintage and or distressed images, just larger. Also, we’ll work with a T-shirt shaped template if we are going to print on the sleeves or over seams. Working with minimal colors is the way to go and, if truth be told, only one color needs to stretch out over the sleeves. The balance of the colors can stay inside the standard print size.

Choose a background treatment or pattern such as splashes, scrolls or wings. When outputting, chances are the oversized area on film will need to be tiled. We usually want to keep the background fairly graphic and vectored, though it is possible to print halftone detailed areas with some work and commitment.

When it’s time to take the film to screen, use the pre-registration system for all design components other than the oversized area and choose a higher than normal mesh. We usually go with at least a 230 tpi (threads per inch) for a soft hand, especially for over seams, and to avoid build up in the seam areas. We have found that high tension really helps in oversized printing (as well as other applications), so tension should at least be between N272 and N300 for best results.

To build oversized screens, we take apart two 23″ X 31″ to 36″ roller frames and bolt the long ends back together to make a 31″ X 31″ to 36″ X 36″ frame. Static frames can also be used, but the art will need to be separated into two sections and run sideways for top and bottom areas in a manual press. The bonus here is that you can bring the bottom part of the art down and fill youth and women’s shirts all the way up to 3X, 4X and even 5X sizes. Pretty nifty eh?

Or go really big

To print the background/oversized print, you will need to buy or build an oversized platen. These are designed not for garments to fit over; the garments will sit on top of the platen, so it will need to be large enough to lay the entire garment on. We throw some neoprene on top of the platen to absorb the seams while the squeegee passes over. A multi-color all-over print can be done by spraying a light mist of adhesive or even corn starch inside the shirt so the two layers stay together.

As bigger and bigger orders come in, you can even pick up an old “one-armed bandit” or semi-automatic flatbed printer with a similar platen system for one or even multi-color all-over printing. We have customers printing up to 10-color, tightly registered, beautiful discharge work with this method. Some choose to double index automatic machines and load screens as large as 50″ X 50″ into every other head.

Following these trends in retail, we can expand our product mixes and bottom lines by offering garments with all-over embellishment and oversized designs with additional unorthodox placements. There are numerous production methods to achieve this end, from fitting our screen printing press with oversized platens and screens, to mastering certain techniques of digital printing. But with fashion trends once again calling for decorators to “go big” with designs, the opportunities are grand. Just look around the mall or resort boutiques and you’ll see that oversized prints are hot again. Now is the time to cash in on this reemerging fashion trend and stand apart from the competition.

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