Tiger Print Close Up - Marshall Atkinson

Trying something new to the blog this week…  I’m not going to write an article.  No, I’m not lazy…this is actually a calculated decision.  Instead I’m crowdsourcing the article to the same audience that reads it.  It’s either going to be a great idea, or a participation disaster.  Guess what?  It’s all up to you!

In the comments section of this blog article leave your favorite shop trick or tip.  You know – the special tidbit that someone taught you, you discovered by accident, or just had the crazy epiphany one night in a dream.  What could be a basic idea to one shop; might be a fantastic new revelation to another.  Please share what works!

This can be a printing tip, an embroidery tip, how you mastered setting up art for the DTG, how clumsy fingers can work with rhinestones, something that helps with workflow, how to work with a new client…really just about anything.  Feel free to share links, resources, products…anything and everything!  The idea is to pool the creative possibilities for the industry into one big long list of practical tips.  Please add yours!  Ready?  Let’s go!


  1. To prevent scorching on super-thin fashion t-shirts, make sure you apply a thin, evenly applied layer of platen adhesive (spray tack or liquid) to the board all around. Scorching can occur during printing when flashing the shirt on press, as the fabric is thin and the air between the board and the fabric heats up and instantly scorches the shirt. Keeping the fabric pinned down to the board prevents this from occurring.

    1. Communicate and never assume. Communication can be verbal if it’s to someone who listens otherwise it must be conveyed in a form that will be used by the recipient. It can be different for each person and situation.

    2. This is one my guys seem to relearn at least once or twice a year. Works with thicker apparel as well. Really embarrassing especially when you can easily turn off un needed areas of the flash, Flashing the the full board for a left chest. Sports Grey fleece has gotten us a time or two.

    3. I have learned a lot by visiting other shops (bigger and smaller) and reaching out to guys like Marshall and basically doing what we are doing here. I was picking up a lightly used i-Screen DTS from a very successful shop that was installing the new i-Image. (This has been a great purchase!) He had a screen washer that was new from my last visit. Just a big stainless box that reminds me of a restaurant dish washer. I asked him about it, and he said it was the best piece of equipment he had ever purchased. I thought he was pulling my leg. This guy is a show room for M&R. The used CCI Screen Washer was the best investment he had made? Now my shop is much smaller, but I have a few employees that don’t care about how many hours they have. I asked my CCI rep to keep an eye out for me. He found one for me that was basically being miss used (nearly all of the jets were clogged with tape when I got it). I spent no more than $5k for the machine, freight, electrical hook-up, and chemicals. It has saved me a great deal on labor. My screen guy is happy, and I have saved on chemical and water as well. We just use it to remove ink. We have to dehaze one in maybe seven or eight screens. Works great. Pen holes are nonexistent (the DTS system has a lot to do with this as well). It’s important to match your chemical to your screens and emulsion.

  2. When Transferring Sublimation (especially onto metal) Use parchment paper or craft paper with sublimation instead of a Teflon sheet as you need to pull the moisture away from the transfer paper with this water based process. Teflon will lock the moisture in and could cause fuzzy discolored edges on your sublimation item.

  3. If UV ink is spilled on a piece of clothing, remove clothing asap, and clean affected skin with soap and water. Wash clothing separately from other clothes – may have to wash several times to completely remove absorbed ink from the fibers.

  4. Order Management: Confirm the details and make the extra phone call. You take a rush job, you think you are going to help a customer because you squeezed their order in; and then you ship the order ground instead of by air – because it did not say on their purchase order and you did not confirm the details — information that was missing. Confirm the details. Make the extra phone call. It pays dividends for years.

  5. When embroidering delicate fabrics, avoid leaving hoop marks by hoping a later of stabilizer atop the garment with a ‘window’ cut away to reveal the area you are stitching. This typing will percent the abrasion and crushing that causes “hoop burns”. The windows can also be reused.

  6. When discussing orders by email, keep a running list of what’s missing that you update in each email. For example:
    To have your shirts ready by 5pm on 11/20, we’ll need a final order by noon on 11/15. A final order means:
    * Final art, sizing and placement
    * Pantone colors for the design(s) selected
    * Garment Brand/style/color confirmed
    * Shirt size breakdown
    * Invoice approval
    * Payment (cc auth form attached)

    Chances are, your customer is only going to provide some of this list on their reply. Thank them, and remind them in each email what’s missing to complete the order. This keeps you both organized and helps make sure the order happens, correctly, and on time.

  7. Ok my tip is about cleaning platens. I used to hate pulling the tape off as it wouldn’t come off easy and I’d spend way too much time. So I decided to tape them, mark the center line and another 4″ down across the width with a sharpie. Then tape again and use liquid glue on the top. This allows for easy setup using the films, no more spray glue that makes a mess and is not very healthy, we just wipe down the platens with a sponge and water from a spray bottle between jobs. You can freshen up the glue several times before they must be replaced, which is a snap now because it quicly releases from the under layer of tape. We only replace the once every couple of weeks. Much faster, cleaner and healthier. Thanks Marshall Atkinson for giving us the chance to share with others. I look forward to more folks sharing tips.

  8. For faster strike off approvals, help with problems or other reasons your press crews might need a manager, mount a cheap fire engine type emergency light on a big pole. When the crew needs some assistance they can turn on the light, which can be seen all over the shop. This is significantly faster than having the press operator hunt down someone for a signature or to ask a question. Here’s a pic of one of our lights. We have these mounted next to every dryer in the shop. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/58828338857320516/ These were purchased from Amazon for under $13 each. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0011CZV5A/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)

  9. 1. You can sometimes use your “hand cleaner” to remove small ink spots (mistakes). Rub it in, cure the design, and wash. Doesn’t work for all garments, but give it a try.
    2. Pallet tape air bubbles/wrinkles? Lay tape down and use the tape roll out air bubbles/wrinkles.
    3. Plastisol inks – use a warm/hot water bath to warm up inks, stir often. No need to go over 90 degrees. Smooth prints, easy through screens & good curing all the way through.

  10. Try using WD-40 to remove unwanted spray tack, ink and lint from your presses. Just spray it onto the affected area, let it sit for a few moments and then wipe it off. It not only removes the dirt and grime but it creates a slick coating on the metal which helps remove spray tack in the future.

  11. Fleece! hoop it 360 use cut away always and smallest hoop possible. Solvy should be used but run a test you might not have to if the fill has a good background stitch. I have used regular paper on large desings at times for topping. A new discovery: chain stitch can be used without solvy it flattens out the pile below very nicely. What a timesaver in multiples for me and a unique retro look.

  12. Manual Printers Pay Attention: Get that smooth hand when printing plastisol just like the pros do.

    (If you have an extra head available on press)
    Step 1) Cure emulsion without a stencil onto a blank screen.
    Step 2) When registering your job don’t worry about this screen just make sure it sits over the print area. Tape it off so nothing can go through the non emulsified edges, load some clear base so a squeegee will move without friction when push stroking the print.
    Step 3) After flash curing your base, quickly use the blank screen head and push stroke squeegee over the base print Smooth and heavy pressure will flatten an rough areas in the print. Note: the print must be hot for this to work
    Step 4) Lay down the rest of your colors as you normally would. Since your base is smooth the rest of the colors should lay down smooth too. Soft hand plastisol prints just like the pros.

    This same technique is used in shops with autos, however they normally use a roller designed to load into a head of the press and roll over a blank screen.


    Set your heat press to 315 degrees. Heat press the print with medium pressure for 5 seconds. You want to be careful not to over do it because colors can start to mix as well as risk dye sublimation on polyester garments. This technique isn’t for curing(although you could if you want at 325 degrees) but really for smoothing out the rough prints most manual printers experience.

    Joshua S.
    Mass Threads T-shirt Printing & Embroidery

  13. Forge the tape on the platen:

    Forget the tape. Use press wash to clean your platens between runs. Simply spray press wash onto the platen. Let it soak for 1 min. Use straight edge razor blade to pull off. Do not dig into the platen, just simply pull the fibers towards the front of the platen and off into a trash can.

    Wipe clean with a paper towel on top, around and underneath to remove any excess press wash.

    I’ve done this on wood, metal, and rubber top platens. All with success. Takes hardly any time or extra money to do.

  14. I have found that the best vector art building program for graphic artist is CorelDraw. What I like about the program is that it can open an ai, eps and import in a pdf and Photoshop (with the layers) files and more, but Illustrator can’t open a CorelDRAW when the industry is moving away from Illustrator to Corel. Most of my customers are using CorelDRAW these days. Also Mac’s can run Corel using a With programs such as Apple’s own Boot Camp, or virtualization solutions such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion, CorelDRAW, Corel PHOTO-PAINT and other Windows-centric products work great on Macintosh computers.

    Also…one of my art teachers back at AIP gave me the advice as an artist not to put all your eggs in one basket. Have a plan B and C,D,E,F. You have to pay your bill’s so do what you like to do to pay your bill’s and keep doing what you love to do until you can pay your bill’s doing what you love to do.
    My plan is to do Graphic Design to pay my bill’s and I like doing it. But painting is what I love to do, and that is my retirement. I will never need to retire. Or want to.

  15. one simple but HUGE time saver is moving pallets out from under screens when stopped. Often pallets get hot from flashing. Stopping a press to take a bread people tend to leave the pallets locked in (on autos) where the pallet is just under the screen. The heat from the pallets can harden/gel the ink in the screen. Stop the pallets at half of a revolution to prevent this. On particularly long runs heat can even be absorbed into the squeegee and floodbar, curing all of the ink at one time. To prevent this simply change your squeegee and floodbar occasionally.

  16. Hey Marshall great ideal,
    One of the best and easy to do tips I can provide is face coating your screens.
    If your having issues getting enough white down on your garment try to face coat.
    Start with your normal 2-1 or 2-2 coating let it dry print side down of course and come back on the print side and put an extra one or two coats of emulsion. Since the amount of ink you are able to apply to the garment directly correlates to how thick your stencil is. With a good tight screen, a firm flood stroke, light squeegee pressure and those face coats I think you will have a chance to see some brighter whites.

  17. Take time to talk through on order with your customer when its placed. Often enough an order is placed by a customer with their selections on garment, art, and decoration type already set. Its easy enough to simply push the order through as dictated. However, its equally as easy to take a moment to review and suggest improvements or changes that can be made to the order’s outcome. Whether offering a different method of decoration or making changes to the art- share your knowledge and make recommendations if you see it fit. The majority of your customers will appreciate the options even if they don’t end up applying them to their order. So my “tip” is to share your tips with customers.

  18. If you keep an inventory of coated screens, it’s good to put them back in the screen dryer prior to exposure to drive off any moisture the emulsion may have absorbed.

  19. SALES.
    1. When approached for team tshirts, offer to do an order form with multiple options for faj apparel such as long sleeves, drifits, and hooides. The higher margin items can lead to bigger profits per order.
    2. Include a slip of paper in the bottom of every box with reorder instructions and contact info. Make it simple for a customer to reorder.
    3. Group together package deals at various budget levels for niche markets. Add a la cart items for each package.

  20. If you want to lower your operating costs, first look at your utilities. In most areas of the country you can get a professional energy audit from your local utility for free. They will come out to your facility and review everything from top to bottom. Heat or cooling loss from your windows & doors, HVAC problems, air leaks from your compressor, etc. A few weeks later they will send you a report with a list of action items that you can use as a check list. Many times you can also get low interest loans or grants for any improvements too. Do what’s recommended and pocket a big suitcase of extra cash at the end of the year. This can also be the first step towards a sustainability program. For more information check out the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership at http://www.sgppartnership.org to learn how you can earn a sustainability certification for your shop.

  21. Waste Ink: What to do with it?

    When printing custom jobs with special PMS colors many shops will accumulate a lot of ink. When you have enough ink, mix all the inks together with some stock black to create a “black” ink that can be used for simple one color prints.
    It is illegal to toss ink into the trash without curing it first. This is a way to avoid an OSHA violation as well as extend your ink along with saving money.

    1. Also, if you have a mixing system… Many systems supply a recycle feature in which those colors mix in the system can be used as a component and a new color.

  22. For pinholes on an auto:

    1.Print the color that you know has the pinhole.
    2. Bring pallet over where you can see it.
    3. Reverse some tape the size of the pinhole over it.
    4. Print it again. The pressure will pick up the tape and cover the pinhole. This will prevent you from having to go under the press and spend time looking for it.

  23. When establishing a parameter for adequate flash, it is best to back up the flash temperature and time until the ink film does not flash and is wet to the touch. From that point you either add ei time or increase temperature. Many times a printer makes the mistake of over flashing which can cause a tacky surface. Many times this is mistaken is under flashing.

  24. Listed below are some of the things that have helped us.
    Please add to list if you wish.
    Thank you for the heads up Marshall.

    have a easy to comprehend job description.

    he/she is self-correcting.
    he/she is self-discipline.

    Art Department…
    know the garment fabric content & color.
    work on design template.
    create art at full size.
    work off of in-house color card.
    know method of decoration.
    be familiar with screen room.
    be familiar with ink department.
    be familiar with all aspects of post press.

    Sales Department…
    client ask when can you have my order ready? correct reply is “when do you need it”?
    commit to follow up dates on all quotes.

    preheat platens.
    document print jobs.
    own a squeegee sharpener.
    floor have markings for loading tables and flash units.

  25. Always heat up your tables, manual or auto
    Don’t be afraid to base down or reduce a stiff or crawling ink to get a desired clean screen break
    and for multi color spot color jobs, many printers have a hard time getting the black to fill the gaps correctly…you can add 1/2 the recommended amount of puff additive and the black will rise up and then fall on dryer exit and fill in the gaps.

  26. I like to visit other shops or pickup the phone and call guys like Marshall and do basically the same thing we are doing here. I was picking up a lightly used DTS system from a great shop that is a showroom for M&R in our area. Techs were there installing the latest DTS system and the shop was in full production. I noticed a new piece of equipment, a large stainless steel box in his screen area. It was a used CCI screen washer and he said it was the best investment he had ever made. I thought he was pulling my leg. Labor was the biggest savings and it did a great job on his screens. So next time my CCI rep stopped in I asked him to find me one. There were two available. Basically units that went into shops that refused to change the way they were doing things and refused to follow instructions on how the equipment should operate. I picked up the newest one, well the freight company did. When it arrived I found tape poking out of all the jets! No wonder it wouldn’t work right. Some one had pried up the screen inside the box allowing tape to drain into the tank and eventually find it’s way to the pump. A little elbow grease and it works like brand new. It is a huge labor saver. Additionally chemicals and water have also seen reductions. We just use ours to remove the ink and I would say we dehaze about one in six screens. I have been very lucky with used equipment. Don’t be afraid to build a relationship with other shops and share some information.

  27. Cross training employees, has anyone ever heard of the rule “Hit By the Bus” if you have one employee who is the only one who knows a particular process this can hurt your company until someone finds out how the process was previously done. Document and cross training can help prevent a disaster in the future. Prepare for the worst you never know when someone will be “Hit By the Bus”

  28. Art Department…
    new art begins with a creative brief.
    starts all art on template.
    creates art at full size.
    knows design/print colors.
    uses proper pantone swatch guide.
    knows what we are printing on…ex: garment color, sizes and fabric content.
    method of decoration.
    have clients approved art/print preview in job folder when proceeding to create separations.

    These SOP`s help eliminate mistakes.

    Please feel free to share what you do in your shop.


  29. I learned to visualize the outcome of a design in my mind while the client is explaining what they want. By the time their finished I can come up with the size, fonts,colors etc.

  30. Art department:
    When creating new art or working with customer-supplied art, pay ATTENTION to Space, Color and Balance. Even for simple text-based designs, small details can make a big impact.

    Space… It’s always best to manually kern your type. But a good time-saving trick in Adobe Illustrator is to set the type’s kerning from Auto (the default) to Optical.

    Color… One of my favorite aspects of creating a new design is developing the color scheme. A fun resource to play with is Adobe Kuler (https://color.adobe.com/explore/newest/?time=all).

    Balance… Choose a focal point of the design. Make sure those elements stand out and are easy to read or recognize. All other elements should compliment the focal point by utilizing proper Space and Color.

  31. Somewhere between 90 to 95% of all screenprinters underexpose their screens. This leads to press breakdown and poor reclaiming at best. It also makes havoc of developing as each screen will develop differently. So, make sure your exposure is correct. An exposure calculator with neutral density filters is the best, as you can evaluate exposure through color change (not detail!). Without one, you can also use the “squeak test” where you run your finger on the squeegee side after washout and if you don’t hear a squeak, then you are underexposed. Finally, you must use a pressure washer for development! Make sure you open up the fan to at least 30 degrees and stay about 6-10″ from the mesh. If your emulsion/exposure won’t hold up to this, then what makes you think it will hold up to printing on press. It will also open up pinholes that normally open on press which makes you stop and fix them. You will be surprised at the detail you will open up this way without having to underexpose!

  32. Here is a clever trick for a noobie learning how to register a multi-color print on a manual press. This can be especially handy when trying to register a small design that tends to have less tolerance available for bleeds and chokes, such as a front left chest. Tack your test square or pellon in place on your pallet and print your base or trap or whichever screen you prefer to register the others to. Use some clear packing tape to tape over the printed image area. After registering the other screens, test print each one directly onto the tape. If the registration is off, simply wipe the ink from the tape with a rag, adjust your registration and try again. (It’s sort of like a dry erase board.) Now in my shop I don’t like to advocate the over use of tape for any reason as it is costly and wasteful. However lots of test prints on pellons can be costly and wasteful as well. Your goal should be to eventually learn to register screens within only one or two tries and get close enough to dial-in as you start production, which of course will come with practice.

  33. SOME GREAT TIPS FOR TEXTILE DESIGN AND PRINTING/EMBROIDERY: Well, textile screen printing and embroidery takes me back to my first professional job after college, but I have kept up with it to this day. FOR DESIGNERS – no matter the budget, the amount of potential complexity allowed by the client for your design, and the amount of colors you are allowed to fill it up with – please take a word of advice. Keep things relatively simple, at least in consideration to the whole design to print, and even sometimes even into the packaging process. Do this or you will have a whole team of people responsible for producing your well-designed product AT YOUR THROAT! Trust me, I’ve designed myself into a nightmare before when it came to actually printing the things – a beautifully designed nightmare, but a bad daytime-dream nonetheless. One of the LAST things you want to do is make something extremely beautiful on-screen, but look terrible in print, because it’s too complex.

    You can still make a really colorful and ‘complex looking’ design, but keep mindful of trapping (especially), registration (another huge consideration) and overall ease for making films to shoot screens from, etc. When I started out in 1995, we had to ink our trapping by HAND, because the laser printer we used would shrink each separations by about 1%. So, when we shot films we would have to hand-register them and INK BY HAND the edges of each color, aside from the black film (top layer), no matter what the size and amount of colors. It was a daily pain, but these steps did ensure each of our designs were totally up to snuff for the best possible printing. Now, most businesses have film outputs straight from computer to film, which eliminates a lot of extra work and valuable time, so be glad if you have this technology, and embrace it, but don’t abuse it. instead USE IT to your best total advantage.

    Another great tip, that can still be accomplished with relative design and printing simplicity, is WRAP-AROUND prints and ALL-OVER-GARMENT prints. These can be trickier to design, and much more so to print, but when all goes well through the whole process, you will have happy and proud printers AND customers! Stay with the times, keep abreast of printing and consumer trends, and you’ll have continued success!

    Here are some of my best t-shirt, heat-transfer prints and embroidery designs:
    (Almost all of what you’ll see in this “Illustration” section are textile designs that went to print and were nationally distributed – more artwork samples available upon request).

    My full design/web/illustration portfolio here:

    My LinkedIn profile with full resume and credentials:

    Keep designing, printing and selling your work, and live the good life!

    ~Russ Nadasdy

  34. If you ever get slight burn marks on a garment, not complete scorches just little light brown stains, get a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide put a squirt bottle top on the container and slightly apply it to the affected area. After letting it air dry, the burn stain should lighten or be gone altogether, may need to do two or three times, but will usually save a shirt or 20.

  35. Small but effective: When embroidering on dark garments, slide a piece of copy paper or backing between the garment and the needle while your threading the needle. It makes that task much easier!

    The Hoopmaster system is well worth the investment. It takes all the guesswork out of placement. And it’s invaluable when more than one person is working on a particular job. You know you’ll have consistency. It’s my third (and last!) hooping system.

    And I second the comment about the importance of floor pads for your machine operators, whether embroidery or screenprinting. They make a huge difference in comfort and fatigue.

  36. Design Tip… Often times we will knock colors to print around each other, but using overprint fill in illustrator and thinning inks to overlap the colors on press adds some fun welcomed surprises when printing on the garment. Often times it looks as if more colors are printing then really are.

  37. Safety – what else can one expect from me!

    Make sure that your Right to Know training is up to date. OSHA is visiting plants to make sure that the new training program has been completed.

    Make sure that you do not remove any necessary machine guards. We have seen a rash of OSHA visits that result in fines due to removal of guards — remember if your hand can fit into a space, you need to guard it!

  38. My suggestion is to train employees on the whole process, not just their specific job. At least some shadowing. That way:

    – Sometimes they can help in other areas when needed.
    – You don’t run into the “Hit by a Bus” scenario mentioned above
    – They know the process and can anticipate problematic situations and correct them ahead of time rather than deal with them after the fact (such as asking the customer a few key questions proactively, rather than following up during/after a problem)
    – Having broader knowledge of the process gives makes them feel more ownership and part of the team.
    – Training up and promoting internally helps when filling positions and makes them feel more valued.

    Great topic!

  39. Shipping:

    If your package looks like crap before it ships, it wont be any better by the time your client lays their eyes on it.
    Make sure your garments are stacked and packed neatly and securely for there journey.

    Value is always long term and builds relationships. Price is always short term. Customers obsessed with finding the lowest price will become your biggest headaches. Find customers that appreciate the value in what you provide, then do it right the first time, on time! Its easy.

  41. 1. Connect with Marshall and read his blog
    2. Learn how to sell
    3. Attend at least 1 industry trade show each year and TALK to exhibitors
    4. Continuously ask yourself “what can I do to make it easier for this client to order more or more often?”

  42. Art Department:
    When creating a new design, ask for all the uses that this art may be applied. Specifically, ask if it will be embroidered – and get an idea of what limitations embroidery art has. Generally, Embroidered text must be around .20″ tall. Try to limit the space between letters as embroidered letters like to be close enough to connect by a single run stitch, rather than having to trim in between each letter in each word. Limit the use of blends, outlines, strokes, and shadows. K.I.S.S. Although art generally has a wider range of creative freedoms with screen-printing, art must ususally be simplified for embroidery. If your customer is aware of this difference up front and happy with having two versions, then you have saved a great amount of logo modifications in the long run. I don’t know how many brand guidelines I’ve seen in my day that never once bring up the specs to be used for embroidery. And usually it’s necessary for embroidery to break up to half of the guidelines just to produce an embroidered version. (sigh)…

  43. When doing separations in Illustrator be sure to utilize the “Separations Preview” window. It gives you instant feedback on what colors in the design are true PMS Spot colors and which are CMYK or RGB colors. This is especially important when separating client-provided artwork, as it is often created by artists who don’t the specifics of how to design for the apparel-industry. Using this feature will let you catch a lot of minor (and major) issues on the front end before they make it to the screen room, or even worse, the press.

  44. When making t-shirt designs in Illustrator remember the pathfinder is your best friend. When you know you have to colour separate your design it’s the best way to make everything go smoothly.
    When you master the way of the pathfinder sky is the limit.

  45. We have a lot of technical/practical tips here. I think the most important tip anybody can get is:
    You can ask everyone of your peers, colleagues, teachers and who knows who. But if you don’t try, you won’t learn. Just go out there and strife for that goal that you’ve put up and never give up.
    Don’t force it though 🙂 your gut knows witch direction to take and if it’s not the right one you learned in your own way and that will make you stronger and probably open a new door.

  46. If you have a distributor client that is doing a fair amount of repeat business with you, consider having a discussion with them about packaging that bears their distributorships markings. In the grand scheme of things it is a relatively small expense for a HUGE improvement in perception by the end-buyer. Good distributors are always looking for an edge, and something like company specific packaging can be the difference between getting a corporate client or not. If you don’t have a source for this kind of packaging to offer your distributor there are a number of great sources out there for corrugated packaging.

  47. We moved into new space this past Spring (wrote about it here: http://site.sparkle-plenty.com/blog/2014/03/blinging-great-things-to-life-on-4th-street).

    For our needs, we created a flow of workspace in our BLING CENTRAL production center area so apparel boxes to be unpacked are at the beginning of the flow, then to a table to hand correct rhinestone designs, to the pressing tables and we set up with racks to let the apparel cool down. Then they’re folding in our shipping center area with tape, labels, boxes, etc.. then they are ready to be weighed and shipped to our happy customers.

    Stay sparkly!
    Sparkle Plenty Designs

  48. when applying ink degradent/ screen wash or stencil remover, Make sure your spray bottle nozzle is in a stream pattern and not a fan/mist, this will allow all of the chemistry to be placed directly to the screen were it is needed and not atomized in the air were it can be inhaled, cause discomfort and wasted
    then with a scrub pad you work the chemistry into the screen. this will save you chemical and make for a better work area environment.

    no matter what products you use , the proper safety equipment is recommended, IE: gloves, goggles, face-mask.

  49. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn through trial and error. Not everything can be learned through google, forums, and blogs (sorry Marshall:))

    1. Allan:

      You are very correct. You have to get your hands dirty and learn. What if we try this? Will that work? The only way to know is to do it. Thanks for commenting and for your support!! -M

  50. After 18 years doing this I am not even sure if this is a trick or tip or just common knowledge..but here goes!!
    Your first print/stroke on an automatic naturally stretches the screen mesh just a wee bit. So, register your colors to your setup image just a bit above the image so when you make that color’s first print, it has a much better chance of being in register on your first try.

    Also, keep your screens properly tensioned. The reasons for this are obvious but one that you may overlook is the health and safety of your manual printers. A well tensioned screen makes a manual printers job so much easier and is a real wrist and back saver. Also, consider having an expert in body mechanics, such as a physical therapist, consult and teach proper body mechanics to your employees. Back pain is one of the leading causes of lost revenue and time in America. Investing in the maintenance of your equipment and screens and looking out for the well-being of your Team will pay out huge dividends both monetarily and Karmically.

    1. Great tip about the registration. I have to do this with my auto, I thought it might just be specific to the brand/ model of my machine. May I ask what brand of auto you are using?

      1. Hi
        Most of my experience has been on M&R automatics. We purchased a new 8/color Workhorse Sabre this spring and the micro setup etc. is pretty similar. Great press BTW, the Sabre. So I wouldn’t think it matters from press to press. The issue is a natural stretch of the screen when squeegee pressure is applied. You should only have to register the screen a teeny tiny bit above the setup color. If you find yourself needing more room, it’s time to re stretch those screens. Also, we have used both roller and aluminum frames (we prefer aluminum..) but that is subjective.

  51. If I can share any information regarding the apparel industry, it would be to always be on top of your game.

    What I mean by that is quite simple really.. Do what you say you are going to do. Make a list to prioritize most important to least important and follow through until the end.

    People come up with new ideas daily. Always take others ideas into serious consideration no matter how stupid it may sound sometimes, and focus on what works best for you and your company.

    The BEST way to sell any product, no matter what it is, how it is made, or what brand it represents, is to merchandise the product differently from the rest.

    In the apparel industry, NEVER follow the crowd. Great ideas come from those who think outside of the box. When you do this, you will realize and learn much more by using the best technique out there… being different from the rest, aka being UNIQUE!

  52. After reading all of these great ideas, I wondered if I could add anything to the discussion. However, I didn’t see much about screens, and mesh is our company’s forte. Whether making your own screens or outsourcing them, the key is consistency, especially for multi-color jobs. Making all of the screens for a particular job under identical conditions will ensure maximum consistency, and documenting the screen tension and EOM will promote repeatability and very happy customers. Terrific idea, Marshall; nice forum for the exchange of ideas and information.

  53. Know what your shop is capable of printing. I have a film of “test patterns”. Text at sizes 20pt on down to about 4pt, both in serif and sans serif fonts, various lines and shapes at various thicknesses and orientations, don’t forget to include these in reverse as well (where the text and/or shapes are the unprinted portion), and halftones at various levels of grayness both at constant grayness and in smooth fades. Image this design on screens of different mesh and print them in different colors. Leave this at the art desk so your artist knows the limitations of what can be done in your shop.

  54. When you get a new order from a new person contact him and ensure he is really a customer. Possibily he might be your competitor just ordering and cancelling later to ruin your busines. We had faced several issues like these in the past. So be careful with a new customer.

  55. When disposing of ink, you can’t just flush it down the drain or throw it in the garbage. Remember that plastisols are 100% solids and even water-based inks aren’t entirely water, so they aren’t entirely environmentally friendly. Your local laws may allow you to reduce disposal volumes by opening the lids and allowing the water (and any solvents) to evaporate off. The remaining pigmented binder should then be disposed of in accordance with local regulations.

  56. Hey Marshall, great blog, great idea, thanks for getting this started.
    With respect to personnel, and to keep this, my first post, under 10,000 words (haha), I suppose the best tip that’s relatable to my perspective as an executive recruiter is Managing Expectations.
    Managing Expectations is both an employee issue as well as an owner issue, and in my humble opinion all comes down to communication.
    This communication does not have to be verbal one-on-one either. Posted signs can alert employees as to what’s expected of printers, supervisors, and managers. That is valuable information to all employees. In an earlier post someone mentioned a red light that employees can activate when they have an issue….that’s just another form of communication. Some companies will post their numbers for all to see…..number of prints per day, week, month, year, error ratios, company donations to charities…..all of these postings are ways to communicate with people without having to have face to face discussions.
    In my experience, the company that communicates the best retains the most employees and puts out a tremendous amount of work based on their resources.
    Best wishes for continued success –

  57. My favorite trick is easy, Slash setup times! Spend the time with your operators to train them how to setup jobs quickly. Another great trick is use your Automatic! I will print runs a small as 12 pieces on the auto. if you can set up a job just as fast on the auto as you can your manual, then do it! It will print ten times faster. And furthermore, Relax! We’re screen printers, not firemen. I find less mistakes come from a low pressure atmosphere.

  58. From Andy Anderson – http://andersonstudioinc.com/

    One of the most overlooked and talked about tools or equipment that is mentioned when I have visitors in my shop is our squeegee sharpeners. They ask what is that piece of equipment for?
    Well screenprinting is full of variables.We are all about Trying to control the Variables! One of those is Dot gain. In order to control dot gain we have focused on screen tension, off contact, proper mesh, seps, proper line count and many other areas of control. All too often the squeegee is overlooked as a variable.
    Yes the Durometer is important but more so than that is a sharp edge. I can’t tell how many times when we are repeating a job and the image isn’t quite matching I ask, did you check the squeegee for sharpness or better yet did you sharpen the edge? More times than not I will find a dull edge on the blade. And a reply like well it was sharp the last time we used it!
    So at that point if you don’t have a sharpener replace the blade. If you have a sharpener and the job has critical detail sharpen the squeegee! Simple solution! Hope this helps—- Andy

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