Fountain prints are a great way to get a little creative with your inks. You can make a personalized, unique design without using multiple screens. The great thing about fountain printing is that no two shirts are the same, but if your process is dialed in, fountain prints can be repeated for print runs or just done for one shirt. How do you make these prints really stand out? In the video, print enthusiast Josh Wells shows you how it’s done.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Because you’re blending different colors in one screen, you don’t need to burn more screens for each color. Simply burn one screen with the design. You’ll also need complimentary ink colors. You can use water-based or plastisol ink for fountain prints.
Thicker inks like plastisol work better for fountain prints, because they stay in place longer. The runnier the ink, the more it will spread during printing. Since the inks will blend together as you’re printing, you don’t want clashing colors in the same screen. This clashing can make your prints look muddy and unappealing.
Another factor you’ll need to consider is garment color. Say you’re printing a fountain print in shades of blue. You wouldn’t want to print it on a blue shirt, because parts of the print won’t show up. If you have colors set in mind, choose shirt colors that will complement those inks.
SETUP AND TESTING
Setting up a fountain print is different from a regular job. You’ll want to place the dollops of ink on the same screen, but leave a little space in between the colors. You can use an ink spatula, cleanup card, or whatever you’d normally use. You’ll blend the inks during testing, so there’s no need to blend them now. Make sure to add more ink to the colors on the outside edges of your design so you’ll keep it from spreading out and disappearing.
Pro Tip: Think about the size of the job you’re printing. Make sure you don’t put too much ink on the screen at one time. If you have too much ink on the screen, the ink will start to blend too much after about 10 prints. This can diminish the gradient effect. You also will have a hard time placing unused ink back in the bucket when the job is done, since you blended the colors together.
Testing is super important in fountain prints, because you’ll be blending the inks during this phase. Do enough print passes that your colors begin to form a gradient on the test shirt or pellon. This may take around four or five print passes.
Once you’re happy with the gradient effect, it’s time to start production.
The most important thing to remember when printing a fountain print is that all the shirts in your run are going to look a little different. Here’s some tips to help you keep your prints looking crisp and vibrant.
WHEN SHOULD I CLEAN MY SCREEN?
During your print run, you may notice the gradient beginning to look a little muddy. If your gradient is looking a little sloppy, it’s time to clean your screen out and put new ink in. This is another reason not to add too much ink to your screens. If you’re not happy with the gradient effect, clean your screen and add new ink.
The great thing about fountain printing is that no two shirts are the same, so you have more room to play. When you add new ink to your fresh screen, you don’t have to add it in the same order that you did before. You can switch the order of colors, or even use different colors if you want (or your customer wants).
In most multi-color jobs, your squeegee angle matters more than your squeegee placement on the screen. As long as your squeegee pulls ink through the entire design, you can switch up technique and not have to worry about placing your squeegee in the same spot for every pull. With fountain prints, it’s different.
Keep your squeegee in the same place every time you pull. Otherwise, you can mess up the blending process if you move the squeegee left or right with each pass. This will be best for print runs, as you won’t have to clean out your screen as often and you’ll be able to keep the gradient between your ink colors nice and vibrant.
Using a pull stroke is also recommended. Pull strokes offer more precision and adjustment to the amount of ink you’re laying down. You’ll need that control when printing a fountain print. It’s very important to be as consistent as possible when pulling.
You don’t need to be stuck in one lane when printing fountain prints. Since fountain prints are all unique, you can get creative with them. Move your squeegee in a wave when pulling the ink down the screen to create a wave effect. Place ink in the middle of your screen and turn your squeegee in a 360 to print in a circle.
You can also “paint” with fountain prints. To do this, place small dollops of different colors of ink all over the screen. When you do a print stroke, the print looks marbled. You can place ink colors randomly or strategically, depending on the effect you’re going for.
Got more ideas? Try them! The only limit with fountain prints is your own creativity.
Fountain prints are a fun way to get a gradient effect without making things complicated. As long as you print consistently and test your prints before going to production, you’ll be golden. Switch up your routine and try a fountain print sometime.