Hoodie season is around the corner. In the live stream, print expert Josh Wells walked through the basics of printing on these fall fleece favorites. Couldn’t tune in for the live stream? Here’s what you missed.
SETUP AND TEST PRINTING
Every job starts with setting up the press. First, Josh set up his off-contact. Since hoodies are thicker than T-shirts, he created double the off-contact that a t-shirt would have. The design Josh is printing has four colors, so he makes the same off-contact on each screen.
Hoodies and sweatshirts are created using a poly-cotton blend with fleece on the inside. This makes them super soft and warm. Polyester is heat sensitive, though, and heats up quicker than cotton. Because of this, the garment will shift under heat. To make sure they stay put, Josh used web spray adhesive.
Web spray adhesive looks like spider webs or silly string. It’s a super tough adhesive that keeps heavier garments in place. Because it’s a spray, it can get everywhere. To protect the floor, Josh places a large piece of cardboard under the print station he’ll be standing at. This will keep the floor free of web spray.
Josh sprays the adhesive on the platen and uses a rag to swipe the edges of the platen, taking off any adhesive hanging down. These “danglers” (Josh’s term) will stick to the hoodie’s hem and are nearly impossible to remove later.
Once the platen is nice and tacky, Josh loads a test print for a back design.
A test print is a great way to make sure the design is registered correctly and everything looks the way you want. Josh prints the first color, FN-INK™ White, as an underbase with a 70/90/70 squeegee. He uses a t-shirt to test print. Once the underbase looks good, it’s time to add the top colors.
The design is spooky and perfect for the upcoming Halloween season. It’s designed using the Bloody Movie Font and the Western Crosshatching Brushes. Once all the colors come together, the test print looks great. Next, Josh needs to figure out the placement of the print on a hoodie.
When thinking about back print placement for hoodies, it’s important to consider the hood itself. Since it’ll hang down when it’s not on someone’s head, it will block part of the design. Back print placement should be a little lower than a back print on a t-shirt would be.
Josh grabs a t-square and measures the placement of the print on the t-shirt. Since it’s 3” down, it’ll need to be a bit lower to accommodate the hood. He wants to see most of the design when the hood isn’t being worn.
Now, it’s time to load a hoodie and get printing.
Once the hoodie is loaded onto the platen, Josh lays the hood on the platen in the place it will lie once the hoodie is being worn. This helps to determine the exact placement of the print. The print should be mostly visible below the hood, but not too low.
First up is the base white. Josh prints a couple of passes, then flashes the white base. Flashing will be quicker on hoodies of the polyester weave. Once the base is flashed, he prints another hit of white to get a great opaque base.
Next up: colors. Josh prints FN-INK™ Orange, flashes the design and then prints FN-INK™ Ruby Red. He flashes again and then finishes the design with a black outline. Once the outline is gelled, he holds the hood up to the print again, to make sure the design is properly placed.
The back print is perfect. Now, it’s time for a front print.
Josh prints a test print first to double-check registration. Then, it’s time for the hoodie print. Like the back design, it’s important to get the placement just right. Watch out for the pocket and collar seams. It’s best to keep 2” of space on either end, so the design doesn’t touch either seam.
Some hoodies, depending on their polyester content and color, will experience some dye migration. This can be combated either with low-bleed ink or a dye-blocking base. For this design, Josh doesn’t need to use either. If he were printing white ink on a red hoodie, then he’d use a blocker base like FN-INK™ Barrier Black so the white ink wouldn’t turn pink. This is why testing is so important. You don’t want to ruin any precious hoodies with dye migration.
Josh’s Pro Tip: When curing in a conveyor dryer, make sure the hood is flat so it doesn’t bunch up and get caught on the conveyor. Bunchy hoods can cause major issues, like burning or even catching on fire.
Once the print comes out of the conveyor, Josh notices that there’s some pitting on the design. This can look like an orange-peel texture on the ink. To solve this, he takes the underbase a little slower on the next print. A slow print pass ensures that the base is nice and smooth.
During the live stream, Josh answers tons of questions. Here are the top three questions from viewers. To check out the rest of Josh’s Q&A, check out the live chat replay on the live stream.
#1: DOES SQUEEGEE DUROMETER MATTER?
The most popular squeegee durometer is 70. This durometer squeegee will do 90% of what you need it to. It’ll print detail and blocky letters on thick or thin garments. If you’re printing with thick or cold ink, use a harder squeegee durometer to sheer through the ink, like an 80 durometer. Use a softer squeegee for thin inks.
Josh uses a 70/90/70 durometer squeegee for this print. This sandwich effect means that the squeegee is still pliable, but allows for greater pressure on the squeegee than an 80 or 70 durometer. Experiment with different types of squeegees to find what works best for you.
#2: HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE OFF-CONTACT IS THE SAME ON ALL PRINT HEADS?
Since Josh’s back print was four colors, he needs to make sure the off-contact is the same across all screens. If the off-contact is not the same, the screens will flex differently and it’ll be difficult to hold registration.
One method to check for proper off-contact is to kneel down at eye level to the platen and ensure the off-contact is the same on each side of the screen. Another method is to take a few cleanup cards — Josh uses six — and place them on the four corners of a pallet. Bring each screen down and adjust off-contact to the cleanup cards.
#3: SHOULD YOU USE A SMOOTHING SCREEN?
A smoothing screen is an emulsified screen with no image and a heat-resistant sheet on the bottom. It helps to smooth out ink layers without having to print another layer of ink on top. Do use a smoothing screen, bring it down onto a print and do a print stroke to smooth the ink layer down. Think of it almost like a heat press.
There are plenty of ways to smooth down an ink layer. If you don’t have space on press for a smoothing screen, slow down your print passes to create a smoother ink layer.
The last color to be printed on the hoodie is the FN-INK ™ Orange. This ink layer is nice and smooth, with no pitting. Josh takes the hoodie off the platen and holds it up. The front print is occupying the “billboard” space on the chest, perfectly positioned between the pocket and the collar.
Josh flips the hoodie around to show off the back print again. It’s 5” down from the collar, so when the hood is down it doesn’t cover too much of the print. If you’re not sure about the back placement, try the hoodie on or put it on a mannequin (or a friend) to make sure it looks the way you want it to.
Hoodies can be a pain to print, but with a little prep and a bit of knowledge, they can turn into masterpieces. To check out the full live stream playback, head to our YouTube channel. You can pick up all of Josh’s tips and get answers to popular questions about printing on hoodies