Printing White on a Carded Cotton Shirt
There’s no doubt that ring spun cotton is a better printing surface, but when it comes down to it, most printers will ended up with carded cotton tees. They’re more accessible and cheaper, even if they’re not as smooth to print on. Don’t fret, though! Getting smooth, soft prints on carded cotton t-shirts is well within your reach. Today, we’ll talk about doing a white print on a black carded cotton shirt, using our new Lava Perfect White LB.
There are a few things to consider when starting on your job, and much of it revolves around your screen.
You always want to make sure that your off-contact is set well, 1/8th of an inch is a good setting unless you end up doing thicker garments. For mesh count, a 110 or 156 mesh screen would work best with a white ink. A 110 screen will let you to print with less effort, allowing more ink through the screen. A 156 mesh screen may be a little more difficult to sheer the ink through, but done right, you end up with less ink on your shirt while still maintaining good opacity. This gives you a softer shirt. Neither screen is technically better than the other. On a manual press, the printer may prefer a 110 for its easy printability, whereas an automatic owner might use choose to use a 156 because their press can handle the extra needed pressure better. Whatever mesh count you go with, make sure you have good tension on your screen. If the mesh is slack, or loose at all, this can cause blurry prints, distorted prints, or ink sticking to your screen.
When you get to the on press stage, there’s a few things you can do to prep for the job that will help you get those smooth, bright prints. First, stir your ink up before you use it! Most inks, especially Lava Perfect White, will loosen up and become easier to work with as you modulate them. Also, get that flash dryer in place and warm up your platens. Warm platens can warm up your ink as you’re printing, which will let it flow through your screen better. Make sure you have a good, sharp squeegee. If you’re starting to get a pretty dull edge on yours, either grab a new one or sharpen the edge of what you have! A sharp edge helps to clear the screen completely, giving you a cleaner print.
Go into the job knowing that you’re printing on carded cotton, which is known to be a rougher fabric. By making a small adjustment to your actual print stroke, you can seal the deal on that smooth print. Instead of doing a slow pull print, speed it up a little. Think of it like a wave breaking over the sand. If it is a gentle wave washing over the sand’s rippled, rough surface, then the sand will stay distorted. But, if a stronger, faster wave comes through, it smooths the sand’s surface. You can think of your print stroke in much the same way. By printing just a little quicker, you can mat down the fibers of the shirt better, reducing any fibrillation.
Last but not least, make sure you cure your ink well! A good, smooth print is no good if it washes out. In this case, Lava Perfect White LB should be cured through the entire ink layer to 320F. That means, if you’re using a laser temp gun, the surface of the ink itself will likely read as hotter than 320F to get a full cure, but shouldn’t exceed 350F.
Don’t forget to do a couple of test prints before you run the actual job. After the shirt is cured, do a stretch test and a wash test to make sure your cure is solid. If you’re not happy with how the shirt comes out, its better to find that out on the first print rather than down the line, after you’ve completed several. Better safe than sorry!
Check out this video we did on printing white on black carded cotton, where Ryan Moor goes into more detail about the process!
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