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[T-SHIRTFORUMS NEWSLETTER ARTICLE] Production Line: Focussing on All-Over Printing

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Production Line: Focussing on All-Over Printing
Production Line: Focussing on All-Over Printing
Published by The Youngin
February 14th, 2011
Post Production Line: Focussing on All-Over Printing

<style>@font-face { font-family: "Times New Roman"; }@font-face { font-family: "Courier New"; }@font-face { font-family: "Wingdings"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }a:link, span.MsoHyperlink { color: blue; text-decoration: underline; }a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed { color: purple; text-decoration: underline; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }ol { margin-bottom: 0in; }ul { margin-bottom: 0in; }</style> It seems that questions are always surfacing about all-over printing. It is very similar to many other screen-printing process but unlike most special effects it truly cannot be done out of the bucket. It takes a large amount of equipment, quite a bit of space, but most importantly a very well trained crew. Each shop will take its own approach to all-over, that being said below is our process; it works very well for us, but that is in no way to say that it will work the same for everyone, it is only a general guideline to how everything works.

In any good t-shirt, whether it be all-over, or even a standard size print, the quality needs to start with a good person behind your design desk. Typical artists will most likely need to learn the general guidelines associated with the process. Our team produced many samples to try different styles, this in-turn helped us hone in on what worked and what didn’t. Artwork on all-overs often challenges most designers because there are many precautions that must be taken when entering the design phase. There are many aspects of the process you will see that affect how the shirt will look when completed. Some general points that all artists must take into account when designing an All-over are:
· If crossing over many sizes make sure that everything you “need” fits at the smallest sizes and on the larger sizes there is extra “Background”
· The armpit region is relatively un-viewable when a shirt is worn, thus there shouldn’t be any important design information in that region.
· When the shirt is on a person the design will round out over the shoulders onto the sleeves so perfect straight lines probably won’t stay straight.
· Tight registrations are not guaranteed unless the shirt is Cut-and Sew, so a bit of built in vintage is always better than trying 4-color process.
· All typical screen-printing rules apply- High DPI, Low colors, Overlays, knockouts, etc.
The best thing for your art department is to let them play and then let the production team direct them. You want to produce designs that the production team likes, they can guide a quality product.

Films: If you are printing All-Over then use All-over films
Film out-put is a process that just about any printer will be accustomed to, just on a far larger format for all-over screens. Our facility uses Epson printers with Flexi 8.5 as our rip software. Many people ask which printers are the best, we decided on Epson machines for three simple reasons, ink is cheap, they rarely break down, and print quality is unparalleled.
Our machine of choice for our all-over films is a 44in Epson 9000. We do not use an all black system, but instead have replaced one single black cartridge with a super black Cartridge from Screen Printers Resource. The film of choice is a clear from SPR. Within the rip software we adjust the ICC profiles to put down 100% max black. This is a simple adjustment that anyone can do from their computer; this will save you a large sum on software and ink. The all-over films are printed on either 44in or 36in media, depending on the design size. Never do we tile films because it produces an inaccurate and low quality result. For anyone who is starting there own all-over printing department my personal recommendation would be to outsource film production until you can afford a wide format printer.

Screen Room
Once we have films printed they go to our screen burning room. It is here that true preparations take place. When converting to all-over one will quickly realized that everything takes more: more people, more room, more mesh, more time, more emulsion, more space, more everything. Because we found it extremely difficult to locate screens that would work well for us we decide weld and stretch all of our all-over screens in house. All-Over screen tension is extremely critical because of the distortion that the ink’s weight has on loose mesh. If you are looking at all-over I recommend finding a screen source that guarantees tension on oversized screens unless you plan on bringing your screen production in house.
When we built our new facility I had a specific closet built to house our screens when they are drying. Coating each screen has become a two-man process to guarantee uniform dispersal of emulsion. Many large format printers dry their screens vertical, which also works. We chose horizontal screen drying because it provides a more accurate screen. We line up all our screens in a custom registration system that mimics the M&R Triloc and the Vastex registration systems. Once films are taped to the screen we burn them on a split system vacuum flip up exposure unit. Many shops are switching to DTS, which I strongly recommend, but for all-over it is a bit too slow. After burning screens, each one needs washed; we soak each screen for about 2 minutes in water then washout the screen with a pressure washer following with a fine hose to get any of the small details the pressure washer may have missed. The final process in screen burning is the checking of screens to art. All of our screens are checked against their respective films to insure everything washed correctly. This quick task will help you save from costly mistakes, and guarantee that what you send out matches the order. Once our screens are prepared they usually sit for about a day waiting for their PO to come up.

Each morning the shop foreman begins mixing inks for the day, leaving out only the activator in discharge inks. Due to the quick shelf life, activator will be weighed aside and mixed in when the job is ready to be put on press. For ink mixing on all-over the screen will never have less than half a gallon in it. This means that even when completing the job you should be throwing away a half-gallon of each color. Without this extreme waste the screen will not stay lubricated well enough, and it will cause image dropout across the shirt.
While the inks for each job are being produced, the set-up team begins the day’s set-up. One man will take control of loading of the press and screen registration while two others prepare the shirts. The Registration process works exactly as it would in standard screen-printing. As stated, we use a system similar to other registration systems that clips on the press and gives us a quick line-up followed by a test print to check registration, making micro adjustments to get it exact. The screen loader is also responsible for all squeegees and floodbars. Squeegees should be sharpened roughly once a week to guarantee a crisp print, and floodbars polished as needed.

Internal Tacking
For all-over shirt printing it is necessary to tack the interior of the shirt to itself. This aids in a tighter registration capability by stopping the shirt from lifting from itself during the print. The last two members of the set-up team are on shirt preparation. All-over shirt preparation is far more time consuming than standard printing so you will need to allocate individuals and time to the process. Each shirt is individually interior glued by a special starch so that when printing the shirt does not lift between print colors. M&R makes the InTac that allows this process to move at about the same pace as the printing process. After each shirt is loaded onto the tacking machine it is glued, and placed flat in stacks on a table. Once the tackers are about 150 units ahead, the rest of the production team inks up the screens and loads the squeegees and floodbars on active heads. A note on loading inks: Never put more than ľ gallon at a time because the inks weight stretch the screen, distorting the design.

The job is now ready to run. The two person tacking team will continue to tack shirts all day, while the print team consists of three people who focus on press operations. Two individuals load and unload together, while one person is folding at the end of the dryer and occasionally refilling inks.
Loading an all-over is one area that can make or break print quality. The loaders are responsible for positioning the pre-tacked shirts within guidelines that are drawn on the platen. These guides should range from the smallest to the largest size in the run. Loaders are also responsible for wiping the boards with a damp rag to achieve two things. They are cleaning the platen while also reactivating the platen adhesive that sticks the backside of the shirt down. Loaders have one last job; they need to make sure the collar guard is in place so there is not a print on the interior of the garment. To protect the inside we slip in a piece of pellon cut to size into the collar. This will come off the press and be sent through the dryer with the rest of the shirt curing out any ink transferred on it. You should keep a couple thousand pellons in circulation at any time so there are never any issues; pellons are reusable.

A print run continues in this way until the job is complete. When complete you will reverse the entire set-up process. With the fact that we use water-based inks on most all-overs we are forced to clean up as soon as possible. All jobs after clean up should get another count through and be packaged. Your folder is your quality control. It should be his job to sign and verify every order, thus you are guaranteed quality on every shipment.
I hope this covered questions people may have about all-over, I know many other questions will arise and I welcome you to contact me at [email protected]matteostudios.com or my office 408-627-4660. I will try to get this article edited with pictures within the next few days.

Jason Azevedo
www.MATTEOSTUDIOS.com - All of Your Contract Decoration Needs
All-Over, Water Based/Discharge, Standard Screen Printing, and Embroidery
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