With over 100,000 gallons of pretreatment made last year, FIREBIRD coming out with a GTX™ specific formula was inevitable. After all, our F2000™ and GT3™ Optimized Pretreatments were already popular and effective. What surprised even us was just how well our newest pretreat works with the newest line from Brother. FIREBIRD’s GTX™ Optimized Pretreatment costs less, requires less spray on a shirt, and gives images that added quality missing in other brands. With no need to dilute, no possibility of settling, and a wide range of available settings, this is also an incredibly easy pretreat to use. Overall, GTX™ Optimized is a must have for Brother users.
FIREBIRD has also introduced an improved method for internal cleanings. The GTX™ requires the operator to remove gunked up inks from the printer’s inner workings. These cleanings are a long, frustrating process that waste ink. To help deal with this, FIREBIRD now offers an improved Cleaning Solution for these cycles. This cleaner is more effective at breaking up dried ink. With less time spent trying to scraping away at your printer, you should need fewer auto cleanings. This in turn means less time and ink wasted during your maintenance.
It’s common for shops to avoid pretreating CMYK only prints, but the difference in quality is impossible to ignore. A light garment pretreat, like FBX-VIVID, adds serious vibrancy and wash fastness to your shirts. VIVID is also a must-have if you plan to print onto something with any amount of polyester in the fabric. This saves time and ink while printing. Using VIVID means that your GTX™ will not need to perform a double pass of CMYK.
The GTX™ is an industrial machine. The biggest shops will buy the GTX™ by the dozen to crank out thousands of shirts. Even single printer shops should be doing jobs every single day to even consider this printer. With this sheer volume of work, your pretreatment sprayer may suffer. Nozzles can become clogged and spray patterns on shirts can be uneven. Where you would otherwise have to replace parts, FIREBIRD’s Pretreatment Cleaning Solution can salvage sprayers. PCS can be used on anything affected by pretreat gunk and stickiness. You can use it for soaking nozzles, purging lines, and even wiping up spilled pretreat. Adding Pretreatment Cleaning Solution is one of the best ways to keep your sprayer running.
*Brother GTX™ is a registered trademark of Brother International Corporation and has not produced, endorsed, warrantied, or approved of these products.
As an introductory special, Brother GTX owners receive a free gallon of FIREBIRD GTX™ Optimized Pretreatment.* To take advantage of this offer, send a picture of your GTX setup to email@example.com. Be sure to include your shipping address and company name to receive this gift. This offer is valid to January 2018 and will ship totally free.
FIREBIRD’s newly formulated pretreatment offers excellent white ink vibrancy and eliminates problems typical of pretreatment, like staining or discoloration. With a wide application window, no need to dilute, and no need to shake, this is one of the easiest pretreats available. The GTX™ Optimized Pretreatment is also up to 40% less expensive than other brands.
Brother™ DTG printers have proven to be some of the most reliable machines on the market. Many of their original GT-541s and GT-782s are still running in print shops around the world. The last generation, Brother’s GT-3 series, was popular with more than just the average user. Some of the largest DTG facilities own dozens of GT-381s. FIREBIRD will continue to offer pretreat specific to these printers, but we’re excited for the newest updates with the GTX™.
This offer ends soon, so be sure to get your free pretreatment today!
GTX™ users can also include a picture of their automatic pretreatment sprayer to receive a bottle of PCS Cleaning Solution! This solution can break up clogs, restore nozzles, and remove sticky residue from your pretreat spraying machine.
*Brother is a registered trademark of Brother International Corporation and does not produce, warranty, or approve of this product. Free shipping available within the US only.
One of the best parts of Direct to Garment printing is that you can run it in a small space. Setups in home garages and spare bedrooms are common and allow for orders to be fulfilled without the need to pay rent. A printer, heat press, and hand sprayer for pretreat are all that you immediately need. These don’t take much space and, with luck, you can find them for $10,000 or less. Just because you don’t have a store doesn’t mean that you will lose business. Small quantities of custom orders are where DTG printing shines and many owners of these machines won’t bother with having a physical store to sell their own designs.
Of course, this assumes that your business will even have room for DTG. While veterans of garment decoration need a reliable source for small orders, owners of clothing brands are better off avoiding the cost of equipment for as long as they can. There are many companies that will ship your shirts directly to your customer, with no need for you to do more than make an account and find sales. If you are the owner of a clothing brand, the best advice for you is to focus on selling and designing. You can worry about buying equipment later.
2) White Ink Settles Anywhere That it Sits
Ink settling is the cause of most maintenance problems in Direct to Garment printing. However, most DTG initiates don’t understand all of the problems that this can cause. Printer manufacturers always tell their customers to shake their white ink. Unfortunately, what new owners don’t always understand is that white ink will settle in your lines, dampers, and filters if you don’t use or clean your printer often. When you let it sit overnight, you will see a poor quality white on your first couple prints in the morning. If your printer isn’t used for a few days, you may see clogs and the need to replace parts. Additionally, bags and cartridges need to be shaken constantly or your print quality will suffer.
3) Used Printers Almost Always Have Problems
Buying a used printer is one of the most common reasons that you’ll see for DTG owners asking for online tech support. The sellers of these machines typically let the printers sit unused and un-maintained. If ink was in the printer, you can expect any and all of the previously mentioned settlement problems. You will still see broken parts if Cleaning Solution, water, or no fluid was left in the lines as a result of previously lubricated parts becoming dry.
Overall, you should avoid used printers unless you know what you’re getting into. If you can see the printer in action or receive a written guarantee, the printer may be worth your time. Additionally, some veteran users will come to your shop to repair broken down printers for less than the cost of buying new. Other companies also sell refurbished printers, which is comparable to the quality you can expect from new machines. The important thing is to find what will fit your budget, but still let you begin printing and making your money back right away.
4) Pretreatment Settings Aren’t Standard
Not all shirts are created equal. You will need to adjust settings when changing between shirt brands and colors if you want consistent prints. This is true even for pretreatment. If you lay down a single amount of pretreat for all colors and all brands, you will lose image quality and wash fastness. FIREBIRD typically suggests using more pretreatment on lower quality and darker shirts. Less is needed for higher quality and lighter colors.
The easiest way to adjust the amount of pretreatment used is with an automatic sprayer. However, even these expensive machines lack standard settings. You may be surprised to know that your own machine has no check for how much pretreat is put on the shirt. While auto sprayers have numbers indicating the amount of pretreatment applied, they are only showing “more” or “less”. Additionally, many sprayers have not been calibrated, so two of the same brand may spray different amounts with the same settings. The only way to really understand your settings is to do your own tests. This brings us to our final, most important point.
5) The Most Successful Printers do Their Own Tests
No two shirt shops are identical. Your exact combination of shirts, printers, and even climate affect everything you print. Because of this, experimenting is key. We suggest performing wash tests on any garment that you bring into your setup. You should also keep notes on the ink and pretreatment settings that you used on your best prints.
FIREBIRD has specific issues to look out for included in our other posts. Below is simply a bit of general DTG advice to help you get started with your testing.
If your shirt washes poorly, pay attention to how the image came off. Different problems cause different wash issues. We go into more details about this here.
Polyester needs special handling to work with DTG. This includes blends, sweatshirts, and any “neon” or “safety” colored shirts.
Red shirts discolor from heat. This will fade as the shirt cools and there is no reason to worry.
Too much pretreatment is likely to stain and wash poorly. Too little pretreatment will suffer from poor print quality and wash out. Try to find the “sweet spot” for colors and brands.
Of course, you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to FIREBIRD. We have a broad knowledge base and are available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In DTG printing, crystallization refers to a specific type of issue that can occur when drying pretreatment. Unlike other stains that discolor the fabric itself, crystallization appears to be on top of the shirt and looks like table salt is sitting on it. These crystals don’t fade over time or come out in the wash. Garments that suffer from crystallization are functionally ruined, so prevention is the best option.
Crystallization is caused when the water in pretreatment evaporates and becomes trapped on a heat press. All methods of preventing the formation of these crystals involve some way of allowing this moisture to escape. Anything that increases the amount of water stuck between the shirt and the press will increase the odds of seeing crystals form. For example, tighter knit shirts are typically considered higher quality, but tend to hold more moisture and are more likely to suffer from crystallization.
The easiest way of releasing water is to adjust the settings on your heat press. Too high of a pressure on the press will trap moisture and form crystals. A high temperature may also add to this, as the water evaporates too quickly and cannot exit before more steam forms. You should also be mindful of the type of cover sheet you use on the heat press. Teflon sheets or Teflon press covers tend to trap water, and reusing these for pretreat can cause additional issues with staining and burns. FIREBIRD recommends using silicone treated Parchment Paper for drying pretreatment and switching to the less disposable Teflon options for lower cost ink curing.
When the easy options don’t work, you can also change the way that you dry the pretreatment. Conveyor dryers and air drying will never result in crystallization, but our favorite technique is the hover press. With this method, press the shirt lightly so that the press does not fully clamp, hovering just above the shirt for a few seconds before lifting. You will see steam escape at this step and can now continue pressing the shirt as you normally would. An alternative for presses that do not allow for hovering is to press the shirt in intervals. Rather than doing a single thirty second press, try doing two presses of fifteen seconds.
A final option is to alter the amount of water that is applied to the shirt. Too much pretreatment can cause crystallization, as well as staining and wash issues. Try laying down less pretreatment when adjusting the heat and pressure settings doesn’t resolve these problems. You should also be sure to avoid adding excess moisture when you see crystals. Some DTG users will attempt to dilute their pretreatment with water in an attempt to prevent various issues. However, all FIREBIRD pretreatments are ready to use, and further dilution may cause crystallization.
Polyester is possibly the most difficult fabric to work with in Direct To Garment printing. While cotton prints can be reliably produced for customers, print shops must worry about staining, ink bleeding, and poor washes on poly prints. FIREBIRD has been working to resolve this issue for some time and is proud to announce the first step for polyester printing, FB2Go White Shirts. These 100% polyester shirts have been fully pretreated and are ready for top quality prints. FB2Go does not suffer from the many poor effects that printers have come to expect from printing onto polyester.
FIREBIRD is well known as an industry leader in Direct to Garment ink and pretreatment for cotton shirts, but has more recently begun to focus on expanding into polyester printing. FB2Go allows users to print onto poly by specially treating A4 shirts with a version of FIREBIRD’s Pretreatment. A4 is a high quality garment brand known for their durability and comfort. Blending this with the eye-catching vibrancy and reliability of FIREBIRD allows for top quality shirts with incredible prints.
FB2Go White Shirts can be used by almost every major brand of printer and will not need special ink to use. While past methods of polyester printing have either failed to be fully DTG printed or caused major issues, these garments have been specially formulated for ease of use. FB2Go will reliably wash well, avoid pretreatment boxes, and prevent ink bleeding.
FB2Go White Shirts shortly are now available, with more colors to follow. Be sure to check out the FIREBIRD Facebook page for news, updates, and a first look at the future of DTG printing.
Fibers sticking up through an image, also known as fibrillation, can ruin a print. This is worse with certain garments and brands of pretreatment (FIREBIRD pretreatments actually contain a component to force fibers to stick to the shirt) and it is helpful to have a way to work around it.
Use a Paint Brush to Force Down Fibers
This is possibly the easiest, least expensive, and most effective way of dealing with fibers. Many printers who already use a brush to even out pretreatment spray patterns may be entirely unfamiliar with fibrillation. For this method, use a clean paint brush from any hardware store to push down fibers while the pretreatment is still wet. A quick brushing in a single direction will likely prevent the worst fibrillation. This should be every printer’s first choice for dealing with fibers as it is easy to use without interrupting work flow and won’t cause print complications.
Turn Up the Pressure on Your Heat Press
The reason that some brands of pretreatment require heavy pressure on a heat press is to fully press down fibers. FIREBIRD pretreatments are less likely to require this, but raising the pressure may sometimes still be helpful. FBX-100 and its related pretreats generally require a low pressure, but this can be turned up slightly for tougher prints. However, higher pressures may cause other issues, including staining and crystallization. You can check out this video to learn the “hover press” method that will prevent these problems.
Save a Shirt After it Begins to Print
You may occasionally notice fibrillation on your white underbase before the colored ink is printed. When this happens, you can actually still save the print. Fibers poking through will only be visible if they can break through the CMYK inks, meaning that the white ink can be fixed. Lay a piece of cover paper (preferably a teflon or silicone sheet like you use on the press) over the print. Then take something flat and rigid, like a business card, and gently scrape the white ink in one direction. Be sure to only go in a single direction and keep the ink evenly placed. While this method risks spreading ink where it is not meant to go, with a bit of luck it may just save your shirt.
Spray Water on Sweatshirts
Sweatshirts are some of the most likely items to suffer from fibrillation. These garments have so much fabric that some is bound to poke through the print. In addition to the previously mentioned methods, there is a lesser known fix for this issue. Using a spray bottle, apply a small layer of water over the area where you are printing. Then, brush this in a single direction (just like you do for the pretreat itself) and press the sweatshirt dry. This does not require much water and you should only need to press for a few seconds to dry the shirt. The water will help the fibers stay stuck down even before pretreatment is applied. Be sure to brush the pretreatment as well and keep an eye on the pressure. After this, your sweatshirt should be ready to print.
The F2000 was released as the first Direct to Garment specific printer from Epson®, a company whose converted photo printers kick started DTG more than a decade ago. While such a large printer manufacturer was able to quickly establish itself as an industry leader, the F2000 was held back by a monthly tube cleaning that could easily waste over $100 in ink. This was eventually replaced by the use of a special cleaning fluid to be used daily at a much lower cost. Now, FIREBIRD has reduced this cost even further.
The new FIREBIRD Tube Wash is fully compatible with the Epson® made version and follows the same steps that F2000 owners are used to.* Additionally, FIREBIRD offers the same amount of cleaning fluid for up to 45% less. Users can expect to make the change easily with no need to adjust their cleaning routine to accommodate a new product.
*F2000 is a registered trademark of Epson Seiko Corporation. Epson Seiko Corporation does not produce, warranty, or approve of this product.
In addition to the original FBX-100 Universal, FIREBIRD Digital Inks recently launched the FBX-100 F2000™ Optimized and FBX-100 Brother® Optimized pretreatments. While all of our pretreatments have some universal features, such as minimal staining and the ability to never settle, each pretreatment has been formulated to generate the best direct-to-garment print specific to the printer that you own.
FBX-100 F2000™ Optimized
If you own an Epson F2000™printer, the FBX-100 F2000™ Optimized Pretreatment is our recommendation. Like all of the FBX-100 family, this pretreat offers much less staining than other brands while maximizing print quality. In the case of the F2000™, the reason that a specific pretreatment is needed is a bit technical.
The F2000™ requires one of the lowest ink viscosities in the industry, which enables the printhead to jet the smallest possible ink droplets to deliver high resolution images. In response, FIREBIRD Ink has developed a pretreatment that is highly reactive, maximizing the look of the white ink. This reactivity obtains a high quality print without the need for a lot of pretreat. This is due to the way that a more reactive pretreatment acts upon small ink droplets as they reach the garment’s surface. The pretreatment serves as an inkjet receptive layer on top of the garment, enabling the F2000™ ink to “crash” (converting from liquid to solid) quickly and spread on top of the garment, as opposed to penetrating through it.
FBX-100 Brother® Optimized
If you own a Brother GT-381 or GT-361, the FBX-100 Brother® Optimized Pretreatment offers some of the best prints with minimal staining. Our Brother® Optimized version of FBX-100 is highly concentrated, with a stronger reaction to produce a vibrant white ink laydown. Compared to other printers, the Brother GT-3 series of printers uses a more industrial printhead, with nozzles capable of jetting larger ink droplets. For reasons similar to the need for more reactive pretreat on an F2000™, this requires a stronger pretreatment than is typically available from other brands.
This pretreat also addresses complaints typical of these machines. GT-3 owners have reported “blotchy” and sometimes “greyish” white ink after printing when applying the OEM pretreatment. In addition, the OEM pretreatment has been reported to have a sticky hand feel, with a tendency to stain. The FBX-100 Brother® Optimized pretreatment addresses these issues by fine-tuning the chemistry to react strongly with the white ink, so that it is not necessary to apply nearly as much pretreat onto the garment.
FBX-100 Universal is best used for all other DTG printer models, including converted photo printers. This is our original formula with patented technology to minimize discoloration. While this pretreatment was originally created to address the stains that made DTG nearly unusable in its early days, FBX-100 is still a top-of-the-line product for the majority of Direct to Garment users. Whether you’re printing on a homemade DIY project, or a professionally built conversions, odds are that this is the best pretreatment for you.
FBX-VIVID Light Garment Pretreatment
While it is not part of the FBX-100 family, FBX-VIVID is still worth mentioning. All three versions of FBX-100 can be used on any colored garment, but do need white ink to react with in order to survive a trip through the wash. For white shirts, or any colored garment that doesn’t require white ink, FBX-VIVID will improve the wash and produce better looking colors. This pretreament in particular also offers great results on less common printing mediums, such as shoes, hats, and canvas.
Keeping your machines clean is, and always has been, absolutely vital in Direct to Garment printing. More often than not, skipping, forgetting, or missing regular maintenance on a printer will mean poor prints and the need for new parts. While this is a given for the printers themselves, another expensive piece of equipment owned by most shops is largely ignored. Automatic pretreatment sprayers may not suffer from clogged ink, but can still see problems over time. While past methods of dealing with this were limited to water, cleaners meant for grease, and scrubbing, FIREBIRD Digital Inks has created a Pretreatment Cleaning Solution to improve the life of sprayers and keep print shops tidy.
Recovering Clogged Nozzles
In our constant work to make the next big breakthrough in DTG, FIREBIRD has tested thousands of pretreatment formulas. While this constant experimentation has benefited printers worldwide, it often damages our sprayers. You can see a behind-the-scenes photo from what we used to deal with here:
This photo was taken to show how poorly our machine had been working. Across six nozzles, not a single pair overlap with each other. If this shirt were printed, there would be obvious lines in the ink where pretreatment was and wasn’t applied. This would be the best case, as the pooled pretreatment in each strip would likely stain the shirt beyond use. To continue our pretreatment experiments, we had to come up with a solution for fixing these bad spray patters.
This is the same pretreatment sprayer and brand of shirt after soaking the nozzles for fifteen minutes. After a short amount of time, we were already able to bring back most of our functionality. By then cleaning the nozzles further with a pick, we fully fixed this machine without the need to spend money on new spray tips. If we had continued to soak the tips overnight, we may have been able to avoid the need for cleaning with a pick altogether.
We have prevented seeing these issues again by adding Pretreatment Cleaning Solution to our daily maintenance routine. Before shutting down for the night, we now drain the pretreatment from our lines and load in our cleaner. We will also pour a small amount into a jar and soak the spray tips until the next time they are needed. In the below picture, you can see the results of this. Pretreatment has congealed at the bottom of the jar, rather than sticking to the nozzles and causing issues while spraying.
Spot Cleaning Pretreat
Pretreatment is sticky stuff. This helps it mat down fibers on shirts, but at the cost of leaving a gross feeling residue behind. Instead of scrubbing until this is gone, Pretreatment Cleaning Solution can be used to easily break through the gunk and keep a shop pristine. Simply soaking a rag and wiping down anything that pretreat touches will fix this common annoyance. This can be helpful for cleaning common spills or removing the lint left behind by sweatshirts.
On a good day, Direct to Garment printing is a life saver that allows small orders to be completed without the hassle of setting up screens. Other times, it can be terrifyingly difficult to learn. Those DTG champions who are able to power through the worst that our industry has to offer are bound to pick up more than a few weird tricks, and FIREBIRD Digital Inks would like to share a few with you.
Improve Print Results With a Brush
Fibrillation is the technical name for shirt fibers poking through the ink on a print, and is one of the more common issues that new printers face. This may seem to happen randomly to inexperienced printers, but is the worst on sweatshirts and t-shirts with looser knit fabric. Some pretreatments can reduce this effect (the tacky feeling of wet FBX-100 helps to combat this problem), but there is a cheap and easy solution to preventing this issue at your local hardware store.
A wide bristle paintbrush can be used to mat down fibers and prevent them from ruining prints. Immediately after pretreating and before the shirt is pressed, brush the wet pretreatment in a single direction along the length of the shirt. After brushing the whole area that you intend to print, you can press as you normally would. A brush works best for this, as other methods may pick up pretreatment and cause issues with stains or degraded prints. This method can also be used to even out pretreatment application when using a hand sprayer or printing onto other substances, like wood and canvas.
Print Better on More Blends
Direct to Garment printing is traditionally meant for 100% cotton garments, but many shops will try to work with blended shirts as well. The fabric of these shirts tend to be inconsistently produced, even within the same brand, so be sure to do your own testing. Pay special attention to the brand and country of origin, as this will tell you exactly which factory produced the best shirts for you and which to avoid in the future.
A lesser known trick for these garments is to change up your normally used pretreatment. Brother® Optimized FBX-100 and F2000™ Optimized FBX-100 are typically too strong for other printers, but can be used to produce high quality prints onto blends. While the average shop will find these specific pretreats to be more difficult to use on 100% cotton, a small amount will allow for improving prints with less risk of staining or discoloration.
Another helpful trick for blends is to learn how to print around the needs of polyester. A 50/50 blend is likely to stain, discolor, or burn on the heat press because polyester undergoes a chemical reaction at high temperatures. This can sometimes be avoided by lowering the temperature on your press, although you may need to add more time to curing and drying to compensate. Pressing shirts in intervals and hover-pressing may also allow enough heat for ink and pretreatment to adhere, without polyester having the chance to burn.
Know What Moisture Means to DTG
Balancing the moisture in a shop, whether it be humidity or held into a shirt, is vital to DTG. Most printers require at least 50% humidity and a humidifier is necessary equipment for any shop. Low humidity may cause nozzles to drop out, causing poor nozzle checks, prints, and the need for frequent cleanings. High humidity is unlikely to be an issue, but liquids coming in contact with any boards or connectors on a printer may cause electric issues with a printer.
Shirts may also carry moisture beyond what is added by pretreatment and ink. Many sweatshirts and some t-shirts will need to be quickly pressed before spraying pretreat to prevent later issues. Too much moisture being unable to escape a shirt may also cause crystallization when drying pretreat. The best fix for this is to hover press the shirt. You can follow the detailed steps by watching this video.
These are just a few of the many tips that experienced DTG users know to make printing easier. Be sure to share your own experience, and help make life a little easier for Direct to Garment printers everywhere.