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Preventing Crystals With DTG Pretreatment

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.

An extreme example of crystallization on a black shirt.


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.


Hover Press
Try using a hover press on tight knit shirts to prevent crystals from forming.

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.

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Dealing with Fibrillation

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.

Pretreatment Brush
FIREBIRD’s heavily used brush for pretreatment.

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.


No Fibrillation Print

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.

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Introducing FIREBIRD Tube Wash Compatible with the Epson® F2000

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.


F2000 Maintenance Solution
FIREBIRD Tube Wash in action.

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.

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Which Pretreatment is Right for You?

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. 

F2000™ Print
Printed with FBX-100 F2000™ Optimized.

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 Pretreatment

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.

100% DTG Polyester with FBX-VIVID
White 100% Polyester Printed with FBX-VIVID on a Neoflex.
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Why Use FIREBIRD Pretreatment Cleaning Solution?

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:

Before Pretreatment Cleaning Solution
Before Pretreatment Cleaning Solution

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.

After Pretreatment Cleaning Solution
After Pretreatment Cleaning Solution

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.


Daily Maintenance

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.Pretreatment Cleaning Solution Overnight


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.



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Some Lesser Known Tips & Tricks for DTG Printing

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

FIREBIRD’s well used pretreatment 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.

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Get Ready for DTG Printing on 100% Polyester

FIREBIRD Einstein Direct to Garment print on 100% polyesterDirect to Garment Printing has traditionally been limited to 100% cotton, but customers are increasingly demanding synthetic based sports and athletic wear. Some blended garments may work sufficiently, and many shops swear by one brand of shirt or another, but there has never been a single solution for DTG printing onto 100% polyester.


This problem may soon end, with FIREBIRD Digital Ink’s recent advancements in Polyester Printing Technology.


This patent-pending technology will offer consistent, high quality print results. Users can expect vibrant white ink coverage and strong wash-fastness. These optimal print traits also come while reducing the negative effects typical of printing onto polyester. Dye migration, ink bleeding, discoloration, and poor print durability will no longer be issues with DTG on 100% polyester garments.


Polyester prints are typically difficult, if not impossible, as a result of a chemical changes that occurs in the fabric at temperatures necessary to DTG. This reaction causes the fabric to discolor and appear burned. Past methods of dealing with this included screen printing a white ink underbase before printing CMYK on top, avoiding colors where discoloration of the polyester was noticeable, and undercuring prints. Each of these methods have serious drawbacks to Direct to Garment Printing. and risk wash issues once the shirt is in the hands of a customer.


This technology is not available as of the time of this writing. FIREBIRD has a tentative release date of the summer of 2017. While the F2000 in particular is compatible with this pretreat, most converted printers will need to use FIREBIRD inks to Closeup of FIREBIRD DTG Printing onto 100% Polyesterachieve quality images on polyester.



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FIREBIRD Digital Inks: The Choice of Champions

Impressions Magazine 2017 Award Winners


For the past three years in a row, the Direct-to-Garment winner of the annual Impressions Award has relied on FIREBIRD products. The repeated winner of the contest, Gerald Cantalupo, has used FIREBIRD in each  Impressions Award winning shirt since the brand first became available. Team Glitter, this year’s second place winner, also used FIREBIRD FBX-100 Pretreatment to achieve an outstanding print. Mr. Cantalupo also won third place.

This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Direct to Garment printing. FIREBIRD Pretreatments are a necessity for any shop looking for the best print quality and our inks are recognized worldwide. FIREBIRD has also won the SGIA Product of the Year Award in 2016, 2014, and when the brand first began in 2013. With so many championship awards since it became available and use in thousands of shops across the globe, FIREBIRD is the undisputed champion of DTG products.




Click on the picture of your machine below to find compatible products. Give us a call at 203-306-2988 or email at for more information.

Epson F2000™ compatible products
Brother® Compatible Products
Anajet Compatible Products
Neoflex Compatible Products
Mod1 Compatible Products
4880, 4800, and Most Conversion Printer Products