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.