methods of printing

For the production of printed garments for promotions, merchandise and fashion there are mainly 3 particular methods of screen printing employed. The method most commonly used and best suited for a large variety of graphics is called 'Spot Colour' printing. Spot colour printing is the most suitable method used for the printing of graphics that are not photographic in nature. The colours of the inks to be used in the reproduction of the graphic images are usually Pantone specified colours chosen by a graphic designer. Pantone coated or uncoated colour references are chosen to specify the ink colours of the design. The Pantone matching system is an international colour reference used in publishing, printing and design whereby each colour is identified by a unique pantone name and number. This method of spot colour printing is particularly suited to the printing of branded promotional garments or merchandise where colour identity and uniformity must remain constant throughout a diverse range of products.

Another method of screen printing used is called '4 Colour Process'. This method of printing is used mainly for photographic images and illustrations that consist of a wide range of colours, tones and graduations. 4 colour process is also the same method of printing by which all images in books and magazines are printed. The inks are translucent and merge together on a white background to reproduce all the hues and tones of the original. This is of course a rather more difficult process to achieve on a fabric than it is on paper. However the method employed is essentially the same. This type of printing will of course only work on white garments and will not be suitable for coloured fabrics. The print set up costs are higher than that of simple spot colour designs and as such only suitable for larger print runs of 100+

When garment screen printers reproduce such full colour images onto coloured fabrics a method called 'Simulated Process' is used. The artwork is separated into various colours and shades using a method similar to spot colour printing to achieve the overall look and feel of the original image. This is a standard method used by all printers and most popular for example with the reproduction of heavy metal and fantasy imagery taken from CD cover artwork and reproduced onto black t-shirts for band merchandise. This is the most expensive form of printing and as such used only on larger print runs due to the higher set up costs involving the colour separations and larger number of colours used to print the images.


There are mainly two types of ink chemistry that are used in garment printing. Plastisol ink and Water Based ink. Plastisol ink is more commonly used by garment printers because of its versatility and durability. Plastisol inks can be used on any garment colour and achieve an opaque vibrant colour which is durable and remains so for many washes. Water Based inks generally work better on white or pale shade garments and do soften and fade gradually over a period of washes. These inks in most cases do not work on coloured shirts. A Plastisol ink is the preferred option in this instance. Although Water Based prints can often feel softer on the garment, Plastisol inks can also be mixed for a very soft feel which in some cases rival a Water Based print, yet still remain more durable. There are various types of effect ink that are either Water Based or Plastisol based. These include mainly Fluorescent inks, Glitter inks, Reflective inks, Raised (puff) inks, Metallic inks and Glow in the dark inks. Most of these effect inks are only suitable for certain types of artwork. If you are inexperienced in using these effect inks for your designs it is better to ask for our advice first so that we can help you create the right sort of artwork for the desired effect.

other decorations

There are other types of garment decoration that are not actually inks, and that are more suited to fashion printing rather than promotional design work. These are Foil prints (a metallic foil application) and Flock prints (a fluffy fabric application). These two types of application also require a specific type of artwork suited to these products. Again it is best to ask us for advise on your designs suitability if you are not familiar with these particular products.

If you have questions regarding a particular print application or screen printing in general please contact us by telephone or e-mail. Please do note however that in most cases we do need to see an example of the design itself to be able to advise correctly. We recommend sending visuals and questions by email as this saves time and means we can supply all the relevant and specific advise required.