Lawson Screen & Digital Products | Digital Imaging and Screen Printing Blog
Since 1949 Lawson has been manufacturing quality screen printing equipment and continues to manufacture screen printing and digital imaging equipment/supplies. Lawson provides helpful tricks and tips about how to screen print, how to direct-to-garment print, and how to grow your business. Keep up with the latest news about screen printing, dtg, and embroidery with our screen printing blog and news.
Whether you are a starting a new screen printing business, or silk screening at home, there can be an overwhelming amount of information out there on the internet about how to screen printing. Various opinions on how to print t-shirts and what screen printing machines are the best might feel overwhelming. Remember – at one point, every silk screen artist started off as an inexperienced printer. To get the perfect garment print, do not rely solely on beginner’s luck. We have put together 6 beginner tips will help prevent common screen printing problems. Remember, the best piece of screen printing advice is to test for yourself. If possible, do not test a new technique on a customer’s order.
Aim for Opacity with Film Positives
“Opacity” refers to the opaqueness of the black inkjet ink part of the design on the film positive. The film positives are the copy of the original art, and the screen is a copy of the film. You want your film to be as opaque as possible, in order to prevent light from passing through and preserve design details. If your film positive is not dark and dense enough, you will have problems washing out your screen post-exposure.
Apply Adequate Amount of Screen Printing Emulsion
Emulsion is photosensitive liquid that coats a screen printing frame. You want to keep two things in mind when coating a screen with emulsion. First, you should use enough emulsion to prevent plastisol ink from going outside of the design image area. There should be a distinct edge of emulsion where the design is located. Second, make sure there is enough emulsion on the screen in order to prevent pinholes. The technical term for measuring the amount of emulsion on a screen is emulsion over mesh (EOM). Having a high EOM allows for more ink to be put down with fewer print strokes. Dry screens that have been coated with emulsion horizontally, ink side (squeegee side) up. Learn more about the screen making cycle here
Stock a Few Different Kinds of Plastisol Ink
Screen printing on different materials means having a variety of plastisol ink. Many beginner screen printers try to get by with only one ink, but this limits the quality of your prints you produce. You should stock a few different kinds of screen printing ink to print on different materials. T-shirts made out of cotton, polyester, and nylon react to inks differently. Don’t just assume that one white ink will be sufficient for every design on every fabric. Using the wrong white ink could cause problems such as bleeding, ghost images and dye migration.
Additive Options for Plastisol Ink
Begin thinking about additives that will increase the options you can offer to your customers. For example, dulling additive, or paste, will make a glossy ink matte. Puff additive will make images more interesting by creating texture and dimension. Nylon catalyst adheres ink to nylon materials. Thinner DT is one of the most important plastisol ink additives you can have. Watch this video to see why.
Apply the Right Squeegee
Just as you need many kinds of inks, you will benefit from purchasing several different types of squeegees. Identifying the right type of squeegee will allow you to effectively and efficiently deposit ink with each print stroke. Squeegees are measured by their hardness levels (called durometer) and should be chosen based upon the size of the print. Generally speaking, you want your squeegee to be 2 – 3 inches wider than your image area. The average screen print is 12 inches wide, so a 14 to 16 inch squeegee is a good choice. The durometer can vary but a 70 durometer squeegee is a good “go to” choice.
Don’t only rely on random internet forums and videos for answers. While some of these resources can be helpful, there is a lot of misinformation out there too. Communicating with the manufacturer directly allows you to find tailored solutions quickly and effectively. Lawson offers 24/7/365 service, online and by phone. We are always ready to help! You can send Lawson a message, a photo, or a video, and we will work with you to solve your particular screen printing problem.
Experienced screen printers understand that establishing a procedure and workflow is a key ingredient in producing the best screen printed t-shirts and garments. Having a steady workflow establishes high quality silk screens because there is consistency across the entire t-shirt printing operation. While most printers understand this, the screen room and mesh screen frame preparation do not always have a proper workflow procedure. Below are some tips to apply to your screen frame operation. Implementing these exposure and screen preparation techniques in your screen room that will result in better emulsion stencils, better exposure, less pinholes when printing and faster production.
Tips on how to get the best screen print exposure
1. Check Mesh Tension
Having a properly tensioned mesh on your screen printing frames provides lots of benefits, including better, sharper looking prints and easier manual and automatic printing. No matter if you use static aluminum screen printing frames, rollers frames or, retensionable frames, periodically check the tension with a tension meter. This is a valuable screen printing shop tool that lasts a lifetime.
2. Cleanliness is Key
Thoroughly clean and degrease each screen. This simple preparation step is often overlooked. Spending an extra minute making sure all the plastisol ink, or water-based ink, is removed and all the tape is gone will help increase the longevity of your screen. Ultimately this will minimize mesh restretches, or buying new frames. Also, screen printing emulsion does not properly adhere to t-shirt ink and tape, so missing a spot will cause problems later.
3. Properly Apply Screen Printing Emulsion
Everyone has their own emulsion coating technique. This coating variation affects the screen printing emulsion stencil. If possible have the same person coat all your screens; or, better yet, try to automate your screen coating process. Different printing factors can often determine whether to do a 1/1, 2/1 or 2/2 emulsion coating to your screen printing frame. A general guideline is to have an emulsion-over-mesh (EOM) ratio of approximately 13% – 18%.
4. Check the Humidity
Your screen print shop’s humidity affects many things. Many shops are not climate controlled which causes big swings in the humidity levels especially as the seasons change. Applying emulsion to mesh in the same area as you reclaim and wash out means the humidity can vary greatly within the day. This can affect how quickly an emulsion coated screen dries. A panel frames. This is an easy way to store screens without taking up valuable floor space.
Using these screen room best practices allows every screen printing shop to develop a workflow for producing the best screen printing images. Having a clean screen, great emulsion-over-mesh (EOM) coverage and a clean exposure unit produces the best exposed screen. In turn, this makes it easier for the press operator to print and allows for faster product. Take action now and start producing better screens prints today.
Metallic Embroidery Thread is a great way to add some pop and shimmer to an embroidery job. Too often metallic embroidery thread is thought of as hard to sew with. Learning these 8 Easy Tips for Sewing with Metallic Embroidery Thread will make it simple to use metallic threads in your embroidery machine.
8 Easy Tips for Sewing with Metallic Embroidery Thread
1. Not all metallic sewing threads are the same quality. We recommend using Robison-Anton J Metallic high performance metallic sewing thread to minimize interruptions.
2. Make sure the design is properly programmed for metallic thread. The stitch length and stitch density must be adjusted to minimize putting too many stitches in the same location which will cause excessive thread breakage. There are other design limitations when sewing metallic threads. It is not advised to use metallic threads on small lettering where many stitches are being laid over one another.
3. Firstly, to minimize interruptions when sewing with metallic embroidery threads, make sure your equipment is in good running condition. Since the metallic wrapper is rougher than normal embroidery threads, make sure the embroidery
machine thread guides and eyelets are free of rough edges and burrs.
4. It is generally recommended to begin sewing metallic threads with a new needle. Ideally, J-Metallic should be sewn with a size 80/12 needle, but if there is fabric damage you can use a 75/11 size needle.
5. Set the machine thread tensions as loose as possible to get the desired stitch appearance. Normally J-Metallic should be sewn with less tension that rayon or polyester embroidery threads to optimize sewing performance.
6. Use a small bobbin thread that is stronger than spun bobbin thread and also minimizes bobbin changes.
7. Metallic threads will sew with fewer interruptions on softer materials and backings. Often it may be necessary to slow the machine speed if excessive thread breakage occurs. A slower machine speed helps facilitate more production due to fewer sewing interruptions.
8. Sometimes an iron-on backing is required after stitching to minimize the rough “hand” of metallic embroidery thread.
Lawson’s Screen & Digital Products Introduces New Equipment Packages
Lawson Screen & Digital Products champions the screen printing industry by Making It Simple. We are a one-stop manufacturer of screen printing equipment and supplies. Having begun pioneering screen printing machines in 1949, Lawson remains the first choice for garment decorators looking to start up a screen printing business. In an effort to provide more choices, Lawson recently announced a brand new lineup of new screen printing starter kits.
When starting or growing your t-shirt printing business, Lawson is the partner you can count on. As a company of people who care, Lawson is a family business that strives to treat you like family. This means we are with you every step of the way and offer 24/7 Print and Technical support. We Make It Simple so screen printers can focus on printing. Whether you have a storefront, online retail shop, or simply print out of your garage; Lawson offers production-quality equipment that fits your needs and budget.
New screen printing starter kits include either a manual or automatic screen printing press, exposure unit, and curing method (flash dryer and/or a conveyor dryer). It also includes free screen printing supplies and plastisol inks. As a bonus, every kit and package includes a free screen printing class and free 24/7 Technical and Print Support for Life.
Quick summary of the various manual and automatic -t-shirt printing packages available.
The Professional Package is the premier manual silk screen printing equipment package for starting a company. It features the latest in LED technology, an industry leading manual screen prinitng press and a large conveyor dryer for bigger production. Equipment includes:
The Lawson 6-color/4-station HD-Max Manual Screen Printing Press
The Lawson LED-5000 #2431 Exposure Unit.
The Lawson 16” x 16” Super Flash Cure Dryer
The Lawson M2-Encore #3610 Conveyor Dryer
The Poly-Pro Wash Out Booth
Lawson’s Advanced Screen Printing Start Up Shop Package is for serious screen printers. It includes the latest LED technology and best in class manual printing press. The conveyor over is a fantastic option to get started in the industry. This Advanced Screen Printing Kit includes:
The Lawson 6-color/4-station HD-Max Kit
The Lawson LED-5000 #2431 Exposure Unit
The Lawson 16” x 16” Super Flash Dryer
The Lawson M2-Encore #2408 Conveyor Dryer
The Econo-Pro Wash Out Booth
The Lawson Intermediate Start-Up Screen Printing Package makes it easy to print on a wide range of t-shirts, sweatshirts and other garments. This is a good new screen printing starter kits for those starting a screen printing shop on a budget. It includes the following screen printing machines:
The Lawson 6-color/4-station HD-Max Kit
The Lawson Expo-Light #2431 Exposure Unit
The Lawson 16” x 16” Super Flash Dryer
The Lawson M2-Encore #2408 Conveyor Dryer
The Econo-Pro Wash Out Booth
The Lawson Intermediate Package is designed for the printer who wants to open a small to medium size shop, or for a small shop to upgrade to a medium production. By adding Lawson’s conveyor dryer, you greatly increase screen printing production capabilities and produce more shirts.
The Lawson 4-color/4-station Proton with a free floor stand
The Lawson 16” x 16” Econo Flash Dryer
The Lawson Expo-NV Exposure Unit.
The Lawson Kick-Star Conveyor Dryer
The Econo-Pro Wash Out Booth
The Proton Start-Up Screen Print Kit was put together for those looking to start screen printing at home with the potential to grow. This screen printing machine equipment package is a great way to start printing shirts in an advanced DIY fashion. Lawson’s Proton Screen Printing Package includes:
The Lawson 4-color/4-station Proton Manual Screen Printing Press with a Free Floor Stand
The Lawson 16” x 16” Econo Flash Dryer with Flash Pad for Curing
The Lawson Scout manual printing press 1-color/1-station press
The Lawson Econo Flash 16” x 16” Spot Cure Dryer
The Quartz Table Top Exposure Unit
Automatic Screen Printing Equipment Packages feature Lawson’s Mini-Trooper and Trooper automatic screen printing machines. These automatic printing machine packages include an screen printing machine, air compressor and registration board.
The Mini-Trooper is the high value, space saving automatic press that is only 8.5 feet in diameter. It can come in many different print head configurations but the 4-color/6-station is most popular. XL and PC models available.
Lawson’s Trooper is a large version of the Mini-Trooper. Available in additional colors and stations, the Trooper remains a high-value, dependable automatic screen print machine.
New screen printing starter kits includes a variety of screen printing supplies for free, including press washes, screen reclaiming chemicals, emulsion, squeegees, tape and aluminum mesh screen printing frames (varying mesh counts).
Free training and 24/7 Technical and Print Support for Life help ensure you experience trouble-free garment printing. Each new screen printing business is assigned an experienced Screen Printing Coach/Consultant to make sure you are successful.
Visit www.golawson.com, call 314-382-9300 or email to discuss your screen printing, DTG, vinyl or embroidery needs.
One of the most important aspects of getting the best looking vinyl and direct to garment (DTG) print is having good artwork files. There is an old saying that goes “junk in, junk out.” This principle has held true since way back during the early days of commercial printing and still holds true today. Even in the advancing world of DTG printing with all the technological advances, you still need to have good artwork. Otherwise, your print will not look good. Whether the customer provides artwork to you, or you create the design yourself, here are some helpful tips for how to get the best art files ready for vinyl & DTG printing.
Digital Printing vs. Screen Printing Art Files
One of the advantages of digital printing vs. screen printing is the drastic reduction in time it takes to prepare the artwork. There is no need for color separations on different screens for multi-color jobs. With digital printing, an image with ten colors takes the same amount of time to prepare as a screen print one color image. The term “digital printing” covers several different types of printing, but they follow the same technique: a computer generated art file and either a printer or cutter to create a print for application on a t-shirt. Some popular digital printing options include a direct to garment and vinyl cutting.
The exception to this is when you are sublimation printing. It is impossible to lay a white underbase; liquid sublimation dyes work by binding directly to your shirt fibers and a underbase would create a barrier. Its best to use sublimation printing on white or light colored fabrics that have a high percentage of polyester.
Raster vs. Vector Images
Raster images, as opposed to vector images, are recommended for digital printing. Raster graphics are created by using a grid of horizontal and vertical pixels to make up an image. Vector images, by comparison, use a series of lines and curves. This often produces a large solid area. These large solid areas tend to be unforgiving when digital printing, which relies on creating their images line by line. Often, printing big areas like this can result in unevenness and streaking – or “banding.”
Corel Photo-Paint and Photoshop are two popular programs that will allow you to create images suitable for digital printing. There are advantages and disadvantages of both, and often times it comes down to preference. Typically speaking, Corel is more common with those who have a screen printing background since it is great for spot color work. Photoshop is great for photo-realistic images.
Vinyl cutting is a great option when printing on non-traditional materials, like leather, nylon and spandex. You can also print an image on vinyl, such as the HotMark Revolution Vinyl, and then cut and weed it. Weeding means after the image comes out of the printer, someone must touch-up the piece by removing the unwanted vinyl. This process can take some time and can be tedious if the image is intricate or has a lot of small shapes and letters.
As opposed to digital transfer printing, it is best to use a vector graphic when using vinyl. This will give you a sharper edge, which will make weeding faster. “Weed friendly” images have limited unwanted vinyl, or connects the unwanted pieces through a series of connectors. This means instead of pulling up lots of separate tiny pieces of vinyl, they will come away as one piece, connected by a small vinyl section. If you have overlapping images in your artwork, it is imperative to “weld” or “unite” the images before printing. This just means that the overlapping images become one image, making it simpler to cut and weed.
An ideal vinyl cutting image will be simple, with crisp edges and wide lines. These factors will keep the image from peeling off of the backing, and make your weeding and prep a simpler process.
Digital printing is an efficient and economical way to give your customers what they want. By preparing artwork that compliments whichever technique you are using, you can ensure you are giving your customer the best product you can.