mastering direct-to-garment printing

Mastering D2: Tips and Techniques Part IV

Tom Rumbaugh, ColDesi, has 26 years experience in the decorated apparel industry. Having started as an on-site trainer and installer, he has trained and advised over 3,000 apparel startups. He has served in capacities of district sales manager and product manager for industry leaders as well as president and CEO of his own embroidery, direct-to-garment, and screen-printing facilities. Rumbaugh currently provides content, authorship, and promotion for ColDesi Inc. and other group related companies.

The Mastering D2: Tips and Techniques series concludes with insights on heat pressing, selecting the right job, cross-checking, and winning attitudes. 

Heat pressing tips

Practice using less pressure than you may think. Medium to light pressure is sufficient for most garments. The harder you press the garment, and the more heat you use will increase your risk of texture issues and color shift.

Master tip: The ability to hover the press is sometimes necessary to get the pretreatment to absorb into the fabric.

When it comes to the final cure, you’ll need to look at the print and make sure the ink doesn’t seem too thick. If so, then try hovering the press above the garment before pressing to prevent the ink from smashing down into the clothing.

More about selecting jobs

Get comfortable with saying "no" at times. Let your customer know that you are just saying "no" to bad quality, and not to them.

Keeping a job journal and making notes at the end of each job will help you learn from mistakes. Use what you learn from your job journal to make changes to your “recipe” for that garment type. Keep the best techniques that work for your shop.

Always keep in mind that water-based inks do not readily adhere to poly or other man-made materials.

Master tipIf your potential customer is demanding you compete with screen printing, and if the job is huge, the chances are that job should be done by a screen printer.

That said, for most jobs, D2 has its advantages:

  • Seemingly unlimited colors
  • Variability in design
  • Flexible size and content
  • No setup fees
  • Quick turnaround for short runs

However, D2 is not always going to be the least expensive option.

Masters know better than to over-commit to huge jobs with only one or two colors if they don’t have enough profit to cover their costs It's better to find the jobs that are better suited to the equipment you have.

Things to double-check

Follow your system. Before hitting print, have proper checks in place to make sure you’ve loaded your garments correctly, and they are in the correct orientation.

Master tip: Post a checklist nearby so none of the steps get overlooked. Make sure garments are centered and at the correct distance for collars, pockets, plackets, etc.

Verify that the data being sent over to the printer is correct. This can mean viewing the RAW Data in the RIP or even printing a sacrificial shirt. Make sure the prints look as desired. Not just color-wise, but also size-wise.

Master tip: Maintaining a good nozzle check is first and foremost. Consider putting together a book of answers to common errors so all the operators in the shop understand and learn what the masters in your shop know.

Have a written plan for what your shop does for each situation or problem that comes up. Being able to look at prints and understand why things happen is important, but knowing what to do about it is critical.

Look for things like thin lines which are double printed or blurry. Those can indicate there is an issue with platen height, gap settings, or nozzle problems. And, while doing production, look at the print to see if quality suffers from print to print. When in doubt, call your manufacturer's support department or put in a ticket if you get stuck.

Winning attitudes of D2 masters

The masters at D2 printing (as in other walks of life) don’t cut corners. Ever! Getting in a rush, or taking on too much work are quality killers. Protect your quality output by choosing the right types of jobs, well matched for your equipment.

Never stop learning your trade. Masters educate themselves well beyond their initial training and throughout their entire career. They aren't afraid to ask questions or call support for advice. They keep up with the current techniques and socialize with industry leaders to pick up tips and tricks.

The real experts also keep an excellent job journal, examine it frequently, and write down ways to avoid problems. They follow a recipe for each garment type. Like a trained scientist, they understand cause and effect. Make sure to keep the printer printing in between prints, and use the downtime to continue your education and testing.

Push the boundaries when you are not under pressure, so you can have fun experimenting. If you have the desire to build a successful business or a winning career, D2 printing can get you there. Develop these winning attitudes, and with dedication, you too can master the craft.

Editor's Note: Master tips were collected from industry experts Don Copeland and Heath Schumacker, also with ColDesi.
 

Don't miss out on the great tips and tricks from this series. Check out Part I, II, and III for insights on taking your direct-to-garment printing to the master level.