Major types of Specialty ink application on Printing Methods

Super glow is what it sounds like… glow-in-the-dark ink, on steroids. It is very transparent and looks “water-colorish”. Super glow is really cool on light color shirts because it has a tonal clear effect that glows.

Puff is a rounded, raised ink that’s best when used with organic shapes and lines. Hard edges and angles are often softened or lost when printed with puff. It can hold some detail, however the finer the detail or smaller the line, the less it “puffs”.

High density ink
is raised, square stacked ink. It’s much better than puff for elements that have hard edges or angles. Similar to puff, areas of fine detail or with elements that come to a point don’t translate well. It’s also not recommended for fill areas, as the center of the fill tends to “sink”. High density ink also can be printed in “clear”, which produces a darkened, tonal effect on a tee. Pretty neat stuff!

Suede ink isn’t actually suede, but a raised ink with a fuzzy nap reminiscent of suede leather. It’s pretty fun to play with texture and raised design elements as it softens geometric shapes. There needs to be a certain thickness (1/8? – 1/4? at least) to any line work so the nap is visible – otherwise it looks like puff. Not good with really large fills or super fine detail.

UV Color Change. To begin with, UV Color Change ink doesn’t work on dark tees at all. If you’re still interested in using it… read on! With this ink, colors disappear indoors but appear when exposed to any ultraviolet light. The colors achieved are bright but tend to lack vividness of regular inks due to their translucent nature. Color remains true on light colored tees such as white, cream or silver. The ink will appear on other light shirt colors, but is unpredictable. In other words, the shirt color affects the color of the ink.

shimmer-ink-tshirtShimmer is basically sparkly, metallic ink. It’s available in silver, bronze, black and gold. We’ve previously experimented with special formulas for a pinkish-red shimmer and a bluish-aqua shimmer, but the results ended up looking like grayed-out, non-sparkly versions of the color. It does not hold super-fine detail well and starts to look flat grey in areas of finer detail.

Gradients and gradient blends tend to print with a banding effect similar to how it appears in an Illustrator file. Even if you transfer the file to Photoshop, gradients create a troublesome issue to overcome, so it’s best to create nice smooth gradients in Photoshop. Gradients can be achieved by using half-tones as well.

Belt printing was really popular back in the 70’s and has been making a comeback lately. A belt printer uses huge screens that cover the entire front and back of the garment. It’s great for all-over pattern printing, but can be used in many other creative ways. Belt printing works best on designs with a limited color palette that don’t require tight registration. One thing to keep in mind when designing for a belt printed tee is that the colors used in your design should never touch each other because registration is never exact.