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Printing on Suede Fabric

Learn the simple tips to printing on these


fashionable garments.
by Rick Davis, Contributing Writer

t is more than apparent that garment designers are


working late nights designing new styles with new
fabric finishes to serve and expand their client bases.
The combinations of fabric content, treatments, finishes
and dyeing techniques are seemingly endless and create
opportunities for you to upsell your customer on more
fashionable apparel. And once they fall in love with these
unique garments, it will result in repeat orders.
In this installment of the Impressions Tech Tips Newsletter,
we will review the optimum printing techniques for
embellishing the new suede fabric from Next Level
Apparel (style 6410). Although suede typically is
associated with leather, it is applied here as a reference to
the exceptionally soft hand the fabric surface possesses.

Presenting Next Level Apparels Premium Fitted Sueded


Crew, style 6410. The Sueded Crew is a 60% combed ring-spun
cotton/40% polyester, 32 singles; 145g/4.3-ounce fabric laundered
with a unique brushed characteristic for an unbelievably soft,
sueded feel. This style will be offered in 16 colors and will become
available in spring/summer of 2014.

The new suede fabric is a 32-singles (threads per inch)


145 grams/4.3-ounce, 60% cotton/40% polyester fabric.
This will make for a lighter weight, tightly knit fabric with
a soft and smooth finish great for screen printing. As a
comparison, a standard T-shirt fabric is constructed with
an 18-singles, 156 grams/5.5 ounces.

The following steps will explain a simple in-line process


for controlling fibrillation and the prints hand, all with
minimal effect on production time. The result will be
beautifully printed suede garments that are as easily
printable as regular 100% cotton T-shirts.

This new fabric is easily printable, with a little attention


paid to the fiber hair on the garments soft surface. It also
is this soft surface that gives this specific fabric its suede
look and feel. When a design is printed and the fibers
stand on end and can be seen through the image, it is
known as fibrillation and is easily preventable. With this
thought in mind, the key to producing a smooth and soft
hand on this fabric is ensuring the fiber hair is properly
matted down in a smooth and even fashion.

Step 1: Mesh selection is important to this project. Due


to the thinner yarn and lightweight nature of the fabric,
minimize your ink film to contribute to the soft hand of
the print. In this case, we will use a 156 mesh for the
underbase. The goal is to achieve a bright print on a dark
garment while maintaining a soft hand on the fabrics
surface. The colors for the graphic will be printed through
230-mesh screens and the second highlight white will be
printed through a 156-mesh screen.

In this scenario, we will employ an in-line tool that will


produce the same effect of heat pressing the finished
print without dealing with the issue after production.
The Roller Squeegee has been on the market for the
past several years, and you can use this tool along
with other parameters to maximize your print on
suede. We will be explaining the setup of this process
with the screen sequence, starting with screen prep.
Step 2: The screen being used as the Roller
Squeegee/pressing screen will be coated and
exposed with no image. Once you have exposed the
non-imaged screen, block out the remaining edges.
There is no need to apply tape to the inside of the
screen, as no ink will be added. The Roller Squeegee
simply presses the blank, Teflon-sheeted screen onto
the underbase with no need for ink or lubricant in the
ink side of the screen.
The Teflon sheet that comes with the Roller Squeegee is
applied to the print side of the screen with spray adhesive.
The sheets smooth surface presses out fibrillation or any
uneven surfaces in the ink film. The sheet is applied with
both spray adhesive and tape on the edges to ensure it is
properly secured to the print side of the screen.
The screen should be stretched to the recommended
tension for the mesh in the screen. A medium to finer
mesh count (160-230) is ideal and will only make
adhering the Teflon sheet to the screen that much easier.
Step 3: Once the Teflon sheet is adhered to the print
side of the screen, place the screen on a flat surface with
a large wood or metal plate on the ink side. Allow it to sit
overnight to secure a tight bond between the Teflon sheet
and the screen.
Step 4: Set up the press with the roller screen in the post
flash printing head following the underbase screen. The
following sequence shows how the press should be set up:
1. Underbase White
2. Flash
3. Roller Squeegee/Screen
4. Color
5. Color
6. Color
7. Color
8. Flash
9. Highlight White
The reasoning for this specific sequence is simple. The
Roller Squeegee needs to be used after the flash because

the white underbase is still hot and can be smoothed out


prior to the ink having a chance to cool down.
You also have the option to use a second roller following
a second flash, although the initial pressing of the first
underbase should suffice to produce a smooth and soft
print. When used in production, the effects of the Teflon
sheet on the printed underbase will leave the printed
surface with the appearance of a heat transfer.
Step 5: Install the Roller Squeegee as you would a
regular squeegee.
Step 6: Determine the proper pressure required to
produce a smooth and even finish on the post-flashed
underbase. Typically, a medium pressure setting
is sufficient, as the ink film will be soft and pliable
immediately after emerging from the flash unit. The Roller
Squeegee will matte down uneven surfaces.
Step 7: Determine the results. The finished print should
have a smooth and even finish with a soft hand. When
the print emerges from being pressed by the roller screen,
the ink surface should be smooth and soft to the touch.
This allows the remaining colors to print evenly onto the
underbase without the issue of fiber hair to impede the
soft hand of the print.
The remainder of the process can use standard printing
procedures. In this case, we used a 70-durometer
squeegee in the underbase white screen and
80-durometer squeegees in the other screens.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Do not change any parameters with regard to flashing


procedures as long as the print emerges from the flash unit
dry to the touch. Increasing flash time or temperature could
result in overheating the underbase, which could cause
intercoat adhesion issues between the underbase and the
overprinted colors. It also could promote the ink reaching
the re-melt point, which would be detrimental to the ink film.
Ink selection is the final consideration. Since we are
printing on a 60/40 cotton/poly blend, use a bleedresistant white ink to combat any potential synthetic dye
migration or sublimation. In addition, use white ink that
also has good matte-down characteristics. Although we

step-by-step

are using the Roller Squeegee, you still will want the
added benefits of the high-performance white ink to help
maximize the finished prints quality. The colors of the
graphic for this project were printed wet-on-wet, then hit
with a second flash prior to printing the highlight white.
The last graphic shown in the step-by-step portion of
this newsletter shows the finished print. It is a lightweight
print on a lightweight fabric possessing a soft hand and
drape ability. The Next Level Fitted Sueded Crew finished
garments offer an excellent platform for any graphics
when properly executed. Although standard printing
methods will work on this fabric, using the proper tools
will maximize the quality of the finished print.

Screens and printing facility courtesy of Personali-Tees, Winter Park, Fla.


Artwork courtesy of Senior Houndsabound Inc.

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 ere you see the fabric surface and the


H
nap of the yarn producing the soft fabric
surface. Be sure to control fibrillation
when printing on this fabric.

 he in-line Roller Squeegee by Action


T
Engineering is used to matte down the
flashed underbase.

ste p

 he Teflon sheet is applied to


T
the print side of the screen.

ste p

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Install the Roller Squeegee as you


would a regular squeegee.

 etermine the proper pressure required


D
(medium usually suffices) for a smooth and
even finish on the post-flashed underbase.
ste p

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 etermine the results. The finished


D
print should have a smooth and
even finish with a soft hand.

Printing on fashion garments such as


Next Level Apparels style 6410 is as
simple as printing on 100% cotton tees if
you follow the correct procedures.

Rick Davis is the southeastern regional sales manager for the Triangle Ink Co. He is a 35-year veteran of the textile screen
printing and apparel manufacturing industries. His background includes plant design, management and troubleshooting, and he
also is a member of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology. For more information or to comment on this article, email Rick at
rickd5050@yahoo.com.