How to Print
SFX on Heavy
By Charlie Taublieb,
Special effects inks are still
very “in” and using them can
open doors to types of cli-
ents that are usually difficult
to get to — such as resort
stores and other retail.
Combining a variety of spe-
cial effects inks and using
them creatively will get the
attention of whomever you
are trying to approach. Printing with special effects inks and techniques requires an excellent
substrate that provides exceptional ink coverage, and Fruit of the Loom’s Heavy Cotton
The particular print done products fit that bill to a tee.
in this step-by-step tutorial All Heavy Cotton T-Shirts are made of 5.6 ounce, 100% cotton jersey knit that is
heavier and denser than comparable mid-weight T-Shirts. Construction details include a
uses three different special
seamless rib collar with newly added double-needle cover stitching on front neck; shoul-
effects inks: burn out, high- der-to-shoulder taping, and a double-needle sleeve and bottom hem. The Heavy Cotton
density ink and gel, and Collection includes six styles and is available in up to 40 colors in youth size 2/4 through
discharge ink. adult size 4XL.
To print the shirts shown here, I designed a multimedia print of six dragons for the lower left front of a Fruit of
the Loom® Heavy Cotton T-Shirt. The design uses soft density black ink, sparkle gel and either discharge ink
or burn out chemicals just inside the circles created by the curled tails of the dragons. I also printed a second
image – center chest – using discharge ink only to produce a subtle tonal effect with no hand whatsoever.
First, the burn out requires mixing two components, A (the vehicle) and B (the chemical). Mix 80% vehicle
with 20% chemical to get a mixture that easily passes through 110 mesh using a soft (60-65 durometer)
squeegee. When used on poly/cotton shirts, burn out breaks down the cotton when the shirt is washed,
leaving only the polyester part of the fabric. When used on 100% cotton, burn out leaves a hole wherever
it is printed. This gives you an alternative to laser cutting for multimedia elements like reverse appliqué.
For the base color of the dragon print in the lower left placement, I used soft density black ink straight out of
the can through 83 mesh with a 70-micron thread.
I used a 65-durometer squeegee through a stencil
made with 400 film for the base.
On top of that, I printed sparkle gel ink straight out
of the can through 83/70 mesh using a 70-durom-
eter squeegee through 200 micron film.
The burn out ink was laid down first. Printing the
soft density ink around the circles prevented the
burn out holes from fraying when the cotton was
dissolved by heat and/or washing.
Next, I mixed the discharge ink as follows: one
part discharge base, then added 5% lubricant,
5% penetrant and 8% activator (ZFS). Using this
formula without pigment colors lets you do sever-
al things. You could choose to fully discharge the
ink and end up with the dye completely bleached
out of the garment — essentially, grey goods, which is the color of the garment before it was dyed. Or, you
can choose to partially discharge the ink, which produces a halo effect where some of the dye remains
and some is gone.
I like this tonal effect most because every shirt is a little different. The interesting thing about printing
discharge on colored shirts is you never know exactly what color the print will produce.
HERE’S HOW I MADE THIS TWO-PART MULTIMEDIA PRINT:
ST E P ST E P
Spray the Print the burn
1 pallet with 2 out chemical.
adhesive so This may take
the shirt a few strokes
doesn’t move, since it is
and slide the important for
shirt in place. the chemical
ST E P
Print the soft density black ink and then flash as shown in the image on the right.
ST E P ST E P
Now print the sparkle gel ink on top of the Shown here is detail of the lower left dragon print
4 black base. 5 with burn out inside the curved tails.
ST E P ST E P
Send the print through the dryer. Reload the shirt on the press and print the dis-
6 The garment should get to about 350°F. 7 charge ink for the full-chest placement design.
ST E P
If you flash the discharge and want to get a tonal-
8 type halo effect, keep checking to make sure it
doesn’t discharge too much. Instead of flashing, you
could run some tests to find the right temperature
and speed to produce the same effect at higher
production rates by running the print through your
conveyor dryer. In the same way that you should
check if using a flash unit, make sure you have the ST E P
This shows the detail of a tonal discharge
dryer setting right or, if the shirt gets too hot for a
long period of time, you’ll get a complete discharge. 9 print area.
ST E P
Once the discharge was
10 cured, the shirt was almost
finished. For the final touch,
I put leather lace through the
openings where the burn out
had removed the cotton. In
this case, I didn’t wash the
shirt to remove the cotton,
and instead used a pen to
ST E P ST E P
poke the cotton out of the The finished shirt with tonal The finished shirt with full
hole. Any remainder of the 11 discharge print. 12 discharge print. The inset
cotton will go away when shows detail of the full
the shirt is washed. discharge.
Charlie Taublieb is a screen printing consultant with more than 25 years’ industry experience, and a popular
speaker at The Imprinted Sportswear Shows.
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