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Screen print focus – Printing methods

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Depending on your design and how you would like the finished print to look, there are a few different print methods that we can use to get your desired effect. We created this handy guide to help explain what print method you should use.


An underbase is used when we have to print a lighter colour ink onto a darker coloured garment. The underbase is usually printed in white and is the entire design. This creates an undercoat so any colours then printed on top of this white base will stand out.  Without the underbase layer, lighter ink colours would disappear on darker garments, for example, yellow ink on a black garment.If you are looking for a distressed look for your garment and print, you can specifically request that an underbase is not used. 


There is no additional charge for an underbase to be added.

screen print, print, Awesome Merchandise



Halftoning an image breaks up the tonal detail into dots, so rather than having gradients and blends there are instead tiny, solid dots. The space between the dots and the size of each dot creates the illusion of several colours. If you were to look very close up at the image you would be able to see each individual dot and that they’re all the same colour. But looking at it from a normal distance the image looks like there are multiple colours or shades of the same colour. 


Halftone is a handy way to reduce the number of ink colours used when printing which would also reduce the cost of the print. 


A good example is using white ink on a black T-shirt to create colours ranging between white, grey and black. Halftone works especially well with photographic images that would, at first glance, look like they have several colours in the design. 


Halftoning isn’t really suitable for solid colours, it only works effectively with gradients and blends. When we apply halftone to a solid colour it becomes very apparent that the colour is made from dots.


If you are wanting to have a halftone effect for your printing, please supply your artwork without this effect, as we will apply this for you and make sure it is set up correctly for printing.


If you are looking to have the same design printed however, wish to have the design printed in different colours, then an ink washout is a cost-effective way to create your merch. If these are to be exactly the same design, instead of being charged for two separate orders with a one colour print with the unit cost of 50 for each we can charge for one order of 100 (so you get the 100 unit price) and then we charge an extra £10 for the ink washout. This will nearly always work out cheaper!


The £10 extra covers the cost for us to wash the screen out partway through printing the T-shirts. We don’t need to make another screen as the design that is being printed is exactly the same on both garment colours. You can have as many washouts as you would like within an order. These are still charged at £10 each.

screen print, print, Awesome Merchandise


Sometimes it’s easy to confuse an ink washout with an inverted design. Whereas an ink washout is applicable to a design that will print onto the garment in EXACTLY the same way, an inverted design looks like it would print the same if using the same screen but would actually need a brand new screen set up for it. You will usually find that inverted design are more applicable to images rather than text. This sounds confusing, but bear with us! 


One way to figure out if your artwork would be a washout or inverted design would be to focus on one specific area. Ask yourself, if this area would need the ink to be printed would the same area in the design if it was in the second colourway also need to be printed? 


In the below image if you focus specifically on the top hand, the section in the red circle. In image 1, as the design is going on black T-shirts this section would need to be printed in white ink. In image 2, as the design is going on white T-shirts this area does NOT need to be printed. This means that we couldn’t use the same screens to print this design.



The charge for a new screen for an inverted design is £20. The order can still be placed as one order like a washout order would be placed.


A split fountain design uses one screen so is priced as a one colour print. However, even though it uses one screen we print it using two colours. Both colours are placed on the screen at the same time and printed together.


We can only offer split fountain printing where the colours in the designs will be merging together from left to right, not from top to bottom. This is because when we print using our screens, the ink is dragged from top to bottom and wouldn’t give the desired effect. 


One key point to remember about split fountain printing is that the final print across the garments will not be uniform or match 100%. We do our best to make sure every garment is printed with a similar amount of each ink colour. However, due to the free form nature of this printing process, the blend in the colours is likely to vary slightly from garment to garment.

A split fountain is charged as a 1 colour print but there is an additional £20 cost for the extra ink that will be used. If you place your order on the website just confirm that you want a split fountain and we’ll send you an invoice to make payment for the additional £20.


These colour blend from left to right so would be fine for us to print as a split fountain!

split fountain, Awesome Merchandise



These colours blend from top to bottom so would not be suitable for split fountain printing. If you wanted the blend this way then it would need to be done as a two or even three colour print (depending on the level of colour detail you want) and the blend would be simulated out of dots, like halftoning!

split fountain, Awesome Merchandise


This method of printing is used predominantly for printing photographic images on to lighter coloured garments (white or lighter greys). This method of printing does not work for darker coloured garments as we can’t use an underbase when CMYK printing. 


CMYK screen printing breaks the colours down in a similar way that CMYK digital printing does, into Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Our artwork team will take the image and simplify it down into these four colours using the ‘channels’ option on Photoshop. 


These four colours are then printed in a similar way to halftoning so that the different colours overlap and make the eye believe that are more colours printed than there actually are. Try to think of it like mixing paint, using primary colours to create all the other colours!


Even though the design may be a photographic image it could have solid, block colours too. These would affect the number of screens we’d need in order to replicate the print. 


This printing method is similar to CMYK but is more appropriate for darker or coloured garments. Where CMYK printing is only achievable on lighter coloured garments, simulated process printing can be done on darker coloured garments as it also includes an underbase. Simulated process printing is also produced using a halftoning technique and this is also applicable to the underbase that used, which is different to the standard screen printing process.


Even though we can print on darker and coloured garments we can only print on one garemnt colour per design within an order. This is because when the design is split up into each ink colour this takes into consideration how the design will appear on that specific garment colour. It almost uses the colour of the garment as a stand-in ink colour. 


For example, if a design has varying shades of green in it and is being printed on a green garment, the halftone will be generated so that it works specifically with the tones of green already available in the garment. If the same design is printed on to a yellow garment then we’d need to print more green as we wouldn’t be able to use the green from the garment to simulate some of the green shades in the design.


It’s also worth noting that real-life photos do not translate well using this process, which is why we’d only advise you to print these on lighter coloured garments using CMYK printing. This is because it’s difficult to replicate colours 100% accurately so things like skin tones look incorrect. More abstract, illustrative images work well for this process.

screen print, print, Awesome Merchandise

Ready to order? Hop over to our website to get creating!


Still need some help? Our team of merch experts are happy to answer any of your questions on info@awesomemerchandise.com

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