SWEATER WEATHER: Tricks for Better Hoodie Printing
**Copied from my contribution to Printwear Magazine online FOUND HERE
October already? Well, aside from the insane speed in which summer seemed to come and go, hoodie and sweater printing time is here!
Anyone who has printed a large order of hoodies can attest to the challenges it brings to press operators and to the day's production schedule. Although the chance of running a multicolor hoodie job as fast as a multicolor T-shirt job is unlikely, you can fine-tune the speed and quality to make the most out of your order.
SUCCESS CHEAT SHEET:
Triple durometer squeegee
Use an in-line iron (or stomp roller)
For easy access, copy and paste this list to your overall shop cheat sheet.
Make sure you adjust either your center shaft on-contact adjustment or your individual head off-contact—pending what type of press you are running. You always want to make sure you are keeping at least 1/8th of an inch off-contact. Most people have their presses set for T-shirts but forget to adjust them when placing a thicker garment on the platen. If we don't maintain the level of off-contact, the screen won't snap back after the squeegee pull. This can cause the screen to hang in ink and stick up on the pullback. Think about a stucco ceilings texture. You don't want that to happen.
The inside of a hoodie is nothing like a T-shirt. Often, hoodies will have a thick nap, meaning they are very fibrous. Using a standard spray tack or a roll-on tack will end up either getting covered too quickly in fibers to work or will just soak into the fibers stuck on the platen. Using a spray web tack is the best way to go. This variety shoots out like a web and has a higher tack level. Although this is your best option, you still don't want to spray a lot. Too much of it and pulling the hoodie off the tacky platen can get tiresome after hundreds of hoodies.
Now, this one is for sure more of a personal preference thing. You can make lots of different durometer squeegees work for this. However, I, along with hundreds of shops I've worked with, have found that using a 65/90/65 triple durometer squeegee for hoodies (and lots of other uses) helps to lay down a good shear of ink that allows you to envelop the fibers on most hoodies. This results in a solid and soft print with little fibrillation.
IN-LINE IRON or STOMP ROLLER
If you have an automatic press and don't have, at the least, a stomp roller, you need to stop reading this and order one, then make sure you come back for this valuable tip. A stomp roller irons out the ink while it's still warm after you print your underbase and flash. A stomp roller along with a Teflon sheet in the screen helps ensure fibers are flat and allows for a much cleaner and better second layer, and so on. If you have the resources, check out a heated in-line roller for your automatic press. Most manufacturers offer one. The result is just like what happens if you heat press a print after the dryer. Your prints will forever be softer and smoother!