Image Armor Polyester Printing with the Epson F2000

Printing 100% Polyester Shirts with the Epson F2000 DTG Printer

Image Armor Polyester Printing with the Epson F2000Printing 100% Polyester Shirts with the Epson F2000 DTG Printer

Printing on 100% polyester fabrics has always been problematic. The colors are not vibrant, the image clarity is fuzzy due to bleeding, and the wash durability is not the best. There have not been many options for the Epson F2000 DTG users up to this point.

In our tests we have shown that the Image Armor LIGHT Shirt Formula works great making the improbable look fantastic on 100% polyester garments with the Epson F2000 Direct to Garment printer.

Simply apply 18-22 grams of Image Armor LIGHT Shirt Formula to most 100% white or light colored polyester fabrics (test prior to any production run) and heat set with two 20 second heat presses. Ensure the pretreatment is dry, and then print and cure your ink like normal. You can see the full shirt image we printed and has at this point been washed 9 times. It is visible how the left side which was pretreated with the LIGHT Shirt Formula looks much better, crisper, and more vibrant than the right side which had no pretreatment.

Start expanding your offerings to include 100% polyester garments that you can print for your customers with your Epson F2000. If you have never tried the LIGHT Shirt Formula, you can get a free sample by visiting this page.

How Long Can I Pretreat before Printing

How Far in Advance Can We Pretreat Shirts and Store Them For Direct To Garment Printing?

Pre-pretreated-Shirts-2-Year-Old

NOTE: This is a re-post of an article we posted in January of 2016. We get a lot of inquires about this, so we thought it prudent to repost this article for everyone’s knowledge base.

We often get asked how long can I pretreat a shirt and then leave it sit on the shelf before the “magical” properties of the pretreat are no longer good.

Well, when we originally started Image Armor back in 2013 we had pretreated some black shirts and set them on the shelf. Our intentions were to print them 12 months later. Business got busy, the shirts got buried and all was forgotten…until this morning.

We actually found the shirts a couple of days ago and decided that we would test out our theory. The shirts were originally pretreated with Image Armor DARK Shirt Formula on November 19th, 2013. You can see (click the picture to enlarge) my label showing we were supposed to print the shirt on November 19th, 2014 one year later.

The way this played out, and a testimony to our pretreatments, is that it officially have been 2 years and 2 months since we pretreated these shirts and put them on the shelf. They were not put into a bag, or sealed up in any way shape or form. The shirts actually had ink cartridges, paper, tools and all sorts of items stacked on top of them over the past two years. We printed these with our Image Armor E-SERIES inks this morning after heat pressing the shirt for 15 seconds to get rid of any moisture in the garment.

The results? Click on the picture above for a larger image. The results were extremely favorable. The whites were extremely white, just as if we had pretreated the shirt this morning prior to printing.

What does this say? If you wanted to pretreat ahead of time to save time and do your shirts in bulk, this is now been proven to work, at least with Image Armor pretreatments. We still do not recommend pretreating way ahead of time due to the fact that the more you handle the shirt, the more chance the fibers have to “pop up” and cause you issues when trying to get a nice smooth white ink film. But, if you feel the need, go ahead, pretreat in advance.

Just don’t forget where you put the shirts after you’ve pretreated them.

DTG Tip – Making Your DTG Print Look Like It Is Screen Printed With Halftones

Screen Printing halftone DTG Closeup

DTG Tip – Making Your DTG Print Look Like It Is Screen Printed With Halftones

Many high end screen prints are done using halftones. Halftones are basically different sized dots of different colors that are placed in close proximity to each other to give the effect of a multitude of colors thus reproducing your graphic in full color. Your inkjet printer does the same basic thing but with really, really tiny ink droplets. When you screen print, you are limited to how small the dots can go before you can not screen print them. This is because the screen that has the image “template” on it can only hold a dot down to a certain size. With inkjet, the dots are extremely tiny which is why we can get a lot higher resolution and tighter, better looking images.

If you really want to make your DTG print look like a high end screen print it is really easy to do and can be done relatively quickly in Photoshop with a couple of clicks of your mouse.

How Do I Make Halftones In Photoshop?

To convert your image into “halftones” in Photoshop, follow these simple steps.

  1. Load in your graphic and select the layer you want to “convert” to halftones. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Color Halftone
    Screenprinting-halftoning-in-Photoshop
  2. You will then see a pop-up screen that looks like below:
    Screen-Printing-Halfton-Setup-for-DTG
  3. The Max Radius is the “size” of the halftone dot. For bigger dots, make the number higher. For smaller halftone dots, reduce it. 4 is the size of our sample image. We have found that 8 will give a larger halftone dot, the image will be more “grainy” but the image will be smoother with no interference on the screen angles.
  4. Set the “screen angle” for Channels 1-4. These set the angles for the individual colors CMYK. Just as in screen printing you can see moire. Moire is a “pattern” due to the interaction, proximity, and angles of each of the colors. Screen printers run into this issue all the time. It will result in a horrible looking print. You may need to experiment a little with the angles based on your Max. Radius Size. You can use the above settings to give you a start.
  5. Print your DTG image. Our example looks like the following.
    Screen-Printing-halftone-DTG-Closeup

As you can see, the close up looks very similar to a high end halftone screen printed design. By playing around with the settings and angles, you will be able to achieve a variety of looks that suit the effect you are trying to achieve.

To really add the touch to your DTG print to make it look like it was officially screen printed do not use your heat transfer press to cure the ink. This will “flatten” the dots in the image. Traditionally screen printed shirts have a “feel” or hand to the final print. Due to the texture of the shirt and how the inks are jetted by your DTG machine, using a conveyor dryer will help you achieve that look and feel also adding more realism to your Screen Printed DTG shirt.

Have fund and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

DTG Tip – Blur the Lines Between Screen Printing and DTG

Closeup-DTG-Tip-SkullDTG Tip – Blur the Lines Between Screen Printing and DTG

Due to the advances in pretreatment and ink technologies over the past year we have been able to blur the line between screen printing and DTG to the point where the untrained eye might not be able to tell the difference between the two processes.

The key tip to achieve the “screen print” look would be to NOT use a heat press when curing the inks. The heat press will “flatten” or really smooth the printed ink surface. It is not that this looks “bad”, and some prefer it, but if you are trying to achieve the screen print look, try hovering just millimeters above the finished print with your heat press. You will definitely need to increase the exposure time to the heat to ensure that it is cured correctly (always test before doing this for end customers) or you might not get the ink cured and the customers returning shirts.

However, when done correctly, the ink surface will have a texture “feel” to the ink surface, simulating screen printing. In addition, utilizing the Image Armor new E-SERIES DTG inks increases the wash durability and wash fastness of the finished prints. Plus, you get incredible stretch characteristics that help keep the image looking better long term wash after wash.

 

What Pretreating Can Do For You Even on White

We often hear at every trade show people asking why they would want to pretreat a garment that only has CMYK printed on the garment. Most of the time the comment is that they've been told they do not need to pretreat a white shirt. While this statement is true, it is often misunderstood how pretreating the garment can actually improve the quality of your finished product.  

We decided to show you three different shirts, each a split print. The left side of the garment has no pretreatment while the right side is pretreated with our Image Armor LIGHT Shirt Formula. The printed image effectively shows the difference you can achieve when pretreating - or what you get when you do not pretreat. We did this on three different types of fabrics commonly printed - one of being 100% polyester which many people do not know they can decorate with DTG if properly pretreated.

On the left below is a 100% white polyester garment. The middle image is a standard 50/50 white t-shirt, and the right image is a 100% cotton white garment. By clicking on the individual images you will be able to enlarge the image to take a closer look at the contrast between untreated and pre-treated garments. You will be able to see exactly what you can expect on each garment when utilizing the Image Armor LIGHT Shirt Formula on your garments. 

100% Polyester Fabric

split-pretreatment-shirt-100-polyester-large

50/50 Cotton/Polyester

split-pretreatment-shirt-50-50-large

100% Cotton Fabric

split-pretreatment-shirt-100-cotton-large

You can find an Image Armor dealer near you by visiting our Purchase page.

How Does DTG Printed Polyester Wash?

IA-ULTRA-and-LIGHT-Front-Mirrored-OriginalWe often get the question about our DTG pretreatments and 100% polyester printing in regards to how well the printed shirts hold up in the wash. Typically non-pretreated polyester fabrics will results in very poor quality prints that are fuzzy and do not wash well. However, when properly pretreated with the correct pretreatment you can achieve sublimation like looking DTG prints.

An interesting aspect of this article is that we utilized 100% white polyester garments pretreated with both the LIGHT Shirt formula as well as the ULTRA Dark Shirt Formula. Normally we would never utilize the ULTRA on a white or light colored garment as the pretreatment would yellow the shirt when heat is applied. However, we’ve discovered it appears that this is only in garments that have natural fibers in the fabric. On fabrics that have 100% polyester content we have achieved great results with both the LIGHT and ULTRA pretreatments. We do however still encourage all users to do testing prior to any production run to ensure they are achieving the results they desire.

100-Polyester-15-plus-washes-comparison

Click on Image to view Enlarged Photo

This option of using either LIGHT or ULTRA pretreatment will ultimately open up additional avenues of printable garments for the DTG decorator. It will allow the choice of using either the LIGHT Shirt Formula or the ULTRA Shirt Formula. In our test we applied 18 grams of pretreatment to the Sport-tek ST350 white 100% polyester shirt and heat cured that pretreatment for 35 seconds at 330F. The shirts were printed with our Image Armor E-SERIES DTG inks though we have also successfully achieved the same results with other ink sets. The E-SERIES inks were then cured via heat press for 35 seconds at 356F with light pressure.

As can be seen in the photo (click on the side-by-side comparison for a much larger version) there was minimal loss of actual color after 15+ washes of the garment. These were washed with Tide detergent with hot water and then dried on the hot setting.

So, if you want to achieve sublimation like prints with your DTG printer and do not have a sublimation system in your shop, try utilizing the Image Armor LIGHT Shirt Formula or ULTRA pretreatments to increase your DTG offerings to your customers. Now you can achieve great wash results with your direct-to-garment printer on 100% white polyester fabrics without the fear of them washing our or looking blurry.

You can find an Image Armor dealer near you by visiting our Purchase page.

How Long Can I Store a Pretreated Shirt Before It Goes Bad

Pre-pretreated-Shirts-2-Year-OldWe often get asked how long can I pretreat a shirt and then leave it sit on the shelf before the “magical” properties of the pretreat are no longer good.

Well, when we originally started Image Armor back in 2013 we had pretreated some black shirts and set them on the shelf. Our intentions were to print them 12 months later. Business got busy, the shirts got buried and all was forgotten…until this morning.

We actually found the shirts a couple of days ago and decided that we would test out our theory. The shirts were originally pretreated with Image Armor DARK Shirt Formula on November 19th, 2013. You can see (click the picture to enlarge) my label showing we were supposed to print the shirt on November 19th, 2014 one year later.

The way this played out, and a testimony to our pretreatments, is that it officially have been 2 years and 2 months since we pretreated these shirts and put them on the shelf. They were not put into a bag, or sealed up in any way shape or form. The shirts actually had ink cartridges, paper, tools and all sorts of items stacked on top of them over the past two years. We printed these with our Image Armor E-SERIES inks this morning after heat pressing the shirt for 15 seconds to get rid of any moisture in the garment.

The results? Click on the picture above for a larger image. The results were extremely favorable. The whites were extremely white, just as if we had pretreated the shirt this morning prior to printing.

What does this say? If you wanted to pretreat ahead of time to save time and do your shirts in bulk, this is now been proven to work, at least with Image Armor pretreatments. We still do not recommend pretreating way ahead of time due to the fact that the more you handle the shirt, the more chance the fibers have to “pop up” and cause you issues when trying to get a nice smooth white ink film. But, if you feel the need, go ahead, pretreat in advance.

Just don’t forget where you put the shirts after you’ve pretreated them.

Keep Your DTG Printer Warm and Happy This Winter

Humidity-GuageIf you live in a part of the Unite States where it gets cold and snows, a warm and comfy home is a nice place to be. You need to take that same stance with your DTG printer but keeping it warm is just one part of the successful equation.

When the gas furnace kicks on in the winter, the humidity levels quickly drop in our homes and places of business. Natural gas has a tendency to really dry the air out. It doesn’t take long for the humidity levels to quickly drop to what is commonly found in the Southwest most of the year. Humidity levels below 35% can really start to cause problems with your DTG machine. Get into the 20% and lower and you’re asking for serious printer issues.

It really doesn’t take much to help keep you and your DTG printer happy during these dry, winter months. First you will want to pick up a temperature/humidity gauge similar to the one in the picture in this article. They are relatively inexpensive and help give you the tools to know what is going on with your DTG printing room. They typically show the temperature and humidity levels. Check out this link on Amazon for one that will easily fit on top of your DTG printer.

If you are not sure what humidity level you should keep in your printing room, ask your DTG manufacturer. Most will give a level range of say 35%-80% humidity. Typically, you can help ensure a safe humidity level if you try to keep it around 50% humidity. This will not only keep your DTG printer happy, but you also. The more humidity – the warmer it will feel in the room.

Unless you have a humidifier located on your furnace, you’ll have to utilize a whole room stand alone humidifier. You can find these at your local home depot type store or on Amazon. A good example of something you can get to take care of a DTG printing room would be something like this. Look around but plan on spending around $100 or more.

The temperature should also be stabilized. This is where a climate control system comes into play. You don’t want to have your DTG room hover in the 50’s over night and then you try to come in early in the morning and turn the heat on to start a day of printing. The ink in the printer and lines will end up being much cooler and take longer to warm up than the ambient temperature in your printing area. Cooler ink will be less likely to flow as nicely as warm ink and can result in lost nozzles and bad prints. The best thing is to try to maintain a constant temperature when you know you’ll be printing or a range of comfortable room temperatures over the winter. Use common sense – don’t go from the low 50’s when you’re not there to low 70’s early Monday morning and try to start printing immediately. If you keep it a constant temperature, you know you’ll always be ready to print.

Keeping an eye on the temperature and humidity levels and making sure they are within recommended levels will take one variable out of the DTG printing mix this winter. This will enable you to focus on what you really need to be doing – printing and making money.

Changing an Existing DTG Printer with Inks Over to Another Ink Set

CISS-Carts-in-Printer-1200pxWe've been reviewing the process for people who are changing over to the Image Armor inks, or any other ink,  from another brand of inks and have found several key factors that must be observed to ensure a more hassle free change over experience.

Many DTG systems are not maintained properly, so we've released our technical bulletin below to make the change over easier. The point of this is to ensure that the entire ink delivery system is as clean as possible.

  • It is required that all inks are changed over at the same time. The 35 second cure time is not compatible with the longer cure time of other ink sets.
  • The DTG Printer must be flushed with an approved CLEANING solution. Before doing, please make sure:
    • Dampers should be replaced or re-conditioned AFTER flushing with the CLEANING Solution. Dampers are designed to collect "stuff" in the ink. The change over procedure may cause some of this "stuff" to move within the system which is undesirable. So, changing the DAMPERS after the flushing is optimal.
    • If using CISS system, inspect, replace or recondition as necessary. A new CISS system removes any doubts.
  • Do nozzle checks with CLEANING Solution to ensure all nozzles are firing. Some find clear acetate sheets or a light colored copier paper may help you see the nozzles easier.
  • If everything is CLEANED properly, you can then introduce the new ink set.

Success of your change over is dependent upon your maintenance habits. In a "clean" or new system you should not have any issues with introducing the Image Armor Inks.

See below for general maintenance that should be followed to help reduce future issues, keeping you printing and making money.

We don't want anyone to have a bad experience, and following these bullet points will make the changeover easier and more pleasant.

GENERAL MAINTENANCE TIPS

Capping-Station-1200-pxMaintenance is key and needs to be performed on a regular basis - especially on the white ink. 

  • The most attention will need to be with the white ink deliver system from bottle/bag to printhead - the CMYK generally will NOT cause you issues. 
  • Good idea to put some CLEANING Solution in capping station at least every week. This will help keep this back end of your system operating correctly. Add about 5 cc's of fluid.
  • Clean the Wiper Blade - make sure it is clean! 
  • Dampers should be changed out, cleaned, back washed every 3-6 months. 
  • CISS Carts should be flushed and reconditioned or insert new carts. 
  • Buildup of ink on the print head surface must be removed. This "ring around the head" should be maintained weekly. Keep any buildup off the print head surface.

What Happens If I Don’t Cure the Ink Completely?

What-happens-when-dtg-inks-are-not-cured-correctly-on-polyester-fabric

Figure 1: After Washing: Properly cured ink and ink that wasn’t fully cured.

We wanted to show everyone how important it is to ensure that your DTG ink is properly cured. Figure 1 shows two different shirts with the same image printed. The garment is a 100% black polyester fabric with the Image Armor E-SERIES inks. This picture is after just one wash and dry cycle.

In this case we were testing hover curing and wanted to show exactly what happens with a properly cured in film and one that was only partially cured. The left shirt was hover cured much longer than the shirt on the right. As you can see, the partially cured ink caused ink failure after just the first wash. Uncured ink will not wash well. It will start to flake off and the image will degrade very quickly with subsequent washes.

Close-up-of-not-cured-ink-on-washed-polyester-fabric-and-peeling-off

Figure 2: This is a closeup of uncured ink that has been washed. The durability of uncured ink is greatly diminished and will result in almost instantaneous ink film failure when washed.

Figure 2 is a closeup of the under cured ink. Under cured ink does not have the wash characteristics of durability that properly cured ink produces.Typically with Image Armor inks you need to cure at 356F for 35 seconds on cotton and blended shirts. On polyester fabrics that time and temperature can possibly cause dye migration and a discoloration of the white ink from the dyes in the fabric. The ink can be cured at slightly lower temperatures, however the time under heat usually will increase with the amount of ink applied – it is a balance of getting the entire ink film to temperature (above 315F, removing the moisture – a balance of time and temperature – and to a point, pressure if a heat press is used).

 

The point of this article is to show you the tell tale signs of uncured or under cured ink. It is of the highest importance that you need to ensure that all moisture from the ink film is removed and the entire ink film reaches cure temperature. Make sure, especially if you are trying to print 100% black polyester fabrics, that you do your testing prior to running any production runs. Proper testing, printing, and washing on fabrics like black polyester will help bring your shop to the front edge of what is possible with DTG white ink printing.