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Ink Matters: Choosing the Right Ink for Screen Printing

In the vast world of screen printing, the ink you choose is paramount to the finished product's quality and longevity. Whether you're just starting out or managing a seasoned print shop, the type of ink you select can influence everything from color vibrancy to the environmental footprint of your business. With this quick guide, we'll highlight the key types of inks and steer you toward products that could elevate your screen printing game. 

Types of Screen Printing Inks

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to screen printing inks. Each printer and project may call for a specific type, each with its own attributes. Water-based inks and discharge inks are celebrated for producing soft and vivid prints while also being eco-conscious. Pigment concentrates offer intense colors and are often used to pigment water-based or discharge inks. On the other hand, plastisol inks are known for their versatility and the ability to sit on top of the fabric rather than soaking in, making them ideal for vibrant and opaque prints.

Ink Considerations for Screen Printers

Selecting the right ink involves more than just the color. You need to think about how the ink will interact with the project's fabric type, how it will hold up in the wash, and if it aligns with your values regarding environmental sustainability. Investing in inks that provide color vibrancy while being durable ensures that your prints last, keeping customers happy and coming back for more. 

Inks to Consider:

T-Charge RFU Waterbase and Discharge Ink Starter Kits

T-CHARGE is a great entry point for those looking to explore water-based and discharge inks, offering ease of use and a range of vibrant colors. For discharge applications, simply add ZFS D-Powder; alternatively, it can be used directly from the container as a water-based ink. Its versatility allows for mixing colors to achieve a wide spectrum of shades following CCI’s Color Matching System. The kit includes one quart or pint of each of the 14 RFU T-Charge Colors and 750 grams of ZFS D-Powder Discharge Activator, providing everything needed to get started.


D-FLO® Tangerine Water-Based Discharge Ink

D-FLO® Tangerine stands out as a top choice for printing on dark garments, offering a soft hand feel without sacrificing color vibrancy and intensity. This fluorescent discharge ink is perfect for 100% discharged fabrics, ensuring an ultra-soft texture. D-Flo inks shine brightly under black light, producing eye-catching fluorescent colors. They are versatile, compatible with various ink systems to create diverse effects. Thanks to its excellent rheology and flow properties, D-Flo supports high mesh counts, enabling very fine image detail and a smoother finish.


CMS Rhodamine Red Pigment Concentrate

CMS Rhodamine Red is a versatile water-based Color Mixing System ink, offering vibrant and accurate color matches for a range of applications. Specifically formulated for compatibility with water-based ink systems, this product works seamlessly with both water-based discharge and standard water-based ink systems. Utilizing CMS ensures the production of bright, vivid colors that maintain an incredibly soft feel, especially when used in conjunction with CCI's D-Base or W-Base. Notably, when applied to white 100% cotton fabrics, the cost per print is more economical than using plastisol inks. This PVC-free pigment system is ideal for 100% cotton fabrics, allowing for the creation of striking pinks, purples, and reds. By mixing this concentrate with water-based or discharge inks, you can customize your color formulations to bring your creative vision to life.


EnviroLine® D-White Discharge Ink

EnviroLine® D-White Discharge Ink  stands out for its lightweight consistency and exceptional coverage on darker fabrics, while also being eco-friendly due to its PVC and phthalate-free formulation. This bright white water-based discharge ink is perfect for fabrics that require a soft hand feel post-discharge. EnviroLine® D-White is versatile, serving both as a highlight white or in combination with pigments for varied color applications. It's compatible with other ink systems, allowing for the creation of diverse effects. Thanks to its optimal rheology and flow properties, EnviroLine® D-White supports printing with high mesh counts, ensuring sharp image detail and a smoother finish.


L.T.C. Metallic Gold Plastisol Ink

For projects demanding vibrant colors that make a statement, this ink is your go-to for a bold and lasting impression on any textile. L.T.C. Metallic Gold, a multi-purpose plastisol ink, cures at low temperatures, blending efficiency with quality. Its smooth, creamy texture ensures seamless printing without hassles. Designed for optimal performance, it delivers a matte finish and a soft feel while minimizing screen build-up. It can be cured at temperatures as low as 270°F (132°C), making it a practical choice for a wide range of applications.

By exploring these products, screen printers can find the perfect ink to match their needs, from personal projects to client commissions.

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Tips for Saving Money on Your Screen Printing Projects

For small business owners, screen printing is a versatile and cost-effective way to produce customizable marketing materials and branded merchandise. However, saving money on these projects can be a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy bottom line. We’re here to help you make savvy decisions that stretch your budget without compromising on quality. Here are some tips to tighten the purse strings without sacrificing your brand's aesthetics or the effectiveness of your printed materials.

 

Choosing the Right Materials

Selecting the best materials for your screen printing project is a delicate balance between quality and cost. While it's tempting to opt for the cheapest options available, poor-quality materials can lead to higher failure rates and the need for reprints, ultimately costing you more money. Bulk purchasing not only reduces the unit cost of each item but also ensures you have enough inventory to meet your needs without the added cost of rush orders.

 

Optimizing Design and Colors

Complex designs with many colors can significantly increase the cost of your screen printing project. Simplifying your design and using a limited color palette can save you money. Remember, sometimes less is more, and a clean, straightforward design can be more impactful than a cluttered one.

 

Maximizing Printing Efficiency

Print only what you need and avoid wasting materials by ensuring your file preparation is precise. This involves setting print dimensions correctly and using high-resolution images to reduce potential misprints. Additionally, organizing your printing jobs into batches can increase efficiency, as you can use the same screen and setup for multiple jobs.

 

Maintenance and Care of Equipment

Proper care and regular maintenance of your screen printing equipment are essential. Neglecting this can lead to costly repairs and even replacements. Establish a routine for cleaning your screens and squeegees, and lubricate your machine parts regularly to ensure a longer lifespan for your equipment. Consider Arena Prints for your cleaning needs like the AlbaChem Screen Opener (For Water-Based Inks) or the Camie 480 Screen Opener (For Plastisol Inks).

 

Seeking Professional Advice and Negotiating

When in doubt, ask for professional advice. Experts can offer valuable insights into the best practices and new technologies that can help you save money. Additionally, don’t shy away from negotiating with your suppliers to get the best deals on materials and services.

 

By following these tips, small business owners can trim expenses on screen printing projects and keep their marketing and merchandising campaigns right on budget. For more on affordable and high-quality screen printing services, visit Arena Prints.

The Exciting Growth of the Custom T-Shirt Printing Industry

There’s never been a better time to own a custom t-shirt business than 2024. If you’re new to screen printing or you’ve been building your business for years now, you’ll be happy to learn that the outlook for the industry is quite rosy. Continue reading below as we highlight some exciting reports about the projected growth of the industry and what you can expect in the coming years. 

 

Expected Industry Growth

In a recent report done by Precedence Research, the global custom t-shirt printing market is expected to reach a market value of $14.81 billion by 2032, representing a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.27% from 2023 to 2033.  

Though this report covers the custom t-shirt market in general, the report writers make note that screen printing held the highest revenue share of the market at the time of writing. 

 

What Trends Are Causing the Growth?

Depending on who you ask, the growing demand for custom t-shirts is being spurred on by a few factors. For starters, the writers of the Precedence Research report point to a growing sports industry as a possible catalyst for this positive outlook. 

Others find that custom apparel is more popular with the younger generation, whose buying power is steadily increasing as they age. One of the possible explanations for this is that this demographic is looking for custom clothing to stand out from their peers, offering them a unique way to show off their style and personality. It also helps them showcase support and awareness for social issues, which is much more common today than in previous decades. 

 

Tips for Taking Advantage of This Market Growth

There is no doubt that the screen printing industry will continue to grow over the coming decade. However, to take advantage of this positive momentum, screen printers should make some strategic moves to stand out to consumers and capture market share. 

 

Get Online

As a sales channel, the online marketplace for custom t-shirts will likely dominate over the coming decade. Though brick-and-mortar shops are still successful in many markets, running an online shop allows you to reach a larger audience rather than being limited to your geographical location. 

 

Partner with Artists

According to the Precedence Research report, the fastest-growing design segment for custom t-shirts is artwork. If you are not an artist yourself, consider partnering with a local artist to produce t-shirts using their designs. Not only will this help the artist reach a broader audience, but it can also help you offer fresh designs that your customers are looking for. 

 

Invest in Your Tools

As the industry grows, you need to keep your skills sharp in order to maintain your position in the market and stay relevant to modern consumers. To stay at the top of your game, make sure to invest in quality tools, machines, and systems that can help you work efficiently and produce quality prints. As a result, you can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty, providing sustainable growth for your business. 

How to Sell Custom Screen Printed Apparel

Starting your custom screen printing apparel shop gives you an exciting opportunity to flex your creativity and technical skills while exploring a lucrative career path. But, when it comes to knowing how and where to sell your apparel, you can be left with many questions as you navigate the early stages of your business. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the most common channels where you can sell your custom screen-printed apparel. 

 

Launch an E-commerce Store

Today, a large portion of business takes place online. So, having an e-commerce store is essential for reaching a wider audience and maximizing your sales potential. This allows you to sell to customers around the country or even the world, not just those located in your area. 

You can use platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce to easily set up an online store and showcase your custom apparel products. Take clear, professional-looking photos of your products, and make your website optimized for mobile to enhance the customer shopping experience. 

 

Open a Physical Shop

If you prefer a more traditional approach, you might consider opening up a brick-and-mortar shop. This is an excellent way to attract local customers and gain the support of your community. Plus, visitors to your shop will be able to see and feel your wonderful creations in person before making a purchase. 

Look for a location with good foot traffic and an affordable lease if your current workshop wouldn’t be feasible as a storefront. You might even want to offer additional services or promotional events like on-site customization or workshops to attract customers to your store. 

 

Use Third-Party Marketplaces

Another option for selling your custom screen-printed apparel is to list your products on a third-party marketplace like Amazon, Redbubble, or Etsy. 

These platforms are designed to help creators sell their products and already have a large customer base visiting their sites each day. So, this makes it easier for you to reach potential buyers from the get-go. But, be aware that you may have to pay fees or commissions to the site for using their services. 

 

Partner with Local Retailers

Collaborating with local retailers or boutiques can help you expand your reach and access new customer demographics without having to lease a storefront on your own. Reach out to stores that align with your brand aesthetic and values, and propose a partnership where they sell your custom apparel in their shops. 

This arrangement can be a win-win situation, as it allows you to reach customers who may not have discovered your apparel otherwise while providing retailers with unique, locally-made products to offer their customers. 

 

Sell on Social Media

Lastly, you can leverage popular social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. All of these platforms offer powerful tools for promoting and selling your custom screen-printed apparel directly to your audience. 

You can show off your creativity through this channel by creating engaging content showcasing your products. Plus, you can use features like Instagram Shopping or Facebook Marketplace to make it easy for customers to make their purchases right from their social media accounts. If you want to take your marketing one step further, you can use influencer partnerships and user-generated content to expand your reach and build brand awareness. 

Screen Printing Trade Show Events to Attend in 2024

One of the best ways to stay on top of industry trends, familiarize yourself with emerging technologies in the field, and network with other screen printing professionals and vendors is to attend trade shows. Taking a look at the year ahead, there are many screen printing trade show events being held that you might want to check out. 

 

Decorated Apparel Expo (DAX)

 

What: Created for the embroidery, digital garment decorating and screen printing industries, the Decorated Apparel Expo provides attendees with access to the latest equipment and techniques, supplier networking, industry experts, and more. You can even score free registration if you register before a certain deadline, which varies depending on your desired location. 


Where: Kansas City, MO; Treasure Island, MN; Tinley Park, IL


When: February 23-24, 2024 (MO); March 15-16, 2024 (MN); April 19-20, 2024 (IL)


Registration Link: 


https://www.daxshow.com/index.php?shownumber=63 (Kansas City)


https://www.daxshow.com/index.php?shownumber=64 (Treasure Island)


https://www.daxshow.com/index.php?shownumber=67 (Tinley Park)


Graphics Pro Expo

 

What: Held in five different locations across the US this year, the Graphics Pro Expo is an affordable three day conference built around education, access, and community for the industry. Professionals from various categories will be in attendance, including apparel decorating. Aside from learning new category-specific techniques and skills, attendees can learn how to build their businesses and explore new profit centers. 


Where: Irving, TX; Long Beach, CA; Greater Philadelphia (Oaks), PA; Indianapolis, IN; Charlotte, NC


When: March 7-9, 2024 (TX); June 13-15, 2024 (CA); July 10-12, 2024 (PA); October 3-5, 2024 (IN); November 7-9, 2024 (NC)


Registration Links: 


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/irving-2024/register/ (Irving)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/long-beach-2024/ (Long Beach)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/philadelphia-2024/ (Greater Philadelphia (Oaks)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/indianapolis-2024/ (Indianapolis)


https://www.graphics-pro-expo.com/event/charlotte-2024/ (Charlotte)


Impressions Expo

 

What: A regional trade show created for the decorated apparel industry, attendees will be introduced to new products, networking opportunities, and educational sessions to help them adapt for the changing landscape of the industry. From curated workshops and seminars to keynote speeches, the Impressions Expo agenda is designed to provide you with actionable insights and access to top exhibitors in the space. 


Where: Atlantic City, NJ and Fort Worth, TX


When: March 21-23, 2024 (NJ) and October 24-26, 2024 (TX)


Registration Links: 


https://impressionsexpo.com/atlanticcity/show/pricing/ (Atlantic City)


https://impressionsexpo.com/fortworth/show/pricing/ (Fort Worth)


Printing United Expo

 

What: A comprehensive conference for the entire print industry, with exhibits, demos, and education for each community within the industry. Tens of thousands of attendees will be present at the Printing United Expo, spanning categories like graphic installers, labels and packaging, apparel decoration, and more. Attendees can make connections with industry peers, check out new products, try out emerging technologies, and listen to notable keynote speakers


Where: Las Vegas, NV


When: September 10-12, 2024


Registration Link: 


https://www.printingunited.com/attend/register/ 



2024 Screen Printing Trends: What You Need to Know

2024 is in full swing, and if you want to take this year by storm and know what’s in and what’s out for the screen printing industry this year, we have you covered. As you continue reading below, we’ll talk about some of the hottest trends taking off in the screen printing space in 2024 and provide you with helpful tips to implement them into your own business. 

Greater Focus on Sustainability

One trend that we anticipate will only become more and more popular as the years progress is a greater focus on using sustainable practices in screen printing. This might include using recycled substrates, eco-friendly inks, and reducing your water consumption to start going green. 

You don’t have to completely overhaul your entire operations in 2024 in the name of sustainability. Instead, make small changes here and there to help you implement more long-lasting practices that you can stick with. 

Leveraging Social Media

In 2024, the integration of digital technologies will impact all industries, including screen printing. As your screen printing business evolves for the digital age, social media will likely become a more useful tool to help market your printed products. 

If you haven’t started using social media already to promote your business, let 2024 be the year you start! There are many advantages to leveraging social media to grow your printing business, and it doesn’t have to take up too much of your time each week. 

You can start by uploading behind-the-scenes footage of you creating your prints, or posting photos of new items for sale in your shop! You can ramp up your interactions online as you become more comfortable with using social media. 

Revival in Retro-Style Graphic Tees

It seems like each year, a different decade from the 20th century becomes a fashion inspiration for the year–and 2024 will likely be no different. This year, we’ll likely see many screen printers take advantage of the retro revival once again, this time focusing on graphic tees that were largely popular in the 90s. 

If you want to try this nostalgic trend out in your own shop, consider incorporating vibrant ink colors, retro typography, bold patterns, and 90s pop-culture-influenced prints that customers of all ages can get excited about.  

Growing Interest in Artisanal Items

Artisanal or handmade goods are becoming more popular with consumers lately, with the global handmade market expecting a CAGR of 4.7% from now until 2030. While the projected growth for these items looks promising over the rest of the decade, there’s no need to hesitate, and many screen printers plan on exploring this avenue in 2024.

While screen-printed items could already be considered handmade, a growing number of consumers are looking for more unique and locally-made items rather than mass-produced goods that anyone in any location could find. Screen printers looking to take advantage of this trend in 2024 may want to focus on creating unique, smaller batched prints on locally sourced garments or substrates to give their items an authentic and artisanal feel.