Continuing our ‘Anatomy of a decoration’ series, this month Lon Winters, founder and president of the Graphic Elephants print shop in Colorado, US, breaks down how he created this 2018 SGIA Expo T-shirt. 

(1) The concept needed to tell a story that illustrated the SGIA Expo transitioning into the new, bigger, better and stronger Printing United trade show [launching next October in Dallas] and journeying from Las Vegas [the venue for SGIA 2018] to Dallas via the iconic Route 66. We worked from several photos of vintage Cadillacs, the ‘old school‘ Las Vegas Strip and new Dallas skylines to create a classic feel. The enormous fins were outfitted with the respective cities‘ reflections. The car ends up being a 59, 60, 61 automobile. It sounds like a Johnny Cash song!

(2) We added a non-traditional gold foil application on the SGIA in the licence plate for the final bling thing. The HD clear we used for some of the texture in the image also acted as an adhesive for the foil. At the end of the dryer belt, the HD clear is hot and sticky – with proper timing, we could hand apply foil with a burnisher during production. Because it is elevated using a 400u stencil, minimal pressure is needed and the foil can be registered without it sticking to any other parts of the image.

(3) We went with 85 lpi at 22.5° for maximum detail. The final print almost looks continuous in tone. It was output using computer-to-screen (we used an M&R I Image STE) and resolved all the way down to 1% on superior dual-cure emulsion on screen for super smooth transitions.

(4) Screens were 205 to 380 tpi (80 to 150 tpcm) stretched a 40+ N/cm2, and minimal off-contact and squeegee pressure were used. Triple ply, dual durometer squeegees were used (55/9055, 65/90/65 and 75/90/75) as they allow for a soft edge, but a stiff backer.

(5) It’s always about making it special. The hand-feel and drape are ultra soft and we added a subtle HD clear over selected areas, including some of the city lights, car mirrors and tail lights, to give the wearer something to touch and feel.

(6) This design utilised two separate white printer or base plates – a soft, detailed base and a hard base – to really dial in the fine transitions and opacity with nice contrasts all at the same time.

(7) We printed on black and used the garment rather than burying it. No black ink was printed.

(8) The image was created with a combination of traditional and digital mediums. The initial design was constructed in pencil and rendered and painted with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

(9) The design was screen printed on an M&R Gauntlet press, using Wilflex plastisol inks.

(10) Bigger is always better. This design measures 16” x 22” for an ‘in-your-face print’.