There is much truth in the adage ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Simon DiNiro, systems sales specialist at Xpres, discusses the importance of preparation before you hit the print button on your DTG machine
Preparation is a key aspect of the DTG printing process, and there are different and distinct stages to prepping for a DTG print: maintaining the machine daily, pre-pressing the garment, pre-treating the garment when printing on to dark fabric, researching the fabric and its make-up, fine-tuning the settings and performing tests. All of these preparation steps are equally important and need to be completed to achieve top quality prints.
Maintaining a healthy machine
The maintenance of a DTG printer is simple, quick and easy as long as it’s performed regularly. The white ink used is thicker and heavier and can cause problems if the ink settles, making the machine’s tubes and components clog up. A daily clean is required to prevent this from happening.
The new Epson SureColor F-2100 DTG printer that’s available from Xpres has an automated daily clean that can be administered at the push of a button. A bi-weekly clean is also recommended to ensure that the automated cleaning runs smoothly. Keeping up with maintenance is essential for achieving the best possible DTG prints. This will also extend the longevity of the machine.
A pre-press will remove creases from the garment and give the printer a flat, even surface to print upon. Creases in the garment can affect the perceived height of the printer platen and in turn will affect the print quality. The key is to get the garment as close to the print head as possible without the head actually touching it. A pre-press is also important for extracting the moisture from the garment. Having a dry garment will help towards achieving quality DTG prints.
Pre-treatment is a vital step in the preparation process when printing onto dark garments. Pre-treatment liquid is a water-based solution that needs to be sprayed onto the area you wish to print on. White ink has been designed to adhere to the pre-treatment liquid whereas CMYK inks have been designed to adhere to 100% cotton or fabric with a high cotton content. White garments do not need to be pre-treated, however pre-treatment liquid and white ink can be used on light coloured garments to achieve more vibrant results.
The pre-treat liquid is not designed to last on the garment so if it is left for longer than 12 hours, you will need to pre-treat the garment again. It is designed only for the white ink to bite into so the white ink becomes stable on the garment and won’t wash off . The pre-treatment is then designed to deteriorate and wash off the garment in areas that have not been printed, leaving the garment feeling much softer after a 12-hour period or after the first wash.
If you have multiple garments to pretreat, the best method is to use a pretreat machine as this will give you more consistent prints. If you try and do too many at a time manually, you can start to get varied results in the coating. By using a pre-treat machine, all prints will look the same with good results.
Analyse the fabric
It is important always to know what material you are working with. DTG is predominantly designed for garments that are 100% cotton, however DTG inks will still adhere to garments with a cotton mix. The higher the cotton content, the more achievable vibrant, crisp prints will be. A low cotton content may lead the print to have a distressed or vintage look and feel. Analysing the material of your garment will stand you in good stead for the next step in the preparation process.
Fine-tune the settings
Print quality can be improved by using RIP software. The software tunes the finer details of the prints and vastly improves the colour output. Different garments will require distinct settings so it is important to adjust them accordingly. Quality and ink density settings will control the amount of ink laid down on the garment and also how fast or slow the printer will lay down the ink, which will affect the ink dot formation. Too much ink could result in colour bleeds, however not enough ink could cause the print to be faded.
It is important to make sure you’ve covered all the preparation aspects before you start production and test prints will allow you to verify this. Maybe the quality setting isn’t quite right if the test print looks faded or there may be a crease in the garment. In short, testing is vital in order to achieve quality DTG prints. DTG printers may vary, but the necessity for preparation should never be overlooked.
Failure to prepare really is preparing to fail!