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Printing Pantone Colors On White Underlays

Posted by George Kilian on April 13, 2017 2:05:16 PM CDT

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When you say red, you could mean any number of a gazillion shades. When you say red 485c, you mean one very specifc shade. Pantone® colors are used to select and accurately communicate color in a variety of industries. Every good screen print company uses an ink mixing system that corresponds with the Pantone® Matching System. However, despite the exact nature of Pantone® colors, what you see is not always what you will get when it comes to textile screen printing.

Under Bases - The Canvas for Your Design

Screen printing on dark or colored garments requires an under base so the ink can be seen. An under base is a layer of white ink printed before the design colors are printed. Without an under base, ink colors are absorbed by the garment or noticeably altered by the garment color.

Under base printing has not been around forever. Back in the 80's when I was printing in my basement we tried to use high-opacity inks straight from the can through low mesh counts and hoped that would be acceptable.

Some Pantone® colors can be printed with no under base. Depending on the color of the garment and the ink color, the Pantone® may remain true. In most cases, however, the garment color will affect the ink color. All screen printing inks have a degree of transparency. A white under base has a tendency to lighten the ink printed over it. The more transparent an ink color is, the more it will lighten on an under base.

Experimenting With Transparency Makes Perfect


Middle to dark blues and purples are particularly transparent. Process colors and fluorescent colors are also very transparent. These inks can lighten up to a full shade from the target Pantone® colors. In some cases, your decorator may select a shade darker and it will lighten up to near the target shade. If these very transparent colors are part of a logo or brand identity, this is when you screen printer gets to work with some research and development along with some swatching. Once the color is approved for under base printing, a good printer will modify your records so next time around everything is ready to go. 

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George Kilian

Written by George Kilian