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Table of Contents

Art Terms

Terms Related To Art & Art Files For Customizing Apparel

Art Requirements: Guidelines that specify what types of art can be used for decoration and how to format digital files for use for screen printing.

Butt-To-Butt Registration: When colors in a design line up exactly next to each other with no space in between and no overlap.

Color Separation: The process of breaking down a digital art file, image or photo into 14 or fewer colors that can be used to screen printing.

Digitizing: Process for converting digital images or logos into a map of stitches. The digitized file is uploaded to the embroidery machine to provide instructions for location of stitches and thread color.

Film Positive: Used to burn a stencil onto a screen for printing, the film positive is created by printing black ink on a clear plastic surface. Each design has one film positive per color.

Gradient: When screen printers talk about gradients, we are referring to a series of halftones created when a digital graphic transitions from a darker to lighter shade. These gradients can be layered to create printed blends when transitioning from one color to another.

Halftone: Halftones are dots or ellipses used to create lighter shades of a print color without changing the actual ink color to something lighter. Smaller dots spaced farther apart, create a lighter shade. Larger dots spaced closer create a darker shade. 

Line Count: Line count refers to the number of vertical lines of halftone spots per inch or lines per inch. Line counts are measured in lpi (lines per inch) and/or dpi (dots per inch). Most shops will use anywhere from 45 lpi to 85 lpi depending on the desired affect. Higher line counts can hold more detail, but tend to print with less saturation than lower line counts.

Loose Registration: When colors in a logo or design to not have to line up next to each other. Any of the colors can overlap or fall in the vicinity of a designated area without having to be exact.

Raster Art: Digital art composed of pixels (as opposed to paths) is a raster file. Raster files for screen print are best created in Adobe Photoshop at a minimum resolution of 150 dpi at print size.

Resolution: Resolution refers to the quality and clarity of raster art files. The higher the resolution, the cleaner and more clearly a print can be produced. Resolution is measured in dpi (dots per inch), ppi (pixels per inch), or lpi (lines per inch).

Up-Sampling: Up-sampling is taking a piece of low resolution digital art and merely re-assigning the dpi value to a higher resolution. This does not actually increase the size or quality of the image. Low resolution art files must be completely redrawn or created in an acceptable file type for use in screen printing.

Vector Art: Vector, in the screen print industry, refers to a type of digital file that is acceptable for use. The images are created using paths instead of pixels. Pixels are used in raster files. 


Screenprinting Terms

Terms Related To Screen Print Production

Cure: The process of setting screen printing inks used on apparel, so garments the garments can be washed without removing the design. Garments printed with either plastisol or water-based inks must be cured before washing.

Discharge Ink: Also called Discharge. A water-based ink developed for dark garments. Mixed with an activator, it bleaches the fabric threads while depositing pigment. Garments must be 100% cotton to discharge properly. It's important to note that discharge ink has a different look than standard plastisol screen printing ink. Not all designs will print well using discharge ink.

Dot Gain: When ink is pushed through a screen stencil using halftone dots, the ink spreads making each dot slightly larger. The amount of increase is referred to as dot gain. Water-based inks have more dot gain than plastisol inks.

Durometer: Durometer refers to the hardness of a squeegee used for screen printing. In general the higher the number, the harder the plastic that makes the squeegee. Softer squeegees assist in applying more screen print ink, whereas harder squeegees deposit a lighter layer of ink and are often used to assist in capturing detail and lower halftones.

Dye Migration: Dye migration is when the dye from a garment contaminates the screen print ink color causing the print color to appear tinted. Dye migration is most likely on poly-blends and 100% polyester garments.

Hand: Hand refers to the tactile nature of a print. A print with soft hand is more flexible, less noticeable, and softer than a standard print.

Mesh: Is the finely woven fabric that is stretched over a frame to create the screen used in screen printing.

Mesh Count: Mesh count refers to the frequency of threads per inch making up the fabric for screen print. Higher mesh counts hold more detail with less ink application. Lower mesh counts can hold less detail, but typically produce better coverage.

Pallet: Also referred to as tables, a pallet is the flat surface onto which a t-shirt or article of clothing is loaded for screen printing.

Pallet Mark: A light spray adhesive is used to stabilize a t-shirt or article of clothing on a screen print table or pallet. The adhesive is referred to as tack or spray tack. Sometimes the tack will leave a slight residue that causes the t-shirt to appear slightly discolored. The discoloration is called a pallet mark because it is in the shape of the pallet. The spray tack is water soluble and disappears upon washing.

PC: PC stands for pigment concentrate. Pigment concentrate combinations are measured out by gram and mixed with a base to create Pantone ink colors used for screen printing.

Phthalates: Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity). They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride. Phthalates are being phased out of many products in the United States, Canada, and European Union over health concerns.

Pin Hole: A pin hole is a teeny hole - the size of a pin head - in a stencil on a screen for print. These pin holes allow ink to pass through the stencil printing small dots on a garment in unwanted areas.

Plastisol Ink: Plastisol is a type of screen printing ink that is not water-soluble. The ink is composed of PVC particles suspended in a plasticizing emulsion, and will not dry unless exposed to high temperatures for a given period of time.

PVC Free Ink: PVC free ink has been formulated without toxic phthalate plasticizers.

Squeegee: The squeegee is the piece of equipment that moves ink across the screen. It is composed of two parts. Part one is a rectangular piece of rubber. The rubber used is specially manufactured for screen printing and can have varying degrees of flexibility notated by durometer. Part two is a handle or casing that holds the rubber. 

Table: Shirts are loaded onto a flat surface that moves around the press stopping at each color station for printing. The pallet we pull the shirt over is often referred to as a table.

Tack (Spray Tack): A light adhesive is sprayed on the press pallet to stabilize the t-shirt and keep it from lifting up in the printing process. This adhesive is often referred to as tack or spray tack. Although a residue may be left in the shirt, the tack is water soluble and comes out easily when washed.

Underbase (White Underbase): When printing on dark colored garments, a layer of white ink must be printed first, so the actual logo or design print colors are visible. The under base is also commonly referred to as underlay, white underlay, flash white, or simply base white.

Water-Based Ink: Water-based inks are defined as those that utilize water as the main solvent. That does not mean, however that water is the only solvent. It is significant to note that many water base inks contain “co-solvents” which may even be petroleum based solvents. The reason these co-solvents are used varies, but one of the key reasons is to decrease the time and heat necessary to cure the ink film on the fabric. Water-based has a different aesthetic than standard plastisol inks. Be sure to discuss limitations of water-based printing with a screen print artist or custom service representative.

Wet-On-Wet: Wet-on-wet is the screen print technique eliminating a flash cure on press. Wet-On-Wet printing technique is used for color blending of simulated process prints. For simpler design and spot color designs, the under base is flashed to cure inline on press. 


Embroidery Terms

Terms Related To Embroidery Production

Backing: Stiff fabric applied to the inside of the garment to keep the embroidery stitches stable through embroidery, wear, and wash.

Cut-Away Backing: Cut away backing is used on softer materials that we embroider. This type of backing eliminates the tendency of a fabric to pull away from the embroidered logo when using tear away backing. 

Fabric Backing: Fabric backing is silky, super light and barely visible on even the most fragile materials.

Solvy Topping: Solvy is used to create a smooth foundation for embroidering custom designs. It is applied on the top or outside of the garment and is covered by the embroidered design. Solvy is primarily used on high pile fabrics (fleece, hoodies, towels) to help the stitches stay visible and avoid the embroidered design becoming lost in the fabric.

Tear Away Backing: Tear away is the most common type of backing used. It is the quickest and easiest to remove for the most common types of embroidered garments ordered by our customer. Tear away backing is used on the sturdy, strong fabrics such as caps, dress shirts, back packs etc.


Direct-To-Garment Printing Terms

Terms Related To Digital Print Production

Pre-Treat: Pre-treat is a nontoxic primer used in digital printing on dark garments. Pre-treat helps bond the white underbase ink to the garment’s fabric fiber. 

Order Processing Terms

General Terms For All Decoration Methods

RA or RA Number: A return authorization number is a unique number that companies issue to authorize the return of an item if it is defective or not needed.

Set Up: The process of preparing an order for a production run. The screens are set up once to run 500 shirts. Volume pricing is based on one set up.

Spoilage: A wastage or loss of material that is considered acceptable during the manufacturing process.

The Best Of Company Apparel Articles

In this guide we’ve compiled some of this year's most popular articles, all related to business apparel and branding. A variety of educational topics & tips that will keep you updated and in the know.

  • Tips and best practices when printing apparel for your business
  • How to choose uniforms for your business & employees
  • Important tips related to design and artwork for your company apparel

Simply, fill out the form on the right to download the guide.


Top Articles on Custom Company Apparel