'Simulated process' is the process of breaking down an image and making it look like it was printed using four color process - but without the use of the process colors, and not limited to a specific number of colors. It would usually be a raster image, meaning it was created or broken down in Photoshop or a similar program and is made up of pixels which would later be output using halftones.
Simulated process printing is usually associated with printing on black or dark colored garments. It could - and should - be used for all colors because, unlike four color process, it is very forgiving and since many customers are not sure what color garments they want a job printed on, this would allow for choices to be made without a problem if designed correctly.
'Designing correctly' means designing for a black garment. If you design for black shirts, you only have to add in a black color screen when printing on other colors. Should you design for light colors, you’ll have to lay down a solid underlay to print the colors on and you will be forced to print a black screen, even on a black shirt. In order to design properly, design on a black background and not a white one.
Here are a few of the design elements to consider:
1-Make sure the image has lots of contrast by having light come from a single point rather than straight forward. Exaggerate the black areas.
2-The shadow areas should have lots of black in them so the black of the garment and the design are integrated.
3-Your computer screen should be black when designing and not white.
4-Don’t worry about being anatomically correct with your shadow areas, this is for a tee shirt and not an anatomy book.
This article will address several ways an image can be used if designed properly for a dark garment, simply meaning, lots of contrast and able to print on a black garment without the use of black ink.
I am working with John McGee of Airship Printing in Castle Rock, Colorado. We started out with a separated image produced by Great Dane Graphics and sold on their website that is able to print on garments from white to black and all colors in between, but we had a problem. In order to work on all colors of shirts, it required the use of seven colors. Only having a six color press available, we had to go in and make a few adjustments. We opened the image in Photoshop and took the green separation and added it to the blue and yellow separations so we would get green when we printed the image. Although the green would not match the color of the original green, in this instance, it wouldn’t matter. And, although we would be printing with opaque inks, they would blend together and create a green anyway.
Once we eliminated the green separation, we printed out the separations using a 45 lpi, 61 degree angle and elliptical dot for all the colors. Films were done and set up on the exposure unit. Newman Roller Frames were used. Screen tensions were all at 35 N/cm using a dual exposing emulsion.
The mesh count used for the white underlay was 156/64 and 230/48 for all the other colors. There is quite a bit of work being done using mesh counts with thinner thread diameters such as 150/48 and 225/40 with great results. The tension for these mesh counts is between 17-23 N/cm. It is very important not to use excessive pressure when printing the thinner threads as they are not as strong as the thicker ones. They do allow the ink to pass through easily with a single pass so the ink sits on top of the garment giving vibrant colors and a strong white underlay. A single pass will also add speed to production and clarity to the image.
|Put the white underlay into the press, center the image and add ink.|
|Spray adhesive on the pallet and load the garment to be used for registration.
Although spray adhesives are the most popular, they create a mess. Many printers are going over to liquid adhesives which cost less and don’t create a mess.
|The hardness and sharpness of the squeegee is critical. A hard flood stroke loads the screen.
For my white underlay, I like to use a 55/90/55 squeegee made by Serilor. The soft outside allows the edge to collapse a bit and lay down a good amount of ink, and the harder center allows for some pressure without the squeegee folding over and printing on its side. The squeegee should always be sharp and straight.
For my other colors, I use a 65/90/65 squeegee on an automatic press with just enough pressure to clear the screen on one pass. On a manual press, I use a 70 durometer squeegee. All squeegees should be sharp and straight.
A hard flood stroke will help load up the image area making it easier to clear with the print stroke and possibly reducing the number of strokes needed to get a good underlay. Remember, the underlay does not have to be very bright, but does need to show all the detail to be held. A double stroke will make the underlay brighter, but detail may be lost in the process making for a vibrant, but flat looking print.
|Pushing the squeegee for the print stroke.||The underlay should look like a good one color print.|
By leaning forward and pushing instead of pulling the squeegee, your body will do the work instead of your arms and you will not need as much force to get the ink through the screen.
Flood and print, then check the registration. If the registration is off, wipe and print again - Repeat until perfect. Do this for all the colors. The color order we used for printing was dictated by Separation Studio, the software that was used to separate the colors in the design. By using a clear cover over the underlay, we only needed one garment for the set-up.
Once all screens are registered, put on a fresh garment and do a test print. Usually, the first print isn’t very strong because as each color is being printed, the next screen is picking off some of the ink and makes the colors on the first print look like they were washed out. What I like to do is multiple strokes, four to six per color to get a build-up on the bottom of the screens so there is enough of a build-up that the ink being printed won’t be pulled off by the subsequent screens.
|Print the underlay. Use two strokes on a manual, one stroke should be fine on an auto. Flash, then print all the rest of the colors wet on wet. Do not flash after the underlay.|
|In this case, we tested out a variety of color orders to get the best results as the original one was not working well because we eliminated a color and are allowing two colors to blend and create the color we need.|
|Printing on black shirts only requires five screens, as does printing on white shirts. Colored shirts require a black screen as well as a white screen to get the complete design printed. White shirts do not use the underlay and black shirts do not use the black screen.|
|After printing, this is what the bottom of the 'highlight white screen' looks like with all the inks on it. It should look like a good print done backwards with all colors and detail.|
Printing on Colors Other Than Black
Printing on ash or any garment other than black or white requires one additional screen: White. As before, begin by printing the underbase, flash, then you will see we printed blue followed by the red. As we worked, we discovered that the color order needed to be changed to get the desired results. Although the software lists the black following white but after the flash, in this case, printing it after the yellow gave the best results and the best blend for making the green. The highlight white adds the dimension to the print. The other way to print on any color other than black is to print the black first then the highlight white without a flash. The production is better and the finished print is different than the one with the underlay printed. Once done, the print is ready to go through the dryer.
Now the question is, suppose your client doesn’t want to spend what it costs to do a five of six color job, what can you do that will separate you from what most other printers do, which is create a one or two color vector job that every printer in the world can do? Remember, a well designed artwork for a black shirt should have an underlay that looks like a great one color job, so show it that way! You might also print the black only on any color shirt other than black and show that.
Creativity is always important and offering options will get you jobs that you might otherwise miss out on. Get creative!
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