Small lettering in embroidery – This can be one of the most difficult tasks – just like embroidering/decorating different garments. We need to understand the properties of garments, backings, thread, needle, digitizing, etc. etc. One major part of embroidery that we have to understand is what the thread / needle relationship is. Needles are round and they penetrate fabric – or they separate fibers of fabric. Thread is also 3 dimensional in that it is twisted and is also round. It must work directly with the needle to make the stitch. So, when using these items for smaller/detailed work, it is helpful to work with smaller threads and needles – this helps by creating a smaller hole in the fabric and also decreases the bulk of the thread in such a small area. Using a smaller needle such as a 65/9 with a 60 weight thread can absolutely change the look of your small detailed work.
Proper Shirts for Direct-to-Garment Printing – What comes as a surprise to many current decorators who add direct-to-garment to their offerings, is that some of the popular and common brands they’re already using may not be ideal for DTG printing. But with the growth of this form of decoration, more and more manufacturers are creating garments specifically for DTG printing.
Your first choice for a superior print will be ring spun combed cotton. Physically, the garment needs to have a tight weave and a smooth surface. A smooth surface will give you the opportunity to produce the very fine detail attainable through the direct-to-garment process.
Blended fabrics can be printed, but the higher cotton content the better your finished print result. In sweatshirts, a 90% cotton/10% polyester, or an 80/20 blend will print perfectly fine with a bright, crisp image. The closer you get to a 50/50 blend, the more you will lose brightness and wash-ability of the printed image.
Weeding Heat Transfer Vinyl – Weeding vinyl can be a very difficult and cumbersome job. It does take some patience and the best weeders out there take their time and do it right. There are a couple of things you can do to make the job of weeding easier. First try to use as product on the has a sticky backing to it incase you do accidentally pull up the wrong section you don’t have to start over. Next make sure your cutter’s blade is in good shape and the cutting strip is not damaged. This will help you get the precise cut you need to quickly tear away big sections. Lastly use a little heat to open up the cuts a bit and make it separate better. I often use the top of my heat press or if you do a lot of weeding you should think about getting a light table that gets warm. This also help you see the cut lines.
Artwork for Direct-to-Garment – Artwork from our customers is the most difficult area for most operators. Customers tend to provide very low resolution files and often from non-art programs such as Microsoft Word. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of asking the customer for the proper artwork, since most of our customers do not know exactly what we need from them to print the best graphic.
What we want is a 300dpi file saved at the full size it will be printed on the shirt. Many customers will want to give us jpg files since that is a common way to save information, but a jpg limits our ability to manipulate the file if necessary. Ideally we want our customer to provide us with a png, psd or eps file, saved with a transparent background.
Best File Format for Sublimation – You can use any of the common file formats with you graphic application. Common ones are .jpg, .tiff, .pdf, .eps, .cdr, .ai, etc. If you are using a RIP then those programs have certain formats that work best. It is best to use Adobe 1998 RGB color space in your graphics application because it has the largest color gamut. Most digital cameras use SRGB colors so it is best to convert those files to Adobe 1998 RGB in your graphics application. The best resolution to use is 150 dpi at 100% of final size. Anything that is higher in resolution is a waste of memory. Anything that is lower in resolution your will risk poor quality images.
Spend Some Time Outside the Office to Build Your Business – I work from home, but that’s not what I’m talking about here as my tip. I’m talking about as a business owner/manager you spending a part of your work week away from the office.
When I was managing large production operations, at least once per week I would be at my home desk by 7:00 a.m. and then off to the regular office by noon. I accomplished more projects and long range planning during this block of time than during any full day the rest of the week.
The cost to me for this time out of the office was a few more phone messages on my desk when I arrived. Otherwise, the company continued to function in my brief absence. In fact, people were forced to make decisions and come to their own conclusions, which made each of them better employees, supervisors, and decision makers.
If you tell me, “I could never do that. This place cannot function for even half a day without me,” then I’m going to tell you that you’re doing this thing wrong. Managing isn’t doing all the work or making all the decisions. Managing is empowering your staff and spending your own time building your business. (That may have to be your 1st project to work on at home.)
How do I know the sublimated color is going to be correct without using an expensive blank to test? – As we sublimation producers all know, the image on the printed paper never looks as good as the final transfer. Sometimes you have a project where you have a limited amount of blanks to try or you just do not want to ruin an expensive one. Here is a good way to see if your colors are going to be what you want without wasting anything. Print your file as you normally would then take that paper image and place the image side to a blank piece of paper. Next press the two together in your heat press for about five seconds. Remove the blank sheet, and now your transfer image has brightened up, giving you a good idea of what the final product will look like. The best thing is you can still use the transfer after the color test.
The Four Day Workweek – On my own production floor, the four consecutive 10-hour day workweek has been a success. And the employees love having a three day weekend. With this schedule you save one day of starting up and shutting down production. Instead, that saved time translates to more productivity. And that translates to another step on the road to doubling your production.
Another plus with the four day workweek is the availability of an entire day (Friday) for overtime work when necessary. Having a crew for a half or full day of overtime on a Friday is tremendously easier to pull off than arranging overtime for Saturday. All this overtime work is accomplished while employees’ friends and family are at their own jobs or school. And the staff still has a traditional two day weekend ahead.
For the front office, the fifth day with no production staff allows them to get things done without questions and issues from the production floor. It’s the perfect opportunity to work on projects and long term planning, or to just get caught up or ahead of the game.
If management squirms about the idea of shutting off the lights in production on Friday, it’s usually because they’re afraid some last minute rush order won’t get done. The easy solution is to have one all around versatile employee work on Friday to take care of any out of the ordinary order or issue, while in reality this employee is just there to make other managers feel better. Before long, everyone will discover that this one Friday employee-in-reserve will be unnecessary.
Decorating Socks – When decorating both sides of the sock all over with sublimation you can get a white line between the 2 sides. There are 2 solutions to this. First, when using a jig, take the sock and just slightly roll it so the imaged area just moves to the other side of the jig. The more careful you can be with this the less likely you will have a noticeable line. The second solution is to get socks that have a black interior so you don’t need a jig and the black shows through slightly when the customer puts them on their foot and you have a good-looking sock without the hassle of a jig.
Choosing and Exposure Unit – First, all UV output light sources can expose a screen. The question then becomes a matter of efficiency during the exposure process. Our recommendation is to choose the highest wattage you can afford, and a vacuum attachment that will hold your screen and artwork tightly against the glass.
A quick note on units with a vacuum attachment. A small diameter rope will likely come in the box. It is not packing material, so don’t throw it away. The rope is laid on the glass near where the vacuum hose attached to the rubber blanket cover. The other end of the rope is draped over your screen. Be careful not to have the rope lay across the area of the screen where your artwork is placed. When the vacuum is turned on, the rope will create a channel for the air to be pulled out from the inside of the screen. That’s where we need the vacuum to do its work.