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Why Is It More Expensive to Screenprint On Black Fabric?

This article is intended to introduce you to white under-base printing. This can be a very technical process and requires that you are familiar with the technique. White under base screens are often burned on 110 mesh. If you are printing fine detail or halftones on top of the white under base, you will need to use a higher mesh count for the under base in order to provide a smoother more consistent surface. Printing halftones or fine detail on a rough under base will produce poor print quality. Subsequent colors may require a higher mesh count depending on the inks you are using and your artwork. High quality, high opacity inks are necessary for obtaining great results easily.

When printing vibrant colors on black or dark garments it is often necessary to print a white under base first. This is due to the fact that many plastisol textile inks do not have the opacity to cover well on dark garments. A white under base is nothing more than a white spot color print in the shape of the artwork for which the color is intended. It is printed first to provide a base for the colored ink to rest on. The under base is flash cured before the remaining colors are printed.

The under base will actually fill the knit some and keep the colored ink to be printed on top from soaking into the fabric of the shirt and thus losing its intensity as well as its coverage ability. It is somewhat like a primer when painting a house. The primer seals the surface and presents a good surface to paint onto.

In most cases, when printing dark garments, you will want to print a white under base. Some plastisol inks are made to be “high opacity”. These “HO” inks are intended to be printed on a dark garment without the need for a white under base. Many of these inks are great and work very well. Sometimes it will be necessary to do a hit-flash-hit in order to achieve the coverage you desire. But most will work well using 110 mesh stretched tight. And as always, you would want to avoid the hit-flash-hit to keep production time at a minimum. Wilflex makes great high-opacity inks for dark garments. Most of their inks will cover well just using 110 mesh.

Heat buildup is a problem that has to be resolved with cool-down stations. If you are printing with a fixed pallet and print head, you will need to let the pallet cool between prints. This is very important. And be sure that your flash dryer is not heating the screen above it. With a fixed pallet and print head, you will need to set the flash dryer so that it flashes the under base quickly thus limiting heat buildup time for the screen and pallet. It is best to use a rotary press for this or any multi-color printing with a flash cure.

Creating your artwork for multi-color jobs on a white under base can be difficult. I highly recommend letting someone do this for you if you have never done it before. You will be able to learn from the film and setting up on the press all the “how’s and why’s”. If you are just printing 1 color on the under base, then you should be able to set it up yourself.

The artwork for a 1 color print with an under base should be choked some. That is to say that the color overprinting the white under base should overprint the white under base by at ½ point. This will make it easier to print and can compensate some for ink or shirt shrinkage. So for the most part, the artwork for the white under base is the same as the color to be printed onto it but just slightly smaller in overall size unless your art calls for white outlines. Then you might be printing inside the white under base and following up at the end with a white highlight printer to whiten these areas.

Whether or not you will need to print a white under base will depend on your particular printing situation, inks, and artwork. Using high-quality inks that may cost more but eliminate the need for a white under base can save a lot of labor costs.

Screen printing has held the top spot as the preferred method for printing T-shirts for decades. It’s a versatile and effective way to print T-shirts with a feel and quality that other methods just can’t capture. These can range from simple patterns applied directly to the screen, or complex designs that are exposed onto the mesh.


Preparing the screen is the first part of the process and the quality of the final product depends heavily on this stage. In most cases, a light-sensitive emulsion is applied to a mesh screen which is then exposed to UV light. During this process, your design, a stencil of which has been placed onto the mesh itself, is ‘burned’ into the emulsion. Once the exposure is finished, the screen is hosed down with water to remove the soft emulsion, leaving only your design behind. The screen is now ready to use for printing.

In some cases, designs can be printed directly onto an emulsion-coated screen using special printers. When this happens designs are printed directly onto the mesh and revealed when the emulsion is washed away, leaving a print-ready screen.


If there’s more than one color to your design, the process is repeated so that each color in your design is separated into individual layers on different screens. Used three colors in your design? Then three screens will be needed, one for each color. When it comes to color matching, endless variations can be achieved with the right mix of inks and expert precision, and this is where Pantone color checking comes into play. When your design is submitted for print we find the exact matching Pantone color so our print team knows exactly which variation of color to print your design with.

Once your screen(s) has been prepared, it’s time to print.


Next, the screen is carefully lined up on the printing press and positioned on the T-shirt using either laser or manual alignment tools, it’s a bit of a skill and one of the most important parts of the entire process. This is how you ensure your print is in the exact same place when the process is repeated 100s of times.

Once aligned properly, a squeegee (rubber-edged, hand-held blade) is used to press ink through the design area on the screen mesh, leaving the final print on your T-shirt underneath. If there are multiple colors in the design, the process will be repeated for each color.


It’s then super important to heat cure the T-shirt to ensure the print is sealed and stays in place. Otherwise, the design would fade straightaway in the wash. The ink has to reach a certain temperature in order to bond it to the fabric. Different types of ink need to be cured at varying temperatures and for different lengths of time, so this stage requires an expert approach.


Screen printing is a brilliant way to print, and there are many reasons to use this approach. If you’re printing on a large scale, it’s a relatively cheap and quick way to print. However, if you’re looking to print a short run of T-shirts it can be an expensive option because of the setup costs of the screens, as making a new screen can be expensive., if your design involves more than a few colors, varying gradients, or shadows, more screens will be needed, which will also affect the cost.

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