Printing on a polyester T-shirt is not same as printing on any garment or embroidered patches. Polyester is one of the trickiest fabrics to print on. Since it is a synthetic material, it has its set of issues that can pose certain hurdles to printers. Even professional printers face serious challenges when it comes to printing on a polyester T-shirt or one of its blends that has polyester as a chief material.
In this article, we will shed light on the various issues that arise when printing on a polyester T-shirt or its different blends and will share the rights techniques to successfully overcome them.
1. Printing with Dye Sublimation and Heat Press Method
Dye migration is a common occurrence when printing on a polyester T-shirt. It happens as a result of lower heat-resistant characteristic of polyester fiber. Since polyester T-shirts are often printed with endothermic printing processes, such as dye sublimation or heat press printing, the dye of the T-shirt evaporates after a certain temperature and transfer onto ink of the design.
To cope with this issue, you need to regulate the temperature of your dye sublimation or heat press printing machine and set it below 300 °F. To save you time and money, you should do a test print of a sample polyester fabric from the T-shirt using different temperatures and then set the temperature to a value that produces the best result.
Remember that it takes time for the dye migration to appear and the change in color of a T-shirt can take a while to occur. So don’t do things in a hurry and let the process take its course. It takes around 8-10 hours for dye migration to take place.
2. Flashing in Between Printing Multiple Colors
Applying multiple colors on a polyester T-shirt could turn out to be an ordeal due to the use of flashing process. Though polyester is a synthetic fabric, it tends to shrink when exposed to extreme heat. And this is what a flash curing unit can do to a polyester T-shirt which could result in a misplaced print due to dislocated registration.
To avoid this issue, you should preflash a polyester T-shirt so that it doesn’t shrink and you get a perfect print.
3. Printing on Dark and Light Colored T-Shirt
Printing on both a light or dark colored polyester T-shirt can be tricky. This is because certain dyes and inks react with dark or light colored T-shirt and can change its color. To keep the issue at bay, you should first apply an underbase on the T-shirt before printing the design on it.
A white or gray underbase is best to apply as underbase on a light or dark colored T-shirt. Both these underbases are effective against preventing dye migration and can produce vibrant colors on light or dark colored T-shirt.
4. Using a Dye
Polyester is prone to high temperature and printing a polyester T-shirt with dye sublimation and heat press printing can cause its fabric to scorch or pucker which can spoil the print. To keep your T-shirt from suffering the effects of high temperature, you should use inks that are suitable for printing on a polyester fabric.
The other way to avoid this issue is adding flash additive that can significantly reduce the flashing and curing time of a polyester T-shirt. However, you need to add a perfect ratio of the additive in the dye to make it effective against the temperature.
Read the manufacturer’s instructions to measure the quantity of additive that should be added in the dye. In addition, you should keep the temperature at optimum level as mentioned by the manufacturer in order to get the desired print. The same goes for printing polyester custom embroidered patches that you want to use on your T-shirt.
5. Applying the Dye
The application of dye is the most crucial part of printing a polyester. Since polyester is a synthetic material, it has loose fibers that can trap the air and can push the ink. This can result in missing stripes of ink or poor vibrancy of colors on a print.
To minimize the issue, you should use a slip paper under the T-shirt while heat pressing so that the dye is absorbed on entire fibers of the T-shirt. This will help you increase coverage of print and produce sharp colors.
6. Using Heat Transfer Paper
A heat transfer paper seems like a trivial piece in printing process but it has a significant role in transferring a design onto a fabric. Therefore, you need to be particular about using a transfer paper and use the right one according to the color of the fabric and printing technique.
For example, if you are printing on a light colored fabric, such as white, you should use a light heat transfer paper. Similarly, if you are printing on a dark color fabric, such as black, you should use a dark heat transfer paper. For dye sublimation printing method, you should only use a sublimation paper which is specifically made for transferring sublimated prints.
Remember that all transfer papers have a shelf life and you need to use them within a year for their effective use.
7. Printing on Triblends
A triblend is the trickiest blend of polyester that often has issues due to the presence of rayon which gives it the extra stretch and smoothness. A triblend T-shirt has a tendency to distort a print when stretched out and this can cause a distorted print.
Besides, it is always difficult to secure a triblend T-shirt on the platen since it tends to move away during printing which can lead to a misplaced print. Therefore, you need to use extra caution when printing on triblends in order to avoid the abovementioned issues and get a print as impeccable as possible.
8. Choosing a Polyester Fabric
Your choice of a polyester or its blend will directly affect the outcome of your print. For printing a design using dye sublimation and heat press printing, there can’t be a better option than a 100% polyester since it can endure higher temperatures and can cure ink more effectively than other blends.
But if you prefer screen printing, then you should use a triblend or 50/50 blend which are more suitable for the plastisol ink.