Part 2: Better and cheaper T-Shirt print

Two black t-shirts with a beach print on

A while ago we ordered one test print from the POD Merch by Amazon. We wanted to evaluate the print quality and see which steps we can take to enhance the look and feel of the garment.
Like we have mentioned in the last post, we did some simple changes in the design and ordered another dtg test print from Merch by Amazon.
And the outcome is much, much better and we will tell you exactly how we did it.

POSITIVE IMPRESSIONS ABOUT THE PRINTED T-SHIRT

But first, let‘s talk about what we liked about that new test print:
  • The production and delivery times from Merch by Amazon were extremely fast once again. We placed the order on a Thursday night and it arrived on Saturday.
  • The print feels lighter, the handfeel is improved and the colors seem more vibrant. The „shine“ that we noticed in our last blog post is minimized.
  • The printed areas of the design are again well covered. There are no visible lines from missing nozzles or passes on the print.
  • No fibers sticking out.
  • The pretreatment around the print and heat press marks are not visible on the T-Shirt. The vinegar smell is not as overpowering this time. But we are not too worried about this anyway.  It usually goes away after the first wash (considering the number of chemicals used for the whole production of the T-Shirt, you want to wash it anyway).
    This time, we ordered a Men‘s L Size to see if they reduce the print size here as well, but here it is nice and big. We wish they would opt for a little bit bigger print size on the Women‘s T-Shirts as well because there it looks a little odd. It‘s very small and not a nice, large print that you would expect to buy in a store.

HOWEVER, THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

We noticed some registration issues and some small bleeding areas on the print.

HOW TO MANUALLY IMPROVE THE PRINT QUALITY AS A DESIGNER

The t-shirt before the adjustments

When we ordered our last test print, we noticed that they did not remove the black areas of the design (even though the print was on a black T-Shirt). In the black parts of the image, they printed white underbase and then black on top. This made the whole design very thick (lots of ink used) and very shiny. Due to that shininess, the colors did not „pop“ as much as they could and the black did not appear very black.
That‘s why we decided to make a special design for the black version of the T-Shirt, change the original image and reorder.

The t-shirt after the adjustments

Here you can see the original design and the way it printed. As you can see, the black areas are part of the design and hence have been printed on the T-Shirt. Due to the amount of ink, the whole design and especially the large parts printed in black appear very shiny.
This „trick“ is already a common practice in screenprinting.
As you can see, we removed all the black color from the original design. This may look odd and the design surely doesn‘t look that pretty anymore. But it has a purpose: During the print, the missing black parts are „filled“ with the T-Shirt color.  The design will look better than ever.
What I did to remove the color quickly was to make a color selection for the black color. Then I inverted the selection and used a mask to knock out the black. This process was done in a minute or two.
But there are probably a million ways to get to the same result. If you need any instructions on how to isolate single colors and remove them from your design, Youtube and Google are usually excellent sources of information. They will cover all kinds of software and versions, which would be impossible for us to do. 😉
The only important thing is to check for artefacts afterwards. No matter how tiny they appear, they can be visible in the final print. Especially when you are printing on dark garments. The white underbase is unforgiving and shows even the tiniest flaws.

How to enhance the print quality as an operator

On this test print, we noticed a few flaws. But we are quite certain the end customer will be more than satisfied with a product of this print quality.
If you are an operator and you notice those little imperfections on your print, you could look into the following:

Final comments on this dtg test print

We are very happy with the final quality of this print. We believe that the changes we made to the design really enhanced the outcome. And we saved Merch of Amazon a lot of money (you‘re welcome, by the way!).
Still, it would be amazing if the print on demand service could opt for a process that would automatically remove the black part from the design. This process has a huge disadvantage. We will need three slots at MbA for one design (light, dark, and black version). This is a lot of slots, a lot of work, and it can be especially challenging for designers in a lower tier.