The simple answer to this question is YES, if the price is right we can do anything! But I will briefly explain the process and suggest what I would do in this case.
If you take a look at a picture you will notice there are an enormous amount of colors in the picture. That is because the picture is printed using a CMYK printer which really just prints dots in either Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black and tricks your eyes into believing there are plenty of colors. This same process can also be done to print images onto t-shirts and other garments.
CMYK printing works by arranging the 4 basic colors in different patterns to give an illusion of various different colors. In screen printing it would require 4 screens with a 305 mesh count on them as well as a very accurate registration system. If one of the colors are just the slightest bit off, the print will look way off. In addition, the artwork would need to be separated properly in photoshop with each color in a different halftone angle. This is a long and tedious process, which is why we tell our customers that we require at least 100 shirts ordered for CMYK printing.
What I normally suggest to customers is taking the image and converting it into black and white, allowing us to print it in one color with halftones on either a black shirt, or white shirt. The photo can still look realistic, but the process is by far much easier than CMYK printing. What we do is convert the photo into greyscale in Photoshop, then bitmap it into halftones and burn it onto a screen. The halftone comes out onto the screen in the shapes of dots, and the closer the dots are to one another the darker the print will be. As the dots start to further themselves from one another the lighter the print will be, which will allow the shirt color to come through and display the image.
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The most common question and concern we get from our customers is “how do I know this wont come off in the wash?”, or “Please use the good ink, the last printer didn’t and the ink came off in the wash”. Little do they know, this has nothing to do with using good inks, bad ink or different brand inks. What they don’t know is the issue of ink peeling is off is directly related to how the garment is cured.
Curing inks is the process at which the plastisol ink, made of of PVC and plasticizer, is chemically bonded to the natural garment fibers. This process is also sometimes called fusion. The way to to cure inks is generally the same on almost all types of plastisol inks, heat the ink up (on all layers) to about 325-350 degrees Fahrenheit using a conveyor dryer. At this temperature a chemical reaction occurs which fuses, or bonds the ink into the fibers of the garments and permanently secures the ink onto the garments. Once this chemical reaction takes place and the ink is considered “cured” it would be nearly impossible for the ink to comes off in the wash, peel off or scratched off the shirt.
There are two major tests which most screen printers use in order to determine if plastisol ink is cured. The first and most common method used is what screen printers call the “stretch test”. The stretch test consists of the print-master running the shirt through the conveyor dryer and let them cool off for a bit. Once the shirt is cooled off the print-master stretches the fabric just enough so that the ink can stretch as well. If the ink cracks more than 20% it means that the ink is not cured and most defiantly will come off in the washing machine.
The second and least common test would be to run the shirt through a few washing machine cycles. Ink that is not cured will come off within the first 1-2 cycles, but if the ink stays on the shirt and does not crack – you are good to go.
When a customer orders his/her batch of customized garments, they always want to be assured that their money is not going to waste. Many times they ask about the ink coming off in the wash and it is smart to educate them and inform them of how you dry your shirts. Also it would be a good idea to show them samples of previous items printed which were put through multiple wash cycles and stretch tested. This will give them the reassurance needed to trust you as their local screen printing company.