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DTG printing on POLY ? is it possible. Yes, but NOT easy

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  • DTG printing on POLY ? is it possible. Yes, but NOT easy

    From their website:


    We've been hearing a lot lately about this pretreatment, this ink, etc. that will allow us to print on polyester fabrics. For the last 4 years Image Armor pretreatments have allowed this to be accomplished. Fortunately with over the past several years we've had additional advancements with inks that also helps make printing on 100% polyester fabrics easier.

    Yes, Virginia, That's Red 100% Polyester
    We are working on a series of posts / information to help people be able to print on 100% polyester easier with the Image Armor ULTRA pretreatment. The beauty of this is that there is NO NEED for additional pretreatments to accomplish this process. Image Armor has been able to accomplish a cross platform of fabric from 100% Cotton to 100% polyester printing with A SINGLE PRETREATMENT. Even on RED polyester - which everyone knows is the worst possible candidate for DTG printing and white ink.

    So, What Did We Do?
    First, we utilized the Gildan 64000 100% polyester shirts. These shirts work well for certain DTG printing as other brands also may work. You'll have to do your OWN testing and experimentation as with ANY procedure to find what works best in your shop. We are only providing this information as a gateway - a starting point - for you to begin your polyester pretreating endeavors.

    • We pretreated with Image Armor ULTRA Ready To Use pretreatment.
    • We printed with the Gildan 64000 100% polyester shirt.
    • We pretreated the shirt with the Viper MAXX pretreatment machine (a setting of 60 for Fluid Application on the MAXX)
    • We applied approximately 30 grams of pretreatment to the shirt (for a 14" x 14" area)
    • We heat pressed using a Stahl's Hotronix Air Fusion. First we hover cured for 1 minute about 1/4" off the shirt @ 265F. Then Heat pressed at 20psi for 20 seconds, let steam out, then repressed again for 20 seconds.
      • We printed on the Epson F2000
      • We printed using Image Armor F-SERIES inks (though you can also use OEM inks)
      • We set the driver settings to
        • Print Quality for White - Level 2
        • Print Quality for CMYK - Level 3
        • Bumped the white laydown up to 55% (additional white ink printed)
        • Set it to a level 5
    • Curing the Shirt
      • Hover the heat press over the wet ink for 1 minute with a distance of 1/4" off the shirt.
      • Heat pressed the shirt on the lowest pressure using a Stahl's Hotronix at 265F. We pressed 3 cycles of 30 seconds each.

    Washing the shirt was done on medium temperature water with detergent, but for drying it was only tumble dried - NEVER HOT AIR DRY THE SHIRTS. This will prematurely break down the ink film.

    You can see in our photo to the right here that we are 7 washes into the process and the image still looks great and virtually no breakdown on the ink film. There was a significant amount of "boxing" from the pretreatment on the shirt prior to washing. This did washout after the first wash or two. We know that many people will balk at this because you can't give a customer a shirt with the pretreatment box on it. We understand. However, this is the option at the moment for printing on RED polyester. On a black shirt you will not see the box as visibly or at all. We wanted to show the WORST case scenario here with a RED polyester shirt.

    The closeup picture (at the top of the page) show the actual printed quality much better. Not only did we not get any real dye migration the print still looks great. We are continually working on doing additional testing but you'll be able to see that the print still looks good. Additional heat press cycles of 4 or 5 cycles might be more advantageous than just pressing the three times that we did here. This will allow the ink to "set" a little better and most likely give a longer product life cycle.

    Printing on 100% polyester has been able to be done for years now, but there is still no magic bullet that gets rid of all the current issues associated with polyester printing (dye migration, pretreatment boxing, etc). However, it is possible to successfully complete the process as we've shown here in our example.

    A little care in pretreating and printing with additional in house testing by DTG shops that want to print polyester will find that this information will be a good starting point.

    It's not just the inks or pretreatments that make 100% polyester printing a possibility. It is actually a combination of many factors that go beyond ink and pretreatment - the process. So, if anyone tells you polyester printing can only be done with their printer, with only their inks sets, only their pretreatments.... they are lying to you for one reason or another. If anyone tells you they are the only ones that will let you DTG 100% polyester they're giving you a line of BS.

    We wanted to show it is possible and has been for several years utilizing the Image Armor pretreatments. Can you do it with other pretreatments?
    Maybe. But we can do 100% cotton or 100% polyester with a single pretreatment.

  • #2
    Jerry Smith says : Direct-to-Garment Printing on Dark Polyester

    Printing on poly is challenging because it tends to wick inks away rather than absorb them, often creating a chalky mess of the white underbase and faded colors in the CMYK layer. Fortunately, this can be overcome with a little practice and by following these six steps.

    1. Pretreat twice. The first time, use about 25% of your standard pretreatment amount. Cure at 335 degrees F using no pressure in 15-second intervals until dry. When the garment has cooled, pretreat again using the usual amount of pretreatment. Cure once more at 335 degrees F using no pressure in 15-second intervals until dry.

    2. Place a piece of tearaway backing or similar material inside the shirt under the area to be printed.

    3. In the RIP software, set the white to no higher than 50% coverage and set the resolution to 1,440 X 720. You may also need to increase the choke setting on the white to prevent bleeding.

    4. Set the white underbase for two passes. The goal is good coverage without being oversaturated. Allow at least 30 seconds between each underbase laydown.

    5. Set the color layer to 720 X 720 resolution. Repeat once if necessary, for more vibrant color and coverage without being oversaturated. Allow at least 30 seconds between passes.

    6. Cure using a hover heat press. Do not apply pressure. Pressure and heat will cause the polyester's dye to bleed through the ink. Hover for 30 to 45 seconds, then press for 15 to 20 seconds using zero pressure. You may also achieve good results using a flash dryer or tunnel dryer.

    Bright-colored shirts may show slight discoloration, but it should be very minimal. If you see substantial discoloration, check your heat press' calibration and/or try a different brand of pretreatment.