Tag Archives: managing color

DTGPS Color Chart – Adobe RGB Color Profile

Use this awesome color chart to determine your full range of RGB printing range with your respective direct to garment printer.  Keep in mind, this image is profiled using the “Adobe RGB (1998)” color profile in Photoshop – if you wish to reproduce these colors in your artwork, please ensure you have converted your working color space to match the same profile.

NOTE: Within your RIP settings, you need to ensure you are actually taking the input profile into consideration.  If you have set your color management to discard embedded profiles, you will not be able to achieve the full range of colors.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE COLOR CHART

How to optimize images for DTG printing – Basic Levels and Saturation Adjust

This video shows the basic steps to optimize most standard images for Direct to Garment printing. Prior to printing any image, you should check to ensure that the color values are rich and saturated, or that they match the expected output you are looking to achieve in the final print.

You do not need to be a Photoshop expert to get the most out of your artwork!  The general guidelines set

forth in this video are easy to wrap your head around, and involve minimal steps….  However, the results you can achieve are absolutely noticeable and profound.

The process of fine tuning artwork is not an exact science, but you can certainly get the best possible print quality out of any image by following these basic guidelines.  Keep in mind this process is relevant regardless of which printer hardware you are using, what RIP you are running or which ink set you prefer!  ALL DTG setups can benefit from this basic knowledge.

Increasing White Underbase Under Black Ink – Kothari RIP with Epson F2000 DTG Printer

Traditionally speaking, printing white ink under black ink has been relatively undesirable.  In traditional screen printing, black ink is rarely given an underbase when printing on most garments.  Likewise, omitting the white ink underbase from the black ink in your Direct to Garment (DTG) print can yield a far more dynamic print, with greater depth and character.

However, the inherent i

nk chemistry of some DTG ink sets is relatively restrictive, in the sense that the CMYK inks do not adhere well directly to the pretreat – in these cases, it becomes necessary to add a small amount of white ink under any CMYK print (including black ink prints) to ensure optimal wash fastness.  The most notable case of this has been with the inks associated with the Epson F2000 DTG printer.

Some users have expressed an interest in learning how to increase the amount of white ink underbase generated beneath black ink, when printing with their Epson F2000 DTG Printer using the Kothari Print Pro RIP.  This simple graphic shows how simple this really is!

Minimum-White-Under-Dark-Media-in-F2000

For those unfamiliar with manipulating white ink TRC curves, we will add instructions in the coming days to access this feature.

Kothari RIP Now Available for the Epson f2000 from DTG Print Solutions!

Kothari RIP for DTG printing has long been one of the most well respected and awarded RIP software on the market – thousands of end users have made the switch after seeing what a huge difference the proper RIP software has on the final output quality.  Kothari RIP has been at the top of every major print competition, across a broad range of DTG printers – the results speak for themselves, and we invite anyone to try comparing Kothari with any other RIP to see the difference, first hand.

After much anticipation, DTG Print Solutions is now officially able to offer the powerful Kothari RIP for the Epson f2000 DTG printer!  However, that isn’t the only platform we support – check out this partial list of printer models which can all benefit from the Kothari RIP:

  • Epson r1800/r1900
  • Epson r2000/r2200
  • Epson r3000
  • Epson p600
  • Epson PRO 4800/4880
  • Epson PRO 7800/7880
  • Epson f2000 !!!
  • DTG M2
  • … and MANY MORE!

Contact us today to find out how we can help step up your DTG game with this powerful piece of software!

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FREE Articles for YOUR Website!

We are happy to announce that we are making many of our most popular blog posts (from our printing company website) available to the general public for use on any website.  If you are involved in the Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing business, it helps to offer your potential customers as much information as possible.  By addressing their concerns early, you will be able to avoid many potential miscommunications with your clients during the actual order process.

Feel free to use the FREE resources available on this website, including the FREE Articles for YOUR Website list to enhance your own customer experience for your DTG printing company.

Over the decade we have been running our DTG printing business, we have developed a number of articles which help better explain certain facets of the business to new clients.  For your convenience, we are making some of these articles available to you, for your website – feel free to copy the articles and paste them on your own website to help further educate your customers.  All articles listed below are available to use and edit as you see fit – please let us know if you have any questions.

INSTRUCTIONS: Start by copying and pasting the text of your selected article to your own website.  Once you have pasted the text, be sure you replace all of the company name and contact information with your own, and carefully review each article to adjust pricing examples and other information to fit your own business model.  Don’t be afraid to make some changes!

NOTE: Your are free to use the text from these articles as you see fit, but the images are copyrighted material and may not be reused without our express written consent.  Please show your customers what you are capable of producing by printing and photographing your own custom products to go along with these articles.  The images currently presented represent our efforts and hard work, and it is important to show off what you can do. 

Aside from that, have fun with it!  These articles should give you a good starting point when building your DTG printing website, and will allow you to more thoroughly cover your back-end when people take issue with certain caveats of Direct to Garment Printing.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW FREE ARTICLES FOR YOUR WEBSITE

We hope you enjoy these free articles to help jump start your own independent DTG printing website – if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us or make a comment at the bottom of THIS PAGE!

More great articles will be coming soon, so check back frequently to ensure you have all of the most up-to-date information for your company website!

PRO TIP: Make Sure Your Blacks are Black!

PRO TIP – Make sure your BLACKS are BLACK, and not charcoal grey!  Below you will find another example of how a small adjustment to the original artwork could make a big difference in the final print – many customers send us files that may appear “black” on the screen, but when compared to a true “RICH BLACK” the difference is quite dramatic – educating them on this subtle difference could make the difference between a satisfied client, and someone who badmouths you for printing “faded” looking designs:

Example A shows the original artwork, which was probably exported from a vector program such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw (it is easy to lose color value when exporting a vector file into a raster format, so always double check your artwork in a raster program such as Adobe Photoshop to ensure that everything looks right after being exported) – although the image appears “black-ish” on the screen, this will not print a deep, rich black color and will almost certainly end up looking faded or “washed out”.  Example B shows the artwork after we performed a slight levels adjustment in Photoshop, to restore the original color values that were most likely present in the vector version of the file.  You can see the dramatic contrast in color in the following overlay image (the top half is obviously the original, while the bottom half is the adjusted version):

We will continue to provide tips and tricks to help you dial in your process, including useful tools that will help you get started with basic image optimization.  To download some simple Photoshop actions and to read more about proper artwork formatting for DTG printing, check out the following link on our Fusion Logistics Group Website – Artwork Information.

Managing Your Color Expectations with DTG Printing

Color management is a very important part of the DTG printing process.  In fact, next to selecting the proper garments for printing (which you can read more about here), proper artwork adjustment (color manipulation, etc) is the most important factor in determining how well (or how poorly) an image will print.  For starters, always make sure you are using the most accurate, up-to-date color profiles available for your particular printer to ensure that every printed image looks as amazing as possible; keep in mind, however, that even the best color profiles and RIP software will not do anything to “enhance” the existing colors in a custom design, so it is up to you to make the necessary artwork adjustments prior to printing your file(s).

Right off the bat, there are a few “Golden Rules” you should know about DTG printing / color management – by understanding this information and using it as a guide to educate your clients, you can ensure that everyone has a better grasp on what goes into a high quality DTG print:

1. The final print will ONLY look as good as the original artwork that is input for printing!

If the input file is low resolution, blurry or dull, then the final print will be grainy, blurry or dull.  If the input file is high resolution (200 dpi for garment printing), crisp and vibrant, then the final print will be clear, crisp and vibrant!

2. There is NO SUCH THING as PMS color matching with DTG printing!

You can always print color charts for yourself or your customers to help select colors that are close to the intended output colors, but it is important to understand that a number of variables can effect the color output on the actual garment:

  • Different garment styles, brands and colors will print differently; a color chart may very well print a certain way on one brand of t-shirt, then print differently on an alternate t-shirt brand.
  • Many DTG printers use different color profiles for BLACK garments, WHITE garments and “ALL OTHER” colored garments – there is no guarantee of consistency between black and colored garments, or between dark and light colored prints.  Additionally, as printers we often have to adjust the volume of pretreatment spray, white ink under base or color layer saturation to prevent “discoloration” of certain garments; since we have to make these decisions during the production process in an effort to provide the highest quality print, while still ensuring that the garments survive the production process with minimal scarring, we cannot always guarantee that we will use the exact same under base percentage or color layer saturation from one day to the next.
  • The pretreatment process required for dark garments requires us to dial in the volume of pre-treat spray on a daily basis (sometimes several times per day) – altering the pretreatment volume even a slight amount could alter the colors in a print, slightly.  This is an artistic process, not a scientific process.
  • Varying degrees of humidity can cause fluctuations in the behavior of the water based inks used for DTG printing – most of us do our best to control all variables of production, including the environmental variables in the actual production rooms; however, there are times where the differences are noticeable, typically manifesting in slightly different hues being printed.
  • Color profiling is a touchy, subjective process where altering one range of colors could alternately effect another range entirely.  Since we can’t check with all of our clients prior to switching to new color profiles, we cannot always guarantee that a design printed today will print the exact same way in a year, or even a month – always do your best to keep your clients updated (via your website or newsletter) whenever you update your color profiles, but it is ultimately their responsibility to do the necessary testing and adjusting if they are trying to achieve or reproduce a particular color value.

3. The RIP software used to process artwork for printing on to garments is highly specialized and incredibly sensitive!

It will analyze an image and draw out as many color values as possible to recreate every subtle nuance of the digital design.  If the hue or tint of certain colors is off slightly, the end result will be more noticeable in the actual print!  This means that if there is a slight yellow tint to the design on the screen, you will definitely notice a yellow tint in the printed design.  With some practice, you will learn to spot these “off colors” and correct them before you ever send the file for printing – once you have some experience and understanding of the way the DTG process works, you will be able to identify the subtle differences in color and predict how they will look on the printed garment.

In “Golden Rule #3”, we explained how sensitive the RIP software can be when evaluation subtle color tints in a digital image – the following is a quick example of how this can effect a printed image, as well as a few quick tips for how you can avoid this before you ever start printing:

In the above image, you can see the original image layered in front of two different printouts (keep in mind the photos of the printed garments were done with an older model iPhone – not the best camera for capturing high quality pictures) – the concern the client had with this image was the fact that “the flesh tones don’t look natural”.  When asked why we didn’t take the time to stop printing and “adjust the image to make the skin tone look more natural”, the first question that popped into my head was “Who’s skin are we trying to simulate?”  As you may have heard, there is a wide range of flesh tones in the world, and I don’t think you could ever say that one is more or less “right” than the others, without resulting in a bloody nose or a fat lip.

Before these shirts were brought back to us for review, we were told that the body in the design looked “jaundiced” – the client was clearly shocked to see the yellow hue printed in the image, but upon evaluation of the original file we were able to determine that there was an extraordinary amount of yellow in the design, which had actually printed “as expected”.  Most people off the street would be hard pressed to notice the subtle yellow tint in the design, and might have expected a more natural looking flesh tone in the resulting print; however, with a little tweaking of the original image we can quickly highlight the “before and after”, giving you a better idea of what “natural looking flesh tones” might actually look like:

Click the image above to zoom in a bit for more detail.  In this comparison, we performed several slight adjustments to the artwork to achieve various results:

  • In the first example (far left), we show a closeup of the original artwork – you can see that the colors are rather dark, and if you compare the original to the others you will notice a definite yellow hue in the skin tones of the design.
  • In the second example (second from left), we simply reduced the Yellow channel by 30% in Photoshop (Image > Adjustments > Selective Color) – when compared to the non-adjusted version on the left, you can clearly see the difference in hue, but the colors are still rather dark.
  • In the third example (second from right), we started again with the original image and performed a simple Levels adjustment (Image > Adjustments > Levels) – this adjustment is used to bring the color and shading levels to the desired point, usually before you adjust the specific colors.  You can see that this version is much lighter than the first two, but since we did not reduce the Yellow channel you may still notice a subtle yellow tint to the flesh.
  • In the final example (far right), we started again with the original image and performed BOTH the Levels adjustment, followed by the Yellow channel reduction – the result is a smooth, natural looking flesh tone that will print as expected.

Compare the previous examples to see how these minor adjustments can make a big difference in the final printed product – some small adjustments can go a long way, and can determine whether or not your design is going to print as you intend it to.  While you may think that your colors will print a certain way, experience will teach you how to more accurately predict the final outcome – the initial process of evaluating your designs for DTG printing is important for providing a solid foundation of knowledge as you move forward in this industry.

PRO TIP – Make sure your BLACKS are BLACK, and not charcoal grey!  Below you will find another example of how a small adjustment to the original artwork could make a big difference in the final print – many customers send us files that may appear “black” on the screen, but when compared to a true “RICH BLACK” the difference is quite dramatic – educating them on this subtle difference could make the difference between a satisfied client, and someone who badmouths you for printing “faded” looking designs:

Example A shows the original artwork, which was probably exported from a vector program such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw (it is easy to lose color value when exporting a vector file into a raster format, so always double check your artwork in a raster program such as Adobe Photoshop to ensure that everything looks right after being exported) – although the image appears “black-ish” on the screen, this will not print a deep, rich black color and will almost certainly end up looking faded or “washed out”.  Example B shows the artwork after we performed a slight levels adjustment in Photoshop, to restore the original color values that were most likely present in the vector version of the file.  You can see the dramatic contrast in color in the following overlay image (the top half is obviously the original, while the bottom half is the adjusted version):

We will continue to provide tips and tricks to help you dial in your process, including useful tools that will help you get started with basic image optimization.  To download some simple Photoshop actions and to read more about proper artwork formatting for DTG printing, check out the following link on our Fusion Logistics Group Website – Artwork Information.

Some Tips for Printing with White Ink

We previously posted this information on a popular industry forum (T-Shirt Forums), but decided it should be available here on DTG Print Solutions, as well.  This is a general overview of some of the things we do in our own production facility at Fusion Logistics Group (our sister company), and should be used as a general guideline for printing with white ink.  Of course the first step to achieving a top quality print is selecting the proper garment for DTG printing – you can read more about that by going here.

In order to get the best possible results (on any tee, really), here are some basic pointers:

MAKE SURE YOUR PRETREATMENT METHOD IS ROCK SOLID!

TIP ONE:

This is the most important part of the process; if your spray is inconsistent, splotchy, too light or too heavy, your results will suffer. Nothing else really matters if you can’t nail down this step! We will be putting out some videos of our pretreatment process, sometime next week; hopefully a visual will help some people understand what we do – your process may vary.

TIP TWO:

Dial in the pretreatment spray gun to ensure that you are not “blasting” the garment with spray… This is a t-shirt printing operation, not a 1960’s anti-war demonstration; you’re not trying to teach the shirt a lesson – just a gentle spray will do!

TIP THREE:

If your pretreatment gun is “sputtering” when you spray, you should probably stop and clean it thoroughly (and also double check to make sure it is still properly dialed in). In fact, we typically pour the contents of the spray gun back into the main pretreatment container about every 4 hours; we rinse the gun with warm water, shake the main pretreatment container then reload the gun. Some might say that is overkill, but our results have been far more consistent than they have ever been since we implemented this process.

TIP FOUR:

We usually spray “left to right” then “right to left” on the next step down, releasing the trigger on the gun at the far right and far left of each spray; we repeat this until we have gently covered the entire print area with spray, as evenly as possible. If you hold the trigger and simply move the gun back and forth, you will end up with much heavier deposits at the outside edges of the spray area – look for a YouTube video of a professional painting a car with an HPLV sprayer and you can use that as a model for how it should be done. Once the first coat is done we immediately make another pass (moving left to right and back again, while working our way from top to bottom) – two lighter coats provides more even coverage and allows you to use your judgement on a “garment by garment” basis regarding when enough is enough (fleece often requires a heavier deposit, whereas thinner ‘fashion’ style garments will often require a far lighter pretreatment deposit)

TIP FIVE:

Once the garment receives its two even layers of pretreatment, we use a Wooster 4″ brush to even out the liquid and help push down garment fibers (this step is important!) – we brush “top to bottom”, moving from the left side to the right side, slowly and firmly brushing the pretreatment into the shirt. We have used foam brushes and rollers in the past, and these Wooster brushes provide far superior results in my opinion – we purchase them online: Wooster White Fancy
NOTE: From the moment we slide the shirt on to the pretreatment board we created to the time we are done brushing the shirt, generally takes about 30-40 seconds. I should probably time it to find out, but that sounds about accurate.

USE HEAVY PRESSURE WHEN PRETREATING!

After pretreating the garment, we put it on the heat press, cover it with a sheet of Quilon paper and press with HEAVY pressure for 20-30 seconds (340 degrees). We have found that the heavier pressure during this step, combined with the brushing from the previous step, seems to do a great job of creating a smooth, ideal printing surface; fibrillation is minimized and we get very little “pitting” in the image. We did an installation for a customer a few months ago who had a pneumatic heat press system, which looked to me to be the best thing I have seen for this step of the process; when the time is right, we will definitely upgrade to a pneumatic heat press system (with a shuttle to improve productivity) that will provide consistent and repeatable results during this critical step.

  • If there is any resistance when taking the Quilon paper off of the garment, it sometimes helps to press the garment without any paper for an additional 10 seconds; this will ensure that the PT is dry, and will push down any fibers that might have been pulled up when you removed the Quilon paper. This step is not always necessary.

MAKE SURE THE SUBSTRATE IS AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO THE PRINTER, WITHOUT RISKING A HEAD STRIKE

When the print heads are dialed in through the print head alignment process, they are often dialed in very close to the substrate (on the Neoflex, there is a metal bar that is usually set about one dime’s thickness above the print surface, providing the ideal gap) – if you move the substrate further away from the print head for the sake of “safety” (hey, nobody likes head strikes!), the ink droplets will not land where they are supposed to and your end result will not be as crisp… This can range from being “just slightly off” to being obviously blurry, depending on how far away you get. Keep the print head close to the substrate for the crispest possible results!

DURING LONG RUNS OF DARK GARMENT PRINTING, ROLL YOUR WHITE INK BAGS FREQUENTLY

We don’t do this simply once or twice a day – if we are printing non-stop (using white ink), we will sometimes stop and roll the bags in the cartridges every hour or so. This ensures that there is always a consistent pressure level in the system, as this can fluctuate as your ink cartridges empty out. This basic principle is true on probably any machine out there, and I am sure there are a number of ways to deal with it. In our case, we have found that frequently rolling the ink bags creates more consistent results, regardless of what type of garment we are printing on.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR MACHINE DIALED IN EACH MORNING, PRIOR TO STARTING YOUR PRODUCTION RUNS

Each morning, you will probably come in to find your white ink may have settled slightly overnight – sometimes it won’t be very noticeable, and you might even fool yourself into thinking that you are getting a “good” white base…. However, if you take the time to really shake all the ink, purge the settled ink out of the dampers and the lines by doing a few sample prints or running a K2 or K3 cleaning, you will sometimes see your white get considerably more vibrant – we don’t notice it until we have something to compare to, then we realize we aren’t getting the best white ink! In fact, it might be a good idea to take your machine on its BEST day and print a few control samples to have handy at all times…. Each morning, use the control samples to ensure that your machine is fully dialed in, then you will know for sure if the issue is the garment or the ink; we do our morning setup on Anvil 980 tees, since we KNOW how good the white ink should look on them – once we have it looking perfect, then we can try printing on another brand (such as a AAA tee) to see what the difference would be. Of course, performing your regular maintenance on your machine is integral to this step, because if you are not properly taking care of things then you will find yourself wasting a lot of effort and ink in the long run.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

They are simple things, but any one of those points can cause major fluctuations in print quality…… Rather than banging our head against the wall trying to figure out what the issue is, we just try to follow these steps every day and our results are pretty consistent!  With a little practice, you could easily be printing top quality dark garments all day long with minimal downtime and minimal fuss – just keep reminding yourself that the little things makes a BIG difference!

Selecting the Proper Garments for DTG Printing

Aside from the quality of the original artwork file, the most critical factor in achieving top quality products with DTG printing is the actual garment that is being printed on.  Variables such as cotton content, weight, knit, texture, unique post processing chemical treatments and much more can ultimately effect the results we see on DTG printing, so it is important to select garments that are best suited to this unique method of decoration.

GENERAL RULES OF THUMB WHEN SELECTING GARMENTS FOR DTG PRINTING:

1. Garments with a high cotton content print best!

Try to avoid 50/50 cotton / polyester blends, as the water based inks used for DTG printing do not adhere well to polyester.  Additionally, the dyes used to color polyester garments tend to “migrate” into the printed image during the curing stage, causing the image quality to be negatively effected.  100% cotton garments are going to provide the best results, but if you cannot find a suitable 100% cotton option (which is often the case when printing on fleece hoodies) then look for the next best thing, which is typically 80% cotton / 20% polyester.

2. Ring spun cotton prints better than standard cotton!

The better (smoother) the print surface, the better the end results will be; this is typically true of any type of printing method.  Even with your desktop printer at home, you will achieve varying results when printing on standard paper, when compared to the same print on high quality glossy photo paper; the simple truth is that a better printing surface will almost always yield a better print.  The softer, finer weave of the ring spun cotton provides a more ideal printing surface for the DTG printer inks, creating a more stunning print that will hold better on the garment during repeated wash cycles.  Whenever possible, it is recommended to use ring spun or combed ring spun garments for most DTG printing applications.

3. Ribbed texture / patterns can ruin a DTG print!

The nature of ribbed fabrics allows for greater stretchability due to the inherent weave of the cloth; for most purposes, this is ideal and does not pose any sort of problem.  For DTG printing, on the other hard, this can cause the printed image to break apart at the vertical “channels” that are present in the fabric – this effect cannot be controlled so it is important to test and verify ANY ribbed garments before offering them to your clients.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

We have spent years working with DTG printers, and we tend to select brands and garment styles that are highly compatible with the DTG process – not only do we look for garments that print and wash well, but we must also ensure that our products can withstand the intense heat and pressure that our garments are exposed to during the printing and curing process.  Once we have found garments that we like, we try to evaluate how consistent they are between batches to even further refine our selection of preferred blank garments (we have found that the same brand tee produced at a different factory location can sometimes yield different levels of print quality and overall consistency).

Neoflex DTG Printer Review

The Neoflex DTG printer has been the leader in the industry for the last two years, and continues to be a proven solution for many small business owners.  The Neoflex DTG printer is built on the popular Epson 4880 Professional printer – it has been highly modified to act as a direct-to-garment printer, and great care has obviously been taken to ensure that the machine is built from the highest quality parts.  Although this is not the largest machine we have ever owned, it is one of the more well built models.  Since acquiring the Neoflex line of printers at our sister facility (www.fusionlogisticsgroup.com) over a year ago, we have been able to successfully turn out the highest quality product we have ever produced, while remaining more consistent and reliable during the production cycle.

EFFICIENCY

This printer offers a generous 17″ x 42″ printable area, which allows for “JUMBO” printing applications or for the inline printing of multiple items in a single pass.  The most common t-shirt setup is the “3-Up” configuration, which makes room for three average sized platens (11.25″ x 15″) to be loaded onto the print bed for maximum efficiency; each t-shirt in the lineup can have a different image printed on it, and of course the color of the garment doesn’t matter (in terms of functionality – there is certainly something to be said about the more logical approach of printing all “like colored” garments in the same run).  Rather than moving the substrate that is being printed, this model relies on a “flat bed / moving printer” design to accomplish its task – this design feature combined with the ability to line up multiple garments in a row for printing, allows the end user to load and unload garments as the printer is still in motion, thereby eliminating the “loading and unloading” phase from the production cycle.  Although someone still has to load and unload shirts, of course, the time required for this step does not cause any idle time on the machine.

Many people will argue that loading and unloading garments only takes a few seconds, which can sometimes be true; however, as someone who has employed many different people in the last several years, I can assure you that your low paid employees aren’t going to move with the same level of urgency that you might, and the loading and unloading phase will often be performed in a casual, slow demeanor.  This is made worse when dealing with specialty items such as hoodies or polo shirts, or when you consider how critical it can be to ensure that your substrate is smooth and flat (to avoid print head strikes that could potentially damage the machine) – some employees will work with the utmost caution and care when loading the shirts, taking time to carefully smooth them out before pressing print; while I certainly don’t mind the extra attentiveness from my staff, it is way better on the bottom line when the printer can be happily humming along while additional garments are being loaded and unloaded.

FLEXIBILITY

The flexibility of the Neoflex DTG printer is something that certainly sets it apart from the rest of the pack – as small business owners, who hasn’t considered adding additional decoration / print techniques to their arsenal?  Traditionally, the move to alternative substrates would require huge added investments, as most of the different ink chemistries can’t be used in the same machines – therefore, the only solutions were to either purchase a whole new printer to run an additional ink set, or to completely purge, flush and clean your system any time you wanted to swap ink sets to print on any alternate substrates.  Of course, this is neither ideal nor cost efficient.


The Neoflex employs a modular design structure that allows the individual printer units to be easily swapped out (I have long arms so I can move the printer by myself, but it’s easier with two people); it takes about two minutes to slide the print bed back slightly, unplug three cords and completely swap one printer unit for another.  This makes it much more practical to keep an additional printer unit on hand (an extra printer unit costs around $6,000, rather than buying a whole new printer for $20,000) in case one breaks down – in my experience, having redundant print capabilities is absolutely vital to ensuring the longevity of your DTG printing business.  As long as you have an additional printer unit on hand, there are many things you can do with it:

  • Store it in a closet somewhere in case you need to quickly get back to printing after a catastrophe.
  • Set it up as a “dual CMYK” garment printer to increase productivity on light garments, while reducing your overall manufacturing costs significantly.
  • Set it up as a Solvent printer to print on rigid substrates such as plastics, metals, wood, golf balls, CD’s / DVD’s and much more.
  • Set it up as an”edible ink” printer to print on cake topping sheets, cookies and other edible products.
All American offers a wide range of ink options and support consumables for each ink chemistry, allowing you to easily explore additional revenue streams without the need to purchase another $20,000 printer for one specific purpose.  Of course, if your primary unit were to ever fail, it would only take an hour or two to convert a “dual CMYK” garment printing unit into a “white + CMYK” printer, offering you peace of mind that you will always be able to complete a customer’s job on time.  It would be a little more difficult to convert a printing unit with a different ink set back to water based textile inks, but it is possible (the cost associated with purging out and thoroughly cleaning the entire system makes it impractical to do on a frequent basis).  When choosing which setup is right for your particular business model, proper planning and execution are critical – make sure you know where your business is headed, and be prepared to commit a full time effort to learning any new decoration technique.
In addition to being able to configure the Neoflex DTG printer in a variety of ways, you are also able to explore additional revenue opportunities by taking advantage of the generous print area (17″ x 42″ overall).  The flat bed design enables you to configure custom platens / holders for a variety of products, including pre-stretched art canvas, solvent-ready substrates such as pens / frisbees / USB drives / etc, and much much more.  Your creativity is truly the limiting factor with this machine, as it can sometimes take a little creative ingenuity to properly configure functional platen systems for various items.

DURABILITY

The major drive components of the Neoflex DTG printer are the massive lead screw which runs the entire length of the printer (this is what moves the printer), the primary motor that drives the lead screw, (4) individual motors that raise and lower the print bed and a host of sophisticated control hardware.  There is a common misconception in the industry that the Neoflex is simply a ‘copy’ of an earlier model of printer than All American paid a company to develop for them; the reality is that the Neoflex is a stronger, upgraded version of the same concept (a concept which was sound to begin with, which is why the company pursued it for so many years without changing directions rapidly or frequently like many other companies are tempted to do), which actually delivers on the performance and reliability promises typically expected of an industrial piece of shop equipment.

As soon as we add images to this particular review, we will include comparison shots of the actual drive mechanics of the two printers, illustrating some of the key differences.

COST EFFECTIVENESS

While the cost of the water based DTG inks used by most DTG machines seems to be priced way out of line, it is important to remember that there are still things we can do as business owners to make our businesses more efficient, and therefore make them more profitable.  Some things may involve changes to the order process, the use of an online ordering system to streamline the overall process, etc.  Other things can be done at the machine-level to maximize your efficiency, some of which we have already discussed.  For instance, the ability to load and unload the garments while the machine is continuously printing is a huge benefit in a production environment; this allows the Neoflex DTG printer to actually produce more ‘prints per hour’ than other 4880 based machines printing at the exact same resolution.  Additionally, the NeoRIP PRO (which actually processes the images and tells the machine exactly how to reproduce them on the garments) uses sophisticated image reproduction techniques which actually save ink and money, while simultaneously producing a richer print with greater depth and color.

One of the ways you can make the greatest impact on your bottom line is to properly take advantage of the modular design of the Neoflex system; if your goal is to print on t-shirts, then t-shirt printing should be your first and only focus until you have the process dialed in to perfection.  By investing in one additional printer unit (which can be quickly and easily swapped out on the machine at any time) and configuring it for “dual CMYK” printing (using the same water based garment inks you are using to print on dark garments), you can effectively move all of your dark garment printing to one machine and all of your light garment printing to another.  The cost effective advantages that this provides are twofold:

  • Any DTG printer, desktop inkjet printer or general purpose printer will perform automated maintenance on the print head at scheduled intervals, often related to the number of prints that have been completed since the last cleaning or purge cycle.  Inkjet printers are required to keep the print heads clean and primed, and to prevent them from drying out; this is achieved by firing a small amount of ink from each channel at predetermined intervals during the printing process, regardless of whether the channels are currently being used to print.  How does this affect a DTG printing business, you might wonder?  As you are printing “light garments” (those which do not require a white ink under base), the printer will continue with its automatic cleaning cycles, forcing a small amount of white ink down the drain after every number of print cycles – since many DTG printers find themselves decorating about 70% light garments compared to only 30% dark garments, it would be very easy to print one or two thousand white t-shirts in a given month and find your cartridges of white ink half empty even though you haven’t printed a drop on any dark garments.  Many DTG printers sit around at the end of the month wondering where the hell all of their white ink went, and this is just one source of waste in the overall process; by printing all of your light garments on a separate “dual CMYK” printer unit, you could print 10,000 light garments and not waste a drop of white ink.
  • By printing all of your light garments on a “dual CMYK” printer unit, it is possible to achieve the same amount of ink saturation at half the resolution, since the machine would be using (8) channels of CMYK instead of the normal (4) channels that would be used (since the other 4 would have been filled with white ink).  By doubling the ink output in a single pass (thereby allowing a lower print resolution to be used) you are able to print at a much faster rate, significantly increasing your production numbers on light garments – since light garments are the ‘bread and butter’ orders for many small and medium businesses, this has a huge impact on the overall bottom line.
As you can see, with the proper business planning and configuration, the Neoflex DTG printer offers a wide range of options for startup companies and existing businesses looking to expand their market – these options allow for greater productivity, increased profitability and a more attractive ROI for business owners.  I would probably go so far as to say that the Neoflex is one of the top DTG machines in its class in terms of cost effective operation, when done properly.  The more ‘generalized’ you want to be with your business, the more your cost effectiveness will suffer; if your goal is to print t-shirts, be sure you make t-shirt printing as profitable as possible before moving on to other markets.  That is just our advice over here at DTG Print Solutions, anyways.

SUPERIOR COLOR MANAGEMENT / INDUSTRY LEADING RIP SOFTWARE

Any company can re-package an existing RIP and say that it is compatible with their particular DTG printer.  However, when a company decides to take the time to tailor the color profiles and image handling properties to achieve the optimal print quality for that particular setup, that is when they set themselves apart from the rest.  The team at All American has put in a great deal of work in their endless pursuit of perfect print quality – with custom color profiles, custom ink curves, precise dot control optimized for each substrate / print resolution, they have continued to raise the bar for everyone around them.  The Kothari-based RIP software is already the most powerful RIP in the industry, but coupled with more specialized color profiles it is able to produce some of the best prints we have seen from any DTG printer.

Since we purchased our printers over a year ago, I have watched as the guys over in Philly have created new custom printing environments, while also dialing in each color profile for “high resolution” printing, “high production” printing and much more; with so many ink sets to deal with, I am honestly amazed that they are able to get anything done over there…. However, they somehow manage to do it and we as end users benefit from their ongoing efforts to be the best.

Besides the adjustments and improvements that All American has made “in house”, the fundamentals of the RIP itself are stunningly powerful.  The ability for the RIP software to so cleanly and accurately recreate graphics from the screen onto cotton t-shirts is unlike anything I have seen in the past – since I first noticed the incredible disparity between this brand of RIP and the next leading competitor about a year ago (which, btw, opened an entire hornet’s nest in the process), there have been many tweaks and improvements from the competition, slowly shrinking the initial quality gap (strictly in terms of smooth, crisp image detail and accurate reproduction – color profiling is the other side of the coin).  To this day however, I have not seen an image reproduced as cleanly on any other printer using any other RIP.  Some people will argue that increased quality above a certain threshold is unnecessary – however in the last six years I have run into the perceived “limits” of DTG quality on many, many occasions, and always something or someone eventually comes along and shatters those barriers.  Better inks, better pre-treatment, better RIP software, better hardware, etc.  I think we should never stop pushing for faster printers, lower consumables costs and of course, ever increasing quality.  Some people say we don’t need to reproduce the Mona Lisa on a t-shirt – I say “why not?”

GENERAL SUMMARY

….. coming soon.

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