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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

Inspiration Drain – How to Get your Mojo Back as a Designer

Many of the designs we screen print here at DesignAShirt are straightforward. Like some text and perhaps a piece of clip art that represents an idea such as a pink ribbon and the name of a marathon to raise funds for a cause. However, we do print for some serious artists and designers that market their designs on  personal websites or group eCommerce sites such as Etsy. For the most part, the members of our art department spend their work hours cleaning up and enhancing customer submitted art. But we do have some very talented artists on staff that sometimes experience inspiration drain when working on their own projects.

We asked our colleagues to share how they combat creative block and here’s what they had to say along with some featured pieces they have created.

"Sometimes you just need to take a step back and do something else for a bit. It helps if I can find art or designs that inspire me so I'll take a look at what my favorite artists are doing. Finding art I admire usually brings the inspiration I need to start doing my own stuff again." Karisa K. 

Photomanipulation by Karisa K.

Acrylic Painting by Karisa K.

"If I get blocked, I start cleaning because a really clean environment helps me think and tap into my creativity." Lalo V.

Long-exposure Photography by Lalo V.

Indie Custom Screen Print by Lalo V.

"When I get blocked, I just start working on a piece of a project. Like elements that don’t require an overarching vision. I might use these elements immediately or I might use them in a piece years from now. At least it keeps me working and sometimes just being busy creating leads to greater motivation." Anita K.

Mixed Media by Anita K.

Acrylic Painting by Anita K.

"When it comes to being artistic, I would call my style “simplistic tinkering.” I am not a professional artist, but enjoy creating simple designs in Photoshop that make people feel inspired, motivated, and happy. I started an Etsy store as a fun hobby where I could put my professional experience to use. If I can contribute to a person’s favorite t-shirt collection, that puts a smile on my face. 

I have a few ways I combat artist’s block: Nature, shopping, and Pinterest. 

The easiest way for me to clear my head is to get away. I will take off to the lake, go kayaking, go hiking, or simply go for a run. Being outdoors makes me feel rejuvenated. 

At the mall, whether I am browsing the various window displays or people watching, seeing the different styles that appeal to a wide range of people is refreshing. Plus, seeing different patterns, textures, and styles will often trigger a design concept. 

At night, I will scroll thru different categories on Pinterest. I find Pinterest intriguing and convenient. It’s an easy way for me to get my wheels to stop spinning while I attempt to fall asleep. I can easily pin something that gives me an idea for a t-shirt design knowing that I don’t have to dwell on the idea or try to make it come to life right then and there. I can just come back to Pinterest once I feel refreshed enough to start tinkering in Photoshop." Jessie E. 

Custom Screen Print Designs by Jessie E.

Every artist whether great or small experiences creative block from time to time.  Here are some quotes from famous artists on how to stay inspired:

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss

“Art is either plagiarism or revolution” Paul Gauguin

Steve Jobs even gives us permission to borrow and expand on other’s ideas.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while” – Steve Jobs


Wearable Hi-Tech, the Latest Trend in Custom Apparel

Our culture has changed dramatically with the infusion of technology into every aspect of our lives. Historically, fashion was shaped by the availability of new textiles, social revolution and ever shrinking borders. We are now seeing the most radical innovations in custom apparel coming from digital enhancements. Fashion has now become interactive like so many facets of our world. We mostly think of wearable technology in terms of the offerings by Google and Apple, but it goes well beyond that.

CuteCircuit is one of the pioneers in fashionable, technology inspired garments. Their projects include the Hug Shirt, which is a t-shirt that mimics the actual feel of a hug controlled by someone else via Bluetooth and sensor. Our favorite though is the TshirtOS, this shirt literally allows one to wear their heart upon their sleeve as the t-shirt displays images, text and plays music via programming from an iOS app.

Other fashionable trailblazers are creating custom apparel that ranges from practical to the surreal. Umbilical Sport features a motorcycle jacket and vest that holds a lighting system operated by L.E.D. The system can be customized to include the rider’s graphics or pictures of choice and remains lit to enhance the visibility of the motorcyclist.

The Climate Dress by Diffus offers an intelligent garment which uses embroidery thread that functions as an electric conveyor sensing CO2. The levels of CO2 impact the embroidery so that varying light patterns emerge. It has an aesthetic appeal but also makes an environmental statement.

The Moto 360 smartwatch hearkens back to Swatches which were popular in the 1980’s. However instead­ of switching out the watchband to create a new look, the buyer customizes the look of the watch on the manufacture’s website. The buyer is empowered to make independant design decisions and the watch is offered at a much lower price than Apple. And yes, it includes all of the bells and whistles a smart watch has to offer.

The exploration of fashion and technology will continue to evolve as our society expects interactive functions in everyday life. While most price points for these innovations currently deter mass production, we’ll likely see a shift as we did with manufactures of cell phones, computers and software as competition increases.

Why Did My White Screen Printed Graphic Turn Pink?

Dye migration is also known as sublimation and if you’re printing on a red garment it can turn your white screen printed graphics *gasp* pink. In plain chemistry speak the dye from the fabric is transformed (sublimed) from solid to gas when the screen printed graphic is heat set. Typically the most troublesome fabric is a polyester blend. To dye polyester, the manufacturer must heat set at high temperatures.

To cure plastisol inks, (screen printing inks) the printed fabric is run through a conveyor gas dryer which can cause sublimation of the garments dye. To further complicate the issue, while screen printing, we use flash-curing screen presses. These are “stations” on the press that are used when printing large-scale jobs or jobs that require many layers of different colored inks to complete the graphic. Flash-curing occurs to dry separate layers of ink during the screen print. It's during these stages of screen printing, bleeding or dye migration can take place.

The sublimed gas can get sucked into the ink leading to a discoloration of the graphic. Unfortunately, the actual event of the dye molecule attaching to the ink molecule can take some time. So the garment can look great coming off the dryer and so the job gets neatly packaged and shipped to the customer without the screen printer realizing there will be a problem. Experienced screen printers are familiar with the potential for the problem and take precautions when printing in conditions where sublimation may occur.

The images below are examples of dye migration. The white ink on the red fabric is a very light pink while the white ink on the black fabric appears to be a very light green.

Examples of Dye Migration

The most obvious course of action is to control heat so sublimation of the garment dye does not take place. This is not as easy as turning the temperature down on the conveyor gas dryer. If the heat is turned down too much, the plastisol ink will not cure and the screen print will be prone to wash out. The temperature and humidity in the room and the garment itself must be taken into account along with the speed at which the garment is conveyed through the dryer along with consideration to the thickness of the ink layer(s).

Consistently adjusting for temperature, even in the middle of processing a screen printing job is critical. Our screen printers have to pay attention to the fact that the plantens (boards where the garment rests during the screen print) may heat up during the course of the job. Our screen printers also use a timer on the flash cure arm of the press. This ensures that if there are other difficulties during the print, no one garment is overheated making it prone to dye migration.

We use the highest quality, manufacturer designated low-bleed inks as well as carefully controlling temperatures, plus we only offer quality products for our customers to choose from. Low quality apparel products are more prone to dye migration simply because the manufacturers of cheap products may not go through the lengthy processes of curing the dye to the fabric. 

Design A Shirt Taking It To The Streets

Sometimes it feels like a gamble to invest in local advertising versus national when your goal is to be the big fish. We recently took that gamble and devoted a substantial sum to advertise our local screen printing services in the Phoenix metro area even though we actually provide services nationwide.

Phoenix has an incredible freeway system, one of the nation’s largest but with a population of 4.33 million and growing, the development of additional means of public transportation had to be planned and in 2008, the Metro Light Rail launched.

The light rail services Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa and offers prime real estate for advertising to a vast demographic. We chose a light rail wrap to provide exposure to both passengers and passersby. Since this was our first venture of this sort we collaborated with the entire internal team to come up with our final design choice. A large segment of light rail ridership is made up of ASU students. Many of the riders work in downtown Phoenix as well so we had to come up with a concept that would appeal to a diverse crowd. We went through four different designs seen below before finally settling on the design that was installed.


 We also had to keep in mind that large scale graphics may be seen going up to 55 MPH and would have to offer a simple message that did not require a lot of reading. The graphic below was the winner. The concept behind meta is that it’s self-referential much like the business of printing customized tees for our customers.

We feel this design will very much appeal to a younger demographic but also inspire the edgy downtown Phoenix crowd. The model is one of our very own employees and he exudes personality in-person and we hope his energy translates to over-sized graphics. We were told that there was currently no other advertisements like it on the light rail and we’re very proud of it. We were able to visit Valley Metro Rail and witness the installation on the rail cars and take pictures.

Time will tell if it brings in new business but the branding to us is priceless. Please share your thoughts on the design or your experience advertising with large scale outdoor graphics.