One of the latest trends to have swiped the world of personalised t-shirts is all-over printing. A new kind of printing that allows designers to go places with t-shirts they weren’t able to explore before — but how do they do it?
DTG, screen printing, even transfer printing. We get them. They paste the design on the garment or inject the ink into the fabric, it’s easy enough. There’s always blank space surrounding the final design so it’s easy to see where the machine worked, but with all over print is really… all over!
Don’t worry we’ll explain it, but first, let’s cover the basics.
What is all-over print?
It is a term used to describe a special kind of print that covers the entire garment (and when we say the entire garment, we do mean the entire garment). All-over print reaches places that regular ones don’t, the most obvious being seams and other elements like zippers. Noticing these details is the only way to actually tell if it is all-over or not. This kind of print is achieved by layering the t-shirt on a flat surface and then printing on top of it, which means that any element that is not exposed to the ink, like hems, for example, won’t be affected. If a hem or the interior of the garment is printed then the fabric was probably printed before it was sewn, this is the traditional way of printing fabric.
All-over is often confused with an oversized print. Oversized print (usually achieved by large screens) is meant to surpass the limitations of traditional printing techniques. It could potentially print a design that goes from the neck of a t-shirt, all the way down to the bottom as long as it doesn’t touch the seams. For example, here at Printsome, we count with the help of some jumbo screens that can print up to a 40 x 50 cm design on a man’s large t-shirt, which is bigger than what most screen printers can offer, but it’s still not all-over.
When should I consider it?
This type of printing should be considered when the design you have in mind has got a sense of continuity or infinity. This is what graphic designers call “bleed” when an element is constructed in such a way that it creates the illusion of existing pass the borders of its canvas. In a t-shirt, the artwork tends to be confined to front or back, but with all-over print, it can be, for a lack of a better word, all over the place. It is an eye-catching process that should be used to create bold statements.
When should I avoid it?
- If you fancy a repetitive pattern like a polka dot, for example, then it might be easier to just print the fabric before it is cut and sewn. This way you would avoid the inherent problems that come with all-over printing. We’ll go over those later.
- If your intention is to match the front and back of the design on the garment, we’re not suggesting to drop all-over printing, but you should consider talking to a specialised printer. Since front and back are printed by separate, all-over print does not guarantee that they will match or align.
- If you’re not looking to cover sleeves, but just the torso, then all-over print might not even be necessary. Some printers (like us *wink, wink*) own larger than normal screens that might be able to accommodate your specific needs.
Printing Techniques for All-Over Printing
All-over printing can be achieved through several methods, today we’re going to explore two of the most popular: large-scale screen and sublimation printing.
Large-Scale Screen Printing:
It works pretty much in the same way as the regular screen printing, the only difference being that it uses screens of considerable size, usually large enough to cover an entire men’s XL t-shirt. This process can be done by hand or with an industrial machine called belt screen printer. Screen printing works with any type of fabric.
- It can be performed on any fabric
- Great finish quality
- It’s fast compared to other techniques
- Price increases with every colour since each tone requires its own screen
- It isn’t price effective for small orders
- Not recommended for hyperrealistic or complex images
Is a complex printing process that involves a computer printer that works with polyester and polymer-coated substrates. First, the artwork is loaded onto high-quality transfer paper. Then a commercial heat press is used to transfer the design onto the t-shirt. The actual dye then becomes a gas without becoming a liquid (sublimates) which is transferred to the fabric and absorbed by the fibres. This means the dye is now actually part of the make-up of the fabric, which is why the t-shirt will wash well and not fade.
The best fabric choice for sublimation printing is either 100% polyester, dri-release (85% polyester and 15% cotton) or 50/50 (50% polyester and 50% cotton). All t-shirts start out as white, the base colour is part of the print.
- The 100% polyester choice gives the best and most vibrant finish as the ink is absorbed by the fabric. This choice will give the sharpest and darkest black colour
- The dri-release option is part-way between the other two options — black will actually be a very dark grey. The cotton content also gives a softer feel than 100% polyester
- The 50/50 version won’t give such a sharp print but is much more comfortable than the other two due to the 50% cotton mix
- Very durable
- Ability to replicate intricate designs in detail
- Usually, the production costs don’t change regardless if you order one or many garments
- Sustainable method since it requires very little water
- Only compatible with t-shirts that contain polyester
- The process is slow compared to other printing techniques
Important to keep in mind
As a new printing option, all-over printing has opened the doors to all kinds of new possibilities, but it is still in early stages of development and therefore not free of faults. The most important of them being that any crease or wrinkle the t-shirt might have during the printing process will mess up the print and leave an obvious white spot instead of colour. The person conducting the procedure must be very careful and make sure the t-shirt is perfectly flat at the time of printing, otherwise, the final product may end up looking like a white spotted Dalmatian.
All-Over print trends for Spring/Summer 2016
If you’re looking into adding all-over printed garments to your stock during this season, we’d suggest you get some inspiration from the following trends to offer a trendy collection to your customers.
Breton Stripes Revised
They are always in trend and particularly appropriate for the summer time. This season though, anything goes. Chunky lines? Go ahead. Rainbows? Sure, why not?
I don’t understand why people keep announcing flowers as something new. They’re always in, especially during the spring and summer seasons. Anyway, for some reason, they’re worth mentioning and this time around they’re in a graphic version. As for colours, designers seemed to be smitten with fiesta red.
Remember colour block? Well, this is the same concept only with patterns rather than colours. Don’t be afraid to clash different types of prints, the results could surprise you!
May it be Japan or China, designers have taken notes from their art history to create this season’s prints.
May them be vintage Americana or celestial, stars are going to be a popular design during the spring and summer seasons.
Strokes of paint
Prints that are designed to look like strokes of paint are going to be popular this time of the year. Particularly those that look like watercolours.
Places in the UK to get printed all over
Unfortunately here at Printsome, we don’t offer all-over print, but here’s a list of companies in the UK that do.
The reason why all-over print is not as widely produced as other types of prints is that it is a trend, and like all trends, they tend to come and go without notice. Most companies would simply just not make the investment on an expensive and complex machine that might end up gathering dust once the audiences move on to something else.
Overall, all-over printing is a great choice to have for novel designers who wish to explore their creativity. Due to its almost non-existent limitations, the possibilities are almost endless when it comes to its visual prowess.
Is there something you would like to add on the subject of all-over printing? Are you a fan or would you rather just skip it? Please, let us know in the comments below or by sending us a message via any of our social media networks. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome blog for more awesome content.
Printsome is a T-shirt printing agency in the UK based in London that delivers all across the UK, from printing T-shirts in Brighton to York and anywhere in between. So, if you’re after a T-shirt or custom clothing, get in touch for a quote and indulge yourself in some awesome customer service.