One thing I'm going to look into is a screen I can set up with vinyl (so it's quick, super accurate and reliable, more expensive though) and print with inks as well. Sometimes vinyl is too heavy and works better with smaller more detailed designs. The most durable inks are plastisol but they're very aggressive and so not a good idea to work with without a lot of wet working space and sinks etc. to clean with solvents. Same issue with inks in general, not really sure I can get away with it in rented accommodation with carpets! I might be able to deck out a "wet" area but it's getting pretty busy in here with 2 desks, 3 screens, 3 computers, 1 heatpress a cutting plotter and a multifunction printer plus all my materials/storage (and 11 lizards). You needs tonnes of space for screen printing that makes it prohibitive for small working spaces.
I could also try to find a thinner and more flexible vinyl, at the moment I have loads of PoliFlex but that's only one brand. Figure it's much the same stuff though. I think the tetris one could work OK if it's smaller. I've been wearing the Yoshi monster T and it works well with curved shapes but not too much block area. I only notice the weight if I faf about with it.
Another thing I've noticed is the lighter colours like white and yellow have white blockout layer underneath, they are almost twice as thick, whereas darker colours like blue and red and black sit on the fabric better. So the B&W designs like controllers for instance should be OK.
The ultimate thing would be to combine a bit of both. Screen print for block areas of colour that are unlikely to fade etc. but if they do at least will uniformly, with the details that you don't want to crack away done in vinyl over the top. Sadly I can't invest in any more kit until I make a substantial return on what I have in my studio for the next several months. A good screen is about £70, then the inks and it's actually the squeegees that cost a lot (£30+ for a good one). So that's a few hundred quid to achieve the same thing inheriting a few strengths along the way. You can't cheap out on the inks either or the results won't be good.
Another thing is sublimation printing, that bonds ink particles directly to a polyester outer layer, but that requires a new printer + proprietary inks (that you can then only use for this process), that's about £500.
Maybe I can find some second hand stuff to get started with at least 1 or 2 screens.
I screen print tshirts. It isn't that messy if you're careful, although I do all of my cleaning out in the back garden with a pressure washer. You could get away with a bath though if you keep some spirits close by to clean the bath with after.
Yeah, I think I can get away with 1 or 2 colours and just 1 screen/clamp. I don't need to do any UV stuff (and frankly strawberry float that, where am I going to build a light trap and fit the UV bulbs?) as I can make the masks in vinyl and just stick to the screens. Obviously I'd be careful, but I don't really want my business spreading out into other spaces in my (absolutely tiny) 2 bed terraced house (of which 1 bed is my studio).
My bath is an old iron/enamel bath but with all the enamel worn down so it stains easily.. I think painting it red wouldn't go down too well with the estate agents. But, I have a big courtyard garden and a drain I can wash down. Hadn't thought about washing down out there. Do the inks stain paving stones over time?
Are there any clamps or screens you would recommend for starting out? I'm willing to invest, hate stuff crapping out. The kit I have here is top tier and I will be using it probably forever or I have to sell out.
It's actually much faster (once the screen is set up) to do screen printing, but you have to anticipate volume to compensate for time at a reasonable price for the customer, hence minimum order stuff from independents. While I hate to see prints crack and fade after a couple washes (I know this depends on the inks and curing) I think block colour is a bit different.
For example I have some Threadless and Uniclo shirts that are OK but visibly worn. I think they use a mixture of direct to garment, transfer and screen print. Screen print is the most durable (permeable) but has relatively poor finish and colour intensity. I think the best ones are where they've used plastisol inks in combination with block colours like black that aren't so bad if they fade slightly, it even makes for a desirable "laundered" look, for example I have this Japanese script design. It would be cool to use a mixture.
Transfers are a minefield though, I'd stay away from those. Everything I have had using transfers is just crap, they fall apart pretty much after 1 or 2 washes. I know you can get premium papers that cost like £70 a pack but the outlay is way too high just to try that out. Sometimes it's the only feasible option for complex multicoloured designs though, when competing with online outlets that will do shirts for bugger all because they can subsidise small orders.
With screen printing it's more fading and poor edge/colour definition that are the low points, as far as I know. I'm not an expert. It's easily the best all round (and volume) application method. Although as you say you use plastisol, although more messy to work with (you need solvents), those colours are stronger, more durable and UV resistant.
I think cracking is generally a side effect of media drying out or being cooked, i.e. it's ultimately a care issue. It might be poor quality inks, inks that haven't been cured well, or ink that is too think. Vinyl is the least susceptible to that, but I guess there's some really crappy stock out there that doesn't hold up. The media has come a long way in the last couple of years with factories dedicated to just producing good heat transfer vinyl, I get mine from Germany. I don't think it's reasonable to expect any kind of print to last more than a few years of wear however and some people keep clothes (understandably) for a long time. They are ultimately things with a limited life.
For example certain types of vinyl can crack if it is exposed to the sun for too long, but wearing something outdoor day to day is fine. I think some people maybe leave their clothes out to dry in sun or tumble dry, which is a bad idea for any kind of print. Always wash inside out and air dry these sorts of things.
There could be a myriad of possible reasons for cracking regardless of media, including harsh detergents and stain removers that could damage the adhesive (well that's peeling which is different).
I suspect that there is some older vinyl that really wasn't very good - as it's not even typically in use today in commercial shirts as it's labour intensive, it's hard to find items to compare. The vinyl I use seems fine to me, but of course the real test is looking at these garments in 3-5, even 10 years.
Of course the worst thing for cracking (and worst for everything) is DIY paper transfers, the transfer media just cracks and lifts up off the shirt pretty much right away, even the stock on shelves doesn't look good. I don't understand why it's used, it's such a bad experience for the customer.
Direct to garment printing is also great, but of course the printers are insanely expensive, we're talking 5-10k. They also fade, although there are probably UV resistant (solvent) inks for those as well.
I'm learning a lot about all the different options!
Vinyl has a lot of strengths with few weaknesses, is clean and the vinyl cutter allows me to do a myriad of other things (including creating screens for screen printing), so it's a great package for me. Certainly the glass etching would be impossible without one - not this level of detail. I have tried etching by hand and, well, it sucked. It would take way too long and is not really a nice result unless looking for a very rugged hand-made look with tones of relief. I have the dremel for polishing out flaws though which is handy.
Anyway, the key thing is taking all these different methods into consideration and figuring out what is the best method for the design and the end customer.
I dont mine fading I quite like the part faded look in designs I think it looks nicer than the bold colours of vinyl.
Additionally in big designs like the PacMan icon etc. the front of the shirt feels too heavy and doesn't move due to the vinyl being there, it also adds a heat issue as it is a massive area of the shirt that is totally un-breathable so if you are doing anything or are in weather where you may sweat it builds behind and you get a sort of sweat spread around the design as well as generally feeling clammy.
Personally I think the ink would be a better option for this sort of thing as it gives you a nicer finish and a shirt that feels nice to wear.
Indeed, that's exactly the type of thing I want to use screen printing for for those reasons. I was wondering about that the first time I made one. Although the pacman is much thicker than the space invader because it has the blockout layer, the space invader is better.
Originally I was going to contract a screen printer but they charge £80 per colour to set up meaning one shirt would have cost me £160 which is obviously madness, it would be cheaper to buy all the equipment and do it myself.
I've also considered simply making the pacman and space invader much smaller and discontinuing the current size while doing that in vinyl.
It's interesting as someone on here mentioned they prefer the thick look of vinyl and that's when it clicked that I could get into sign making while also making shirts with the same machine, but obviously some people prefer vinyl for the look and others prefer the lighter screen print and laundered look. In retrospect the pac and invader thing would work better as a screen print even if I couldn't afford to do it while other designs particularly very detailed and text-based designs work well in vinyl, generally smaller. Hopefully it won't be long until I can set up both.
(And of course I could have just bought all these things and then resold them but where's the fun in that?? You can't call yourself an artist for long without making anything!)
Oh of course, this isn't my only outlet / revenue stream, that would be insane, the GR shop is just using the equipment I have built my small business up on and a way for funding my time spent on GRcade things I would otherwise use with clients (time is money etc).
I make income doing a lot of other comissions like web design, sign making and T-shirts for SMBs, I may or may not choose to invest in GRcade things using private funds.
The shop was and is a good project to deliver on ideas shared directly with the community though, something I find special and more fun. I couldn't think of a better project to try working that way, at least at the time. That's what this is about for me.
It's also good experience, for example now I can attach a shop and provide the physical merchandise packaged together for other small online websites/communities, this is increasingly common as a way to fund startup non-profits.
The shop only runs at a loss if I consider all the equipment as falling under the GRcade name which of course I don't, that's a long term investment I plan to pay off elsewhere. It's considered plant/machinery that I pay off with much more lucrative jobs usually over 1-2 years, obviously all my operating expenses are covered in the shop prices.
I might set up another brand for the gaming Ts stuff but I'd also like to offer some stuff exclusively to the GRcade shop just as a gesture. I recently launched my personal brand and started selling stuff on eBay and opening Etsy shop soon. I have GRcade shop to thank as my first little foray into eCommerce (or at least one run by myself and not commissioned by somebody else to run, I have worked on other online stores before), I've learnt a lot just processing and shipping orders and what is and isn't realistic. For example there might be a problem if I was suddenly inundated with orders, which is why I have 5-7 day lead time that is manageable even while I'm doing my day job.
Even if my T-shirts/sign-making ventures aren't successful I just chalk these things down to experience and subsidise it, maybe carry on as a hobby or come back to it later etc. It's always been that way for me, I spend pretty much 90% of my disposable income on equipment and tools to make stuff as that's what I enjoy.
In a way GRcade Shop is a bit like a case study, not to make it sound cold or anything but everyone working on GRcade has learnt a stupid amount just doing what they do over the years. Back in the day I don't recall Karlprof for example running any servers or anything like that and if there's a good example of community management this is it (although some surely think we do a better job than others ).
Phew, all the bastard tulip glasses are ready to etch (which only takes 15 minutes each):
Next onto conical. There is a PINT mark in double stroke on the 4x conical glasses I ordered, that I wasn't expecting, so I am being refunded for those and sent 4x Arcoroc glasses I originally ordered, that may or may not have Arcoroc branding on the side as turns out they have just changed how they brand their stock. (This was only explained to me over the phone, for years and years it has been on the bottom.) Will see how subtle it is, but it may be the case the conicals have a catering brand on the side. If they just look naff, I will request another replacement. It's so difficult to find unmarked glasses of a good quality! I have informally sorted out an account manager for the glasses at a global supplier after their cock up so I can always get the same glass. I refuse to go and get some cheap glasses from Tesco or somewhere that will just explode if they fall over, the annoying thing is this takes ages to turnaround.
They all look solid though, just want these to be as good as I can get. I don't want to spend ages etching on a glass that has some crappy machine job on the side that screams "PINT LOL". You guys will always know exactly what you're getting before I ship them out, will post up pictures of the finished glasses tomorrow or Saturday (the conicals should arrive tomorrow).
I've also set up an account with a very highly regarded flex vinyl producer. I'm not going to be able to do screen prints, but I'm going to try a few different brands of flex. This particular brand (Stahl) are massive in the global industry, I have personal account manager so I can whine and get what I want . Their flex seems thinner and way more flexible, it might have a better tooth (feel).
I think I am going to reduce the size of the pac and the invader on that T for comfort reasons. Your feedback is really important to me.
Well the conicals arrived and they are just what I had wanted, they are genuine Arcoroc glasses, tempered, great consistency and only a tiny little engraved stamp (about 1cm) that looks something like an elephant (very abstract lines so hard to tell) under the "Pint"/CE markings. No big stamp on the base anymore, which I think is preferable.
I've got details to get the same glasses every time so will be using those moving forward.
Also, I ordered some gel 2 days ago that blocks the etching acid to make sure I'm doing as much as possible to avoid acid seeping under the mask and causing blurry edges. It might still happen, but that's every technique there is to get the best result. Still waiting for that though, hopefully shows up tomorrow.
Those of you that ordered shirts, my supplier for that was delayed as well due to "staff holidays" (rubbish excuse!), but they were dispatched 2 days ago (about 4 days late) and should be here tomorrow.
I have just tried masking the conical ones, much more straightforward. It is such a hand-shakingly difficult process applying to tulip with loads of manual incisions with scalpel, it's mad I'm offering them. The space invader for example is nuts, with the little pixels only 1mm square. Sorry it took ages.
I have decided I am going to need to subsidise the tulips with conicals slightly, so price is now £13.99 for ALL glasses. I thought it could be a cheaper option but turned out after finding a supplier the conical glasses are about 25% more expensive for me to buy - so basically there was no reason for that lower price. This way I can ensure I always get Arcoroc glasses from my new contact at Richen's Global, and I can mix and match orders in multiples other than 4.
Gonna come up with a few new designs next week and hopefully launch my Etsy shop!
Also both shirts are down to £12.99. from 14.99.
Oh and another bit of news, I'm going to see if I can get some keychains laser cut from red acrylic and then use vinyl transfers for the other colours. Watch this space!
The Watching Artist wrote:Dat vid Gecko.
It's a cool machine isn't it? I wanted one pretty much as soon as I started using one at the start of last year at my art uni job. I was pretty much like, "right, galleries, need signs, everyone needs signs, this thing is cool - also makes T-shirts?" And then my business sort of happened from there. I'm easily inspired by cool tech. You can also mechanically draw with it and even cut papercraft! Much more satisfying than drawing everything on a computer and sending it off to someone else to do the making part. I'm much happier doing stuff like this.