Why is digital printing not good on dark colored t-shirts?

Digital printing is a relatively new printing process that is great for printing small quantities without a lot of set-up and cost. It is also very good at printing photographs and other four color process style designs. What it isn’t good for is printing lighter colored inks on dark colored shirts. The reason for this is the weakness of the inks and the inability to underbase the design properly.

The digital printing machines look like beefed up inkjet printers. However, of course the inks are thicker and created specifically to bond to fabric and not paper. Yet, nevertheless the inks just aren’t thick enough to not allow the darker color of the shirts to show through and change the look of the print color. The digital printing machines do have settings to print a white underlay of the design called an underbase.

Underbasing the design is very similar to the same process with screen printing, just not as effective. In theory the underbase should solve the problem by creating a white canvas to print the design on top of, but unfortunately it also comes with its own set of problems. Many times you can get misalignment when attempting this underbasing. That causes the white to show out from under the main design, making the print look crooked and misprinted. Even when done correctly this process still isn’t 100% reliable and often even with the white underbase lighter ink colors still do not show up properly.

All in all the digital printing has a way to go but it is more miss than hit at this stage of the technology. For that reason we only offer digital printing on lighter colored t-shirts with ink colors that are darker than the t-shirts. These darker ink colors provide much better coverage on the shirts and generally yield much higher quality prints. For customers who need darker shirts or lighter ink colors we recommend doing the screen printing process instead. The minimum order for screen printing is six pieces and the number of ink colors heavily impacts the price. By contrast there is no minimum for digital printing and you are welcome to add as many ink colors as you would like to your design without it having any impact on the price. Both have their pros and cons and it all comes down to what you need and what you are willing to pay for.

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