Tri-blend garments are hot right now (no pun intended there). If you aren’t already familiar with them, they are a blend of cotton, polyester and rayon. This combination harnesses the best of all three materials giving us a durable, super soft, very comfortable garment. “Vintage” is a word that gets used when we talk about these garments. They often have a heathered pattern, light and dark speckles.
Tri-blends have become very popular with athletic groups and fitness markets. Plus, they are super soft, so everyone seems to like them.
So what is the trouble with tri-blends, you ask? Well, there are a couple of issues we run into here.
As you may have read in one of our earlier posts, screen printing inks have to reach a certain temperature in order to properly cure. The rayon portion of the tri-blend doesn’t handle the heat as well as the cotton and polyester components. If the temperature gets too high the rayon can burn, ruining the garment. This gives us a smaller temperature window in which we can cure the garment.
The dyes in polyester fabrics begin to migrate when it gets too hot. If you have read about the sublimation process, dye migration essentially works in reverse. When the fabric gets to a certain temperature the garment dye begins to turn back into a gas and can seep into the inks we’ve printed. White print on red polyester can turn pink. Yellow print on blue may become green cast.
A super soft garment shouldn’t be an issue, right? On the surface, no, it is a great quality. However, when we talk about decorating a soft shirt we can have some hurdles to get over. As we’ve shown in our screen printing primer, to get a bright print on a darker garment we typically print a white underbase followed by the desired color printed on top. The underbase ensures that the colors are nice and bright. On a standard garment this feels just fine. On a soft tri-blend it is very obvious that there are two layers of plastic-based ink on there. Why get a nice soft shirt if you are going to put a thick print on it?
When printing standard plastisol on tri-blend garment the texture of the print can be rough. The blend of materials causes some of the fibers to stand up after the ink is applied to the garment. This can come as a surprise if you aren’t aware of it.
What are we to do, then, with these shirts? The best answer in this situation is a vintage print. Our print shop can use either water-based inks or plastisol inks that have been cut with fashion base. Both of the techniques mean we can put a thinner layer of ink on the garment and get a soft-hand feel. A thin ink film also means we can cure it at a lower temperature, solving the scorching and dye migration issues.
The tradeoff is that fashion inks and water-based inks are not as vibrant. So we can give people vintage prints that are soft and smooth (as seen in the above image) or we can print bright colors that are thicker and can potentially have curing issues. Our recommendation is to go with a vintage print that matches the vintage look of the tri-blend garment.
Interested in trying out these trendy garments? Call us or email one of our always helpful sales reps today!