Printing on sweats can be very profitable but requires different printing techniques.
There are a few things to watch out for when printing sweatshirts or sweatpants. First, you will need to use more platen adhesive than usual to hold the garment in place and the sweatshirt or pant will absorb some of the adhesive. As a result, you will need to apply new adhesive to the platen typically after every third shirt. Failure to have adequate adhesive will cause the garment to lift resulting in a shadow print and a ruined garment. A word of caution is to not use too much adhesive as it will remain on the inside of the garment until laundered.
Sweatshirts have a tendency to absorb the heat when they are flashed cured. When printing multiple colors over top of flashed prints, you will need to need cool down the sweatshirt. Use a chiller plate or cool down station to remove some heat before printing the additional colors. If the shirt is not cooled before printing other colors on top of the result could be ink dried in the screen, blurry prints and other problems.
In addition, because of the added thickness of sweatshirts you will need to raise the off-contact of your screens higher than you would for t-shirt printing. The pocket or pouch on a hooded sweatshirt will raise the off contact for the front print of the sweatshirt. You will need to make adjustments and take care when printing.
Lastly, you need to take extra care when sending sweatshirts through the dryer, especially hooded sweatshirts so that no portion of the garment will come in contact with the heating element inside the drying chamber. You will also need to monitor and empty your shirt “catcher box” often, as thick sweatshirts can fill up the box very quickly.
PRINTING SWEAT PANTS
The printing of sweatpants involves printing in three or more possible locations. Namely, on the on the hip, running vertically down the side or front of the leg and on the seat.
Let's take them one at a time.
Printing on the hip can be done in one of two ways, using either a sleeve/leg platen or a regular full sized platen. Depending on the platen you choose, you will need to determine where to burn the image on your screen. Typically a hip sized print is about the same size as a left chest print. The print is usually placed in the hip area where a pocket would be except toward the front. Make sure you use enough platen adhesive to hold the sweatpants in place when printing and flashing for a good opaque print.
When printing down the leg of the sweatpants make sure you confirm with your customer not only which leg “as worn” to print but also the location of the print. Customers may want the print down the side of the pant leg or somewhere between the front and the side. For a vertical leg print you will use the sleeve/leg platen and burn your image in the center of the screen. Often customers may expect you to print an image all the way down the pant leg. This is longer than your screen will allow. Your print can’t be any longer than the screen. Be sure to explain the limitations of the imprint size to your customer.
It has become popular in recent years to do printing on the seat of the sweatpants. Because of the seam that runs down the middle of the seat, you will need to be sure the artwork has a separation to allow for this since you can not print on the seam. Further, because of the separation of the seam, it is better to print each side of the image separately with a smaller sized squeegee rather than using a full size squeegee.