Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Robots Rock!

It's been a little while since we've done a full color process T-Shirt job at Manx Media, but we just pulled off a beauty this month for Sarah's Science, one of my all time favorite clients. We did a full color T of this Robot design that I drew for Sarah. Designer Mara Gendell added color and typography to my drawing to complete the shirt design.
Sarah Shaffer is a charismatic educator who runs summer science camps and after school science programs for kids in the East Bay Area in California.
It's been my great pleasure to do plenty of illustration and T-Shirt work for Sarah, and the latest project was the full color robot T-Shirt.
The key to a successful process color T-Shirts is a great set of color separations. I sent out to Scott Fresener's T-Biz shop for seps and the shirt printed like a charm! We added a spot color screen for the type, making it a five color job. I highly recommend Scott's products and services. We were able to burn perfect screens from the seps he provided, and print accordingly.
We're hoping for a chance to do more full color shirt jobs soon!

Steve Lafler
Manx Media

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Best T-Shirt: Gildan vs. Gildan

 Gildan 5000

At present, the best basic T-shirts for quality, price, color selection and availability are the Gildan 2000 and the Gildan 5000. The 2000 is a standard heavyweight T-Shirt, while the 5000 is a medium weight T. Both are 100% cotton.
These days, it seems like the hipsters and kids prefer a lighter T-Shirt like the 5000, or even the American Apparel 2001. The baby boomers like the heavier T's like the 2000. The American Apparel 2001 is pricier than the Gildan styles, it should be noted, but it's a darn nice shirt.
You can view color charts for at the highlighted links above, and with the 2001 color chart you can click on the color to see it modeled.
American Apparel 2001

Let me know if you'd like to quote a custom T-Shirt printing job on any of these great shirts. Manx Media can print anywhere from 20 to 2000 shirts and up, just let me know how many you want and what sizes. Show me your art file and we'll talk price.
We are all about quality and service, putting the shirts you want in your hands, printed just right, and on schedule.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media
Phone 503-213-3671

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cartoon T-Shirt Projects: Strategy & Marketing

Cartoon art printed on T-Shirts looks fantastic. T-Shirts are the perfect vehicle for a well executed cartoon, both a walking billboard and personal endorsement from the wearer. Screen printing inks are bright and dynamic, with great color saturation, perfect for cartoon and comic art.

Visualizing the Cartoon T-Shirt Project

For cartoonists, it's worth considering the intent of your T-Shirt project. Is your T-Shirt idea connected to a particular character, book or ongoing series? Do you plan to create a T-Shirt to sell to fans of your work, or do you envision an entire line of T-Shirts directed at a particular market? Or is your T-Shirt project part of your marketing and branding? A T-Shirt created for a specific event can sell very well, but risk may be involved. In some cases, you might create a cartoon or a design for a client who wants to print it on T-Shirts.
Visualize the color of shirt your design will print on, and what style of shirt. There are literally dozens to choose from, including kids, adults, longsleeves, hoodies and womens fitted styles. The basic cotton T-Shirt comes in dozens of colors. Do you see a full front design, or a smaller iconic design centered on the front of the shirt? Consider printing on both sides, sleeves, or over the left chest.

How many ink colors will you use? A dramatic ink color on a dark shirt can impressive, but so can full color printing. With multi-color shirts, consider whether to design using spot colors, or CMYK four color process. As a rule of thumb, I recommend spot color for screen printing projects. You get a more dynamic shirt with a lot of punch.

It is possible, of course, to do successful CMYK shirts. It's best with bold images with a strong composition and contrasts. The key is to work with a printer who knows how to generate a high quality set of color separations for T-Shirt process printing. Process printing can be done on any color shirt, but looks best on white shirts.
I'd like to do this bug dude on a shirt, but he's sorta ugly...

Marketing & Profitability

How do you plan to market, distribute and sell you shirt? Cartoonists typically sell at comics shows, openings and events, to friends and fans, via Diamond Comics (and other distributors), retail stores and on the web. Remember that stores and distributors will want to buy the shirt at a discount of 50% or more off the retail price. Web selling can be greatly enhanced if you mail a newsletter to a regular list of subscribers. Spreading the word with press releases, blog and social network posts can help get the word out too.

If you are financing a run of T-Shirts yourself, it's probably best to start small with two to four dozen shirts. If you have an aggressive marketing plan and a proven character or design, you can order larger quantities with confidence. It depends on your intent with the T-Shirt. If you want to make a profit with an unknown design, a short run is better. If you see the shirt as a marketing/branding project for a new character or book, and want to at least break even, you may be comfortable ordering a larger quantity.

The holiday season is great for cartoon T-Shirt projects, as there are many opportunities to sell and market shirts. People are looking for affordable gifts. Retailers need eye catching items, and there are ample gift and craft show opportunities at the holidays, and you can always promote a studio sale.

In the case of doing a design for a client, they will pay for the T-Shirt project. The cartoonist must consider how much to charge for the design, and whether they want to handle the printing and take a mark up on the shirts, or simply let the client deal with the printer. Typical T-Shirt clients might include bands, restaurants, schools, events, and retailers.

Pricing your Shirt

Check prices of screen printed T-Shirts at comic shops, online and at general retail stores. Forget about Target and Walmart, you can't compete price wise with offshore labor! A cool cartoon T-Shirt can retail for $15-20 dollars. That can go up or down, depending on the situation. I print for some tourist retailers in the Bay Area who sell basic printed Ts for $20 - 25, basically getting what the traffic will bear.

A wholesale order of cartoon T-Shirts can run from about four bucks a shirt (for white shirts) and up, depending on the quantity, shirt color and number of ink colors. Certainly, you can do an order of dark color shirts with one or two ink colors of ink for a very reasonable price. Of course, as the quantity goes up, the unit price goes down. On the other hand, it is often best to just start with a couple dozen shirts if you are on a budget and are not sure of your market. Let's talk!

Steve Lafler

I started putting cartoons on T-Shirts in 1978 as an undergraduate. Boy, was it fun! I'd just started publishing cartoons, and I loved slinging ink around, so it was a natural for me. The "Elvis Zombie" design above is an homage to the great punk rock band, the Cramps. I've sold maybe 500 of these over the years. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bella Scoop Neck T-Shirt Deals

Bella offers a stylish array of women's T-Shirt choices. Here at Manx Media, the top selling style from Bella is the womens scoop neck cap sleeve T-Shirt, #1003. It comes in a wide range of colors.

We are offering a special price of $7.95 per shirt on this style for 50 pieces printed with one color ink. Total on this job would be $397.50. Price is good for all available colors, with the exception that white is available for $7.50 per shirt. This price includes the set up--one film positive and one screen, working from your graphic file. Shipping is extra, FOB Portland Oregon.

At 100 pieces, the unit price for the Bella #1003 with a one color print comes down to $7.65 per shirt, or for white $7.15, again including the set up of one film positive and one screen.

All Bella styles can be seen in the Manx Media online catalog.

While American Apparel has been the top selling women's T-Shirt for quite awhile, we've had many requests for other brands. Bella is the leading alternative in terms of style and value.

Contact Steve Lafler for further details.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hey Portland! Local Custom Screen Printing.

Just a reminder to all the graphic artists, comic shops, bands, entrepreneurs, cartoonists and more of Portland Oregon--Manx Media Custom Screen Printing is printing over in St. John's in North Portland. Our production guy David Perkin has been pulling prints for more than twenty years and he is a real pro!

We can deliver anywhere in Multnomah County for free, always a good price. We can get a proof of your job to you too, or you can arrange to drop by the shop for a press check.

Drop a line or call 503-213-3671 today to get a quote on your custom screen printing job.


Steve Lafler
Manx Media

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Monsters, Cars & Guitars: Steve Lafler T-Shirts

It's my heartfelt belief that everyone should wear T-Shirts featuring Monsters, Cars and Guitars.
I've created a line of T-Shirts with the discerning fan of the like in mind.
This link sends you to my Steve Lafler/Cafe Press webstore, where you can get yourself set up with some stylin' looks.
Here's the designs on offer...

The classic Wolf Man plays his Gretsch Rockabilly guitar

This one's called Frankentiger, because Frankenstein is playing Tiger.

They call it the Vocho down in Mexico. The classic VW bug.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stupid T-Shirt Tricks by the Expert

I am a screen printer by trade. For 30 years, I've been in the wholesale T-Shirt printing business.
However, I'm a man of many interests. I'm also a writer, and I've been able to pen a short pile of articles on T-Shirt, Screen Printing and related topics for Demand Studios. Demand supplies non-fiction content for a variety of web sites such as EHow. For me, it's relatively easy money, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge about screen printing (such as it is!).
And yes, Demand Studios is what you would call a "content mill". That is not supposed to be a compliment! Yet when I write an article for them on T-Shirts and screen, I make a point of putting my best foot forward and doing a good job.

I thought I'd post links to some of the items I've penned for Demand Studios here:

Cheap Heat Printing Machines

Color Separation Techniques for Screen Printing

How to make an exposure unit for emulsion in screen printing

How to Make Your Own T-Shirt Printer

How to Do Silk-Screened Stencils

So there's five fairly handy articles on printing T-Shirts and related matters. If you would like to see more, you can visit ehow-dot-com and search on T-Shirts and screen printing. While I'm not the only person writing on the subject for them, I've certainly penned my share of stuff there.

As always, any inquiry about custom screen printing can be emailed to me at Manx Media, I'm happy to take a shot at any query. If I don't know the answer, I'll probably be able to recommend someone who can.

And here is a tip: What is the easiest thing to screen print on T-Shirts? Line art, in one color. My Dog Boy art below is a good example of one color line art.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Best Women's T-Shirts

The most popular brands of stylish women's T-Shirts I sell are Bella and American Apparel. Both offer a great looking scoop neck cotton T with cap sleeves.

This is the American Apparel version pictured here, style number #4321. The very similar Bella scoop neck T-Shirt is style number #1003, which can be seen on my web catalog by clicking the catalog button and searching for Bella 1003.

The American Apparel shirt is a bit cheaper that the Bella.

With the American Apparel, I can print 100 white shirts with a one color print for 5.25 per shirt. One hundred color shirts with a one color print are 5.95 per shirt with a dark color ink, and 6.25 per shirt with a light color ink. The one time set up fee of $35.00 for film and screen is extra.

The Bella is just a bit more expensive, and they have the advantage of not being owned by Dov Charney, but that is a whole other story!

While these are great prices, I note that I do not compete on price. I'm all about quality and service. I promise great printing and attention to detail. For example, I printed all of Margaret Cho's tour shirts from '99 to 2007. When Margaret was on tour and need another 400 shirt to magically appear at her next date in two days, I made it happen. That's what it's all about!

Steve Lafler
Manx Media

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How to Print Photos on T-Shirts

Who is the guy in this photo and what is he doing here??? Why, it's Ben Tanzer, writer of novels and short stories. He is also the publisher of This Blog Will Change Your Life.

I reproduce Ben's photo here as it's a good example of a photo that is good for screen printing. Why? Because it has a strong composition and high contrast. Here is how to screen print a photo or an illustrated continuous tone image as a halftone.

You want to use a high mesh count screen. I'd recommend a 305 mesh, but anything over 240 mesh will work. You will coat and expose your screen as usual. The key is to get your image on a film positive that will successfully reproduce the image.

Open the image in Photoshop and load your laser printer with clear vellum. Do not try to print a halftone film positive from an ink jet printer unless you have the proper rip software that can tell the printer how to make a halftone dot!

In Photoshop, go to color settings. Set the dot gain for 30%. Commercial printers usually set the dot gain at 20%, but T-Shirt printers set it at 30%.

Go to print the clear vellum, and when you get the print dialog box, open the screen dialog box. Set the screen frequency at 55 lines per inch. Set the dot shape to round if you are using a laser printer. Print the image to the clear vellum. This is your film positive and you can use it to burn your screen.

Try your normal exposure time. When developing the screen, use medium water pressure. If you hit the screen with too much pressure, you may blow out your half tone dots.

If the screen clogs, try again with a shorter exposure time. If the image washes o, increase your exposure time.

While printing, be sure to do some test prints before running shirts. Print on fabric test squares or newsprint to proof. Try one firm stroke -- sometimes two is too much and can blob your ink when printing halftones. It depends on the screen. If you are using a 305 mesh screen, it's more likely you can use two strokes than if you are using a 240.

Good Luck!

Steve Lafler
Manx Media

Ben Tanzer's new book is My Father's House. You can get it here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Make Spot Color Separations for T-Shirts

Let's assume you have created a multi-color design that you'd like to print on a T-Shirt. Typically, the design has elements of color, logos, typography and perhaps illustration. You probably used Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to create the design.
This technique works great on line art with spot colors.

Here is a simple technique for separating the colors so they may be printed on clear vellum, a.k.a. as "film positives". You will need a film positive for each color in your design. The film positives are used to put the image screen printing stencils. This technique is not for printing full color photos, in other words this is not for process color printing with halftone dots.

Open your design in Photoshop. If it exists in an Illustrator vector graphic format, export it to Photoshop and save it as a jpg or tif file.

Right away I will admit I'm still using Photoshop 7, as opposed to the latest version. Hey, I actually paid for it years back, and for my simple T-shirt printer needs it still works. So there you go!

From the tool menu choose the eye dropper icon and use it to sample the first color you'd like to separate, by putting the eye dropper over that color and clicking. From the "select" pull down menu choose color range. Move the fuzziness slider to 110 and click OK. The color is now selected in the design.

Open the channels pallet and go to the arrow in the upper right hand corner to open a pull down menu. Select "New Spot Channel". This opens the new spot channel dialog box. Click on color and select the same color that you are separating. Put "100%" in the solidity field. Name the color as you like. Click OK and your new spot color appears in the channels pallet.

Repeat this process for each color in your design until you have created a new spot channel for each. To print film positives, load your printer with clear vellum. Any channel that has the eye icon "on" will print. Be sure to indicate that you want to print registration marks in the print dialog box. By the way, it is a good idea to print out proofs of your seps on cheap paper first to check them.

If anyone has any questions about how to do this, zip me an email. It can be fussy the first couple times you try. And of course, if you need a quote on a job, I'm ready to help with that too!

Finally, there are times when I run into T-Shirt sep jobs that are beyond my capability. What to do in a situation like that? I highly recommend the services of Scott Fresener, the master of T-Shirt color separations.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media Custom Screen Printing

Friday, June 24, 2011

Manx Media Imprintable T-Shirt Catalog

I just posted our new catalog of T-Shirts and apparel here. You'll find dozens of styles of T-Shirts, Womens Ts & tops by Bella, Hoodies, Child styles and more.
Whether you are shopping for basic T-shirts, party looks, punk sexy, boomer sack shirts or bland office drone apparel, you will find anything you want in the Manx catalog.
I can quote your print job on your favorite items.

Punk, hippy, slacker, we got ya covered.

Happy Shopping,

Steve Lafler
Manx Media

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get a Custom T-Shirt Printing Quote

Here is a sample of a full color T-Shirt design we printed for Sarah's Science. I did the art for this one too.

So you want to get some T-Shirts printed. Chances are you have a design, or an idea for a design. The shirt may be for your business, school, band, club, fundraiser, event or just for fun. My business is wholesale T-Shirt printing, so let's get started.

I can make a quote for you based on some basic information about your project. Here's what I need to know:

* Quantity of shirts
* Size breakdown
* Number of colors in your design. Shirt color does not count. White and black do.
* Color of shirt you'd like to print on
* Type of shirt, for example basic T-Shirt, Child T-Shirt, Women's scoop neck T, etc.

Go ahead and email me this information, and I can create an accurate quote for your T-Shirt printing project. I should mention that Manx Media has a minimum order of 50 shirts. We are quality and service oriented. Our priority is to do a top notch job and put the shirts in your hands by your deadline.

I consider it a privilege to be able to quote on your job. I appreciate the opportunity to set you up with some great looking shirts.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media

Phone 503-213-3671
Printing and shipping from Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How to Screen Print T-Shirts

Screen Printing is an amazing technology. You can print intense, bright ink on just about anything with it. Of course it's great for printing T-Shirts. With a trip to the art supply and hardware stores, you can set up to print in short order. You can also source screen printing supplies on the web, or from wholesale screen printing suppliers. Here is as link to one other online supplier.

Let's assume you've already created a design that exists as a digital file. You mighta used Photoshop or even word, but it's done, right? For first timers, it is best to start with a design for printing in just one color of ink.

Get some clear vellum paper and print out your design on it. Use a laser printer for best results. The print is a film positive, used to put the image on a screen. The print must be opaque to make a screen. If it's not opaque, draw on the back with a black marker or brush and ink.

Buy a ready made screen print frame, stretched with synthetic mesh fabric. You can stretch your own screen fabric if you prefer. Choose a mesh count that is versatile. For general T-Shirt printing, start with a 110 - 180 mesh. Anything in that range should do. T-Shirt printers use mesh counts from 80 to 350, but a mesh of about 150 is the most versatile.
Clean the screen print frame with soapy water and rinse completely. Let it dry overnight.

Purchase some photo emulsion that can be used with water based ink. The emulsion must be sensitized before use. Mix the sensitiser as per the instructions that come with it. Do this in the dark!

Coat both sides of the screen with the emulsion. Use a stiff piece of illustration board or a squeegee. You can also buy a metal screen coating tool, a trough that you pour emulsion in, then coat the screen with. Go for an opaque, thin layer of emulsion. Remove any excess drippy emulsion with a stroke or two on each side. Put the screen in a dark place, face down. Let it dry overnight.

Check out the image above, how to burn a screen. You will use the film positive to put the image on a screen. This step must be done in a darkened room, with running warm water available. Cut a piece of foam rubber to fit inside your screen print frame. Place the piece of foam rubber on a flat surface. Place the screen print frame face down over the foam. Put the film positive face down and centered on the back of the screen. A piece of heavy glass goes on top of the film, frame and foam. Quarter inch glass is great for this as it holds the film positive in close contact with the screen print frame.
Hang a halide light about 15 - 18 inches over the film positive. Turn it on for about five to eight minutes. Exposure time depends on your emulsion. Check the instructions that came with the it for recommendations on exposure time. Often some trial and error is necessary.
If your design washes out, increase your exposure time. If it clogs up, decrease your exposure time.

Turn the light off and develop the image on the screen with a spray of warm water. Spray both sides of the screen until the image area is completely developed. Blot both sides of the screen with newsprint and let it dry in a well lit or sunny area.

Once the screen is dry, put packing tape or masking tape along the inside edges of the screen. Taping it out like this will stop ink from leaking at the side. Also inspect the screen for pinholes. You can block unwanted holes with tape or screen block.

If you have a T-Shirt press, put the screen in the print head and tighten, centering the image on the shirt board.

If you don't, it's not problem. I started running T-Shirts on a kitchen table. Just put a piece of newspaper in side each T-Shirt prior to printing to avoid the ink splooging out to the back of the shirt.

Lay the shirt flat on a table. Put the screen print frame over it. Put a bit of screen printing ink in the end of the frame opposite you. Use one hand to pull the squeegee towards yourself and the other to firmly hold the screen down. Lift the screen to check results. Once the print looks really good, print multiples.

I recommend that beginners use water based screen print ink for ease of use. The leading brands are Speedball and Versatex. Union Aerotex is a top brand of commercial waterbased ink, available from Midwest Sign (the first supplier link above).

Have fun and be patient!

Steve Lafler
Manx Media Custom Screen Printing

Monday, June 20, 2011

Make Your Own Custom T-Shirts

I am in the custom T-Shirt printing business, it's true. Maybe you'd think it's bad business for me to tell people how to make their own decorated shirts! But the fact it, with my minimum order at 50 shirts, there is plenty of reason to let people know what their options are.
If you need to put a design on just a few T-Shirts, I recommend using the tried and true ink jet transfer technique. Really, for short run full color, it's the only way to go.
Start by sourcing a few T-Shirts at relatively low cost at your local big box retailer. I'd stick to white or light T-Shirts as the transfer will look best on it. If you can't find blank T's at a good price, zip me an email and I'll set you up with blanks for a reasonable price.

You can do ink jet transfers on dark shirts too, just be sure to trim away the white margins from the ink jet paper before ironing.

You will need one piece of transfer paper for each shirt. You can buy ink jet T-Shirt transfer paper at most office supply stores, or you can order it online from Avery.
Of course you will need a design! Use a graphics or word processing program to set up a design. You can use typography, illustration, photos, and color in your design. Try to create something that will read well from a few feet away.
The design must be flipped horizontally to it's mirror image, then printed on the transfer paper. You can do this in Photoshop from the image pull down menu, and I understand you can do it in Microsoft Word also. I don't use Word, so you'll have to look in the help menu for tips on flipping the design. Or, just export the design as a PDF file and flip it in Photoshop!
Once you've printed your transfer paper, you are ready to print. Set an iron on cotton/high heat. Place each T-Shirt on a flat surface and place the printed transfer paper face down over it with the print in the desired position. Iron the back of the design firmly in a circular motion for three or four minutes to transfer the image to the shirt.
When washing, turn the shirt inside out and wash in cold water. The print will last longer if you do this. It will not last as long as a screen print, but still you get a great looking printed T-Shirt for a very low price.
Of course, when you decide you want a top flight screen printer to do your run of 50 shirts or more, I hope you will email me for a quote on the job!