Ask Clive – Printing Effects

At first glance, the promotional clothing marketplace is running low on new special-effect prints as standard demands are mostly Pantone and logo-based. However, inks, fabrics, and printing processes are changing in response to retail trends. For example, customer requirements for PVC-free inks and increased use of polyester fabrics are affecting garment screen-printing significantly.

Demand for special-effect printing is rebounding, and most major retail brands have at least a few graphics each season that use specialty techniques. In the promotional clothing special-effect printing tends to be design driven which leads to a creative demand from the artwork team.

While they do cost more special effects give designs and logos a point of difference and distinctive products often promote your client’s brand better.

Photochromic ink

Photochromic, or UV-reactive inks, are almost transparent when viewed indoors but change to vivid colours in sunlight. Magical effects can be created with a print that effectively displays two different designs, although only a limited range of colours is available.

Foil printing

First, the garment is screen printed, using a special adhesive rather than ink, and cured (dried) in the normal way. A sheet of foil is then heat-pressed on to the image created by the adhesive. The foil sticks to the adhesive-printed areas and the excess is removed.

Foil printing gives the best shiny metallic printing effect. Bling at its best! However, because it’s a two stage process, foil printing may not work quite as well for fine, detailed designs, and it’s vulnerable to energetic washing.

Metallic inks

Producing a shimmery, sparkly effect, rather like metallic car paint, metallic screen printing is cheaper than foil printing, but doesn’t have the same full shiny effect.

Glitter printing

Like foil printing and metallic inks, glitter inks can make your design sparkly and eye-catching. They’re available in a variety of colours and will make the logo look dynamic.

Puff print

Puff prints are created by mixing a specially formulated base in with the ink. The base-ink mix expands as the print is cured through the heat tunnel, leaving a 3D texture.


Flock printing is again achieved by adding a special base to the ink, which gives the ink a furry, velvety texture as it cures through the heat tunnel.

Glow in the dark ink

Why not combine glow in the dark with a standard print so it highlights a particular part in the dark?

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Happy Selling
Clive, The Clothing Guru

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