Sometimes to win the sale in this competitive marketplace, we need all the advantages we can create. To avoid a price battle with the other shops, adding credibility through technique and diversity can be enough to capture a customer’s business. Take pride in promoting and marketing what you do best, and the more you do best, the more you can promote and gain that extra advantage over your competitors.
I like mixed media (print and embroidery) because it opens a whole new unique and creative space you can complete in house, and it offers the customer that extra flair they may be looking for on special projects. I’m a big advocate for mastering your trade, this is a technique that has endless opportunities for being creative. Increase your skills, diversify your offerings, and make more money with mixed media.
Before you can accomplish this technique, you must have the right equipment. The concept is simple in theory, but there are some factors to consider that make this process possible. Here’s how it’s done.
Workflow starts with the print and is finished with embroidery. Aligning embroidery to the print is not possible without specific embroidery technology. Printing on fabrics create variables that can affect the final print dimensions. There are minor variables in print size from factors like how the shirt was stretched on the platen and how much the garment shrank during the curing process, to potential for minor underbase misalignments. Additionally, hooping garments offers room for orientation variations and stretch. All these factors can lead to impossible registration and alignment issues on the embroidery side.
There are currently two embroidery systems that allow mixed media for print/embroidery. The Snowman positioning tool allows the user to find a printed position and match the embroidery design to it. Snowman uses a camera to scan the whole printed image but does not resize the digitized design and only allows you to find a position to start embroidery. It’s time consuming and limited because it doesn’t rotate or resize the digitized design to match the printed variations. This can lead to misalignment issues within the results.
The Vector Line Laser Alignment (VLLA) tool from Melco locates two points built into the art that you need to register. VLLA repositions, matches orientation, and resizes the digitized art between the 1-2 points built into the art so you have consistent alignment. This way when the printed design varies in size or orientation from the original digitized design, VLLA makes the adjustments needed to compensate and stay in registration. This is especially useful when hooping a design, there is no major concern for ensuring the print is hooped perfectly square and any variations in stretch can be accounted for.
The printing side can be done several ways. If the printed design incorporates the 1-2 registration marks for the Melco alignment system, any printed application should work. Screen print, transfers, sublimation, or DTG from the Epson F2000. For lower volume, full color designs, I prefer Epson F2000 DTG prints which offer the ability for quick adjustment, full color, printing on a variety of media.
Now that you know what equipment it takes to get the job done, let’s talk about application; it all starts with the art. From the printing side, application is simple. Simply create and optimize your artwork for your printer like you would for any normal print job. To read more on optimizing art for DTG printing read my article here.
When considering your art, consider what elements you will want to embroider and make these individual layers within your graphic design software. You will use the layers you want to embroidery on the digitizing and embroidery side but will remove them from the art before you print. If using the Melco VLLA, be sure you add your 1-2 registration marks in the upper left and lower right corner of your art. Quick tip, create your art to about the same dimensions you expect to print and at a high resolution. It’s always better to overestimate size than under.
Art on the embroidery side needs to be digitized like any embroidery art. Use the same art from your print file but use your digitizing software to digitize the layers that need to be embroidered.
Bring in the print design and digitize the embroidery around the print design. Then add the vector line between 1-2 points in your art that give you position, orientation, and size. From there drop out the print element and show the embroidery elements. This feature is unique to Melco and critical alignment. This is the Vector Laser Alignment Tool that adjusts to the print shrinks or expands or stretches in the hoop it allows the embroidery software to accommodate the changes.
The application of print/embroidery mixed media is extremely versatile. The idea starts in the art. We can do a boarder around printed patches, the inside of tackle twill lettering, highlights on a printed jacket back or hoody, tote bags, or ball caps.
All of these techniques can be done easily with the right tools and a little creativity. What creative mixed media idea will you come up with to make more money with your business?