Wash and Learn! **BIG Tip Alert!**

August 13, 2009

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Print Colours Not Lining Up? Troubleshooting Bad Registration.

My greatest hope in writing this blog is that you may learn from my experience. I pass along as much info as I can about how to screen print like an expert . I like sharing my my “how-to’s” and  and I also like to share my “how-not-to’s”! After years of printing I’m still learning from my mistakes. Hopefully my “how-not-to’s” can give you some insight for trouble shooting pesky problems and avoiding some big time wasters. 

I am often printing larger scale screen prints with full coverage and tight registration. I often develop my film positives on the computer so I know that they register very well. But many times I have found my self completing the last colour of a project and the registration is TOTALLY OFF???!!!  F$%#!! SH!T. I was always stumped as to how it happens! But recently I had an AHA! moment. 

If you are screen printing onto fabric that HAS NOT been washed and pre-shrunk the ink can cause it to shrink as you work! Of course, the larger the print area and the larger the coverage area with ink  makes a huge difference. (I think if you were printing a few fine lines- it might not happen. It also may not happen if you print wet on wet- but rarely do printers do that in fabric printing. But larger coverage prints- it will for sure.)

Here is my first print on unwashed new cotton. By the time I got to the third colour the fabric had shrunk 3/8″ from both sides and my final colour way did not match up at all.


Badly registered.

Badly registered.

Off register by about 3/8"

Off register by about 3/8"

So I took another piece of fabric and washed and dried it. Then printed again. AHA! This time my print lined up nicely! 


Registration works well this time!

Registration works well this time!

So if you find yourself stuck and wondering why your print colours are not lining up- it may be because of fabric shrinkage as you work. 

Good luck and happy printing!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam 08.13.09 at 10:33 am

I never thought of that! I’d better throw this load of t-shirts in the wash…!

angie 08.13.09 at 3:13 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your tips. I always like to preshrink my fabric, guess it is a habit I’ve acquired from making slipcovers.

admin 08.13.09 at 6:00 pm

I guess that’s why clothes and home goods that are preshrunk are more expensive.

admin 08.13.09 at 6:02 pm

You could always do a test first- maybe the shirts are pre-shrunk. :)

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