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Emmy Handen, co-founder of Bravo Screen Printing, has worked with a bunch of local businesses and clients who are on the lookout for glow in the dark garments. As one of the simplest specialty techniques around, glow in the dark is far less intimidating than it might seem. Emmy is eager to share her knowledge and tips with us today, in hopes of inspiring other printers to try their hand at this fun and creative technique.
The benefits of glow in the dark printing
Emmy recommends glow in the dark as a really simple and versatile form of specialty printing: “The nice thing about glow in the dark is that it doesn’t require any extra equipment or specialized printing techniques. It's just a different bucket of ink!”
Choosing your garment
Before you begin printing with glow in the dark, you need to choose the right garment to print on. Luckily, glow in the dark acts very similar to regular plastisol inks, meaning your garment options are broad. However, Emmy does advise against printing on a really soft shirt as glow in the dark prints are at least 3 layers of ink (2 white base coats with glow in the dark on top) which can weigh the fabric down. Likewise, if you’re choosing a garment specifically with wicking properties, the thickness of glow in the dark can interfere with the fabric’s ability to wick away sweat.
Deciding how to add glow to a design
“Consider the design from 2 points of view: how it’s going to look in the daytime and how it’s going to look in the dark,” Emmy advises. As long as the design is effective and recognizable in both states, you’ve got an effective design. For a more creative spin, you can even place a hidden image or message in glow in the dark ink that is only revealed once the lights are out.
Printing with glow in the dark ink
The beauty of glow in the dark is how easy it is to incorporate into your existing printing process; you can just use phosphorus ink in place of plastisol ink. Emmy advises printing with a screen that has a mesh count between 90 and 200 so that you can get a healthy coverage of ink and a bolder glow. If you’re printing on any color other than white, it is best to print two layers of white ink first so you have a nice vibrant base for the glow in the dark to show up against.
Check and test
“One challenge with glow in the dark,” Emmy says, “is that you can’t see if you have any problems at the end of the dryer, so if you’re doing a long run, make sure you take a shirt to a dark room every so often to check the coverage is good.” It’s always smart to do some quality control when you’re printing any design, but with glow in the dark, you have to be that little bit more careful.
Make the most of your glow
“You’re going to get the most bang for your buck when you apply glow in the dark ink to blocky areas,” Emmy explains. In her experience, she’s printed a lot of moons, stars, and lettering, which all work well as the glow shows up brightly when it’s more densely packed. Try to avoid using glow in the dark inks for fine lines, halftones or shading as the glow may not be as striking.
All in all, adding glow in the dark printing to your decorating toolbelt can level-up your business and let you offer something a bit different to your clients. You never know, it may even inspire you to make your way into other specialty techniques.