Put On Your Inking Cap
THE OLD ADAGE, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” definitely applies to choosing inks and new special effects for garment imprinting. With literally hundreds of choices and thousands of effects, it can be tempting for distributors to offer end-users a promotion with the latest bit of adornment, simply because they can. However, jumping to use the latest or most novel embellishing method may not lead to the perfect match for a promotion.
That is the advice of 20-plus year industry expert Tom Vann, president and CEO of Target Graphics. “Doing special effects for the sake of doing special effects is a mistake,” said Vann, “but using them to get texture or a glam look to fit a specific demographic or market, that’s where you see growth, and when people execute it right, success.” He believes distributors should take a common-sense approach when it comes to emerging technologies and techniques in garment printing—and they can start by realizing new printing methods and inks need to be incorporated into a design that fits the target market. “It’s picking the right shirt with the right design, and then the right embellishment,” continued Vann. “If it’s a youth market, they like glim and glam so you might use foils and so forth. If it’s retro, you’re going to still see distress, which has been popular for a long time.”
More than that though, distributors need to be mindful of the approach or process of getting a garment printed. Oftentimes, Vann said, he will see a distributor come in with an item an end-user wants to replicate, and in Vann’s mind, this is a good thing. He points out, “A great way to start is take that sample and then knock it off. A distributor can do that to save a lot of time, aggravation and money.” Vann doesn’t advocate replicating a design aspect for aspect, but believes there isn’t always the need to reinvent the wheel—in essence, if there is something an end-user likes, give it to them. If a distributor doesn’t have a sample to use as a template, Vann said it’s a good idea to, “know what the shirt color is going to be, what kind of shirt you are thinking, so the artist isn’t sitting there with a blank slate.” Not providing a template is a good way for a distributor to have his or her job get lost in creative translation, while a better thought-out project is completed.
For those in need of ideas, Vann stressed textures are hot right now, but they need to be thoughtfully considered. “If you just take the ink and put it on a shirt with someone’s logo on it—boring—[it] doesn’t do anything,” cautioned Vann. “You have got to think about design, bottom line, that’s the key. Think design first.” He said the use of new high-density inks, leather inks and even traditional puff inks can add value to the promotion when used to create 3-D looks, and in some cases, optical illusions that trick the eye into seeing depth.
Besides that, Vann said look to the cities. “What’s hot right now that will use those special effects is anything urban, hip-hop or biker tattoo,” he mentioned. “You see a lot of those looks in the design and then in the middle you’ll see a corporate logo.”
In the end, his best advice is to think retail and perceived value. “What’s most important about the special effects is the ultimate outcome or the feel of the design,” he said. “If you’re going to give something away, spend a little bit more money. It does not have to be a boutique item, but it has to have retail appeal [so] people want to wear it.” And hopefully, wear it they will.