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How to Create a Basic Underbase

Posted by Chelsea Chafin - webmaster on 11/1/2016

When printing, you want your finished product’s image to look like what you created on the screen. However, if that merchandise happens to be a dark t-shirt, you may incur a hiccup or two.

If you print on a dark shirt without a white underbase, the final color will be dulled. The vibrancy you once had will disappear and the design itself may be hardly recognizable. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you have already printed onto a t-shirt and are confused by how it turned out.

A white underbase is all you need. The phrase itself can be intimidating if you haven’t run into it before and can even seem like it will take a lot of work to accomplish. It won’t. The creation of an underbase is simple and will save you so much extra work and frustration in the long-haul.

If you are printing a black design on a dark colored shirt, i.e. a black logo on a maroon shirt, then it should be noted that no underbase is needed. Black never requires an underbase, and, in fact, one may subdue the black, eliminating its rich color.

First things first, if you are using Illustrator, check that the colors you are using are being typed as spot colors. You will know when you are doing this because the symbol (a white triangle in the right hand corner with a black dot in its center) will be visible around the square. As you progress forward, continually save your colors this way.

Just like when you are printing separate colors, you will be printing a separate film for your underbase. This will require an actual color being used for your underbase.

Crisper images are guaranteed with an underbase.

Note: do not use the regular white swatch. It signifies a lack of color, not the color white.

With that said, to create your underbase you need to select all areas where color other than black will be present (use the shift key to select more than one area). While selected, fill in the space with the intended color.

Once you have colored your design as you see fit, copy and paste it. You want two layers of this so that one can become the underbase, which simply put is just an extra layer of ink between the design and the shirt. With the bottom layer selected, choose your underbase color. Being placed under your color, it will not be visible to the naked eye, but if you remove the design color at any point you will be able to see it is placed correctly. You will also want to select any “white” space you may want, such as an eyehole.

Afterwards, you will want to turn on your Attributes. From there, select Overprint Fill. Again, you won’t see a huge difference except maybe a tiny line around your picture. To make sure your image stays tight against the shirt, create a stroke of the intended color around the design and then select Overprint Stroke. It will be past your underbase, guaranteeing the proper blend is on top of the shirt.

When you are ready to print, most white inks will work for the underbase, though a particularly useful ink for this task would be International Coatings Blocker Gray. It works well to help prevent dye migration.

If you have any questions or concerns, Texsource has a great staff accessible anytime during business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30-5:30). Monthly screen printing classes are also available and encouraged to those eager to learn how to screen print.

#screenprinting #screenprintingsupplies #silkscreen

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