How We Print

What makes our printed garments better than the rest?

Atomic Swag uses the same printing technique as they did in the 1950s. The same technique used in all the 50s Hawaiian shirts, fabrics, tee shirts and kitchen tablecloths. We silk-screen our garments by hand with water base inks– because there is no better way to print a garment. Silk Screened water base inks are superior to any other printed technique. You're going to be unpleasantly surprised at what you've been unknowingly buying from other companies - keep reading!

 Why are silk-screened waterbase inks better?

The process for water base ink printing is more expensive than other printing techniques. Printing with water base inks requires an expertise in the printing technique. It’s not easy finding a printer that actually specializes in this technique.

When we print a design, the water base inks actually dye the garment that specific color. It becomes the shirt. It won’t wash out, crack, peel, or rub off - It’s impossible since it’s a part of the shirt fibers.

Water base inks are soft to the touch, because they are part of the garment, not like the infamous plastisol inks that you are probably too familiar with via the 1970s to today. They crack, peel, burn-and-stick-to-your-skin-in-the-sun. Also, cheap plastisol inks can have harmful lead in it.

What you’re being sold today and being passed off as waterbase silk- screening.                                                        

The newest, cheapest way to print a garment is Direct to Garment – which is another deceptive term for Inkjet printed tees or "digital print". This is the main method companies are deciding to use for their garments, because it’s cheap for them to make a garment, and they can print only what they need as each order comes in, and they can churn out a new design every day if they want because the art, expertise and quality has been completely removed from the process. And yes, there are lots of “vintage style” companies popping up and selling these and we can spot these printed garments a mile away. You may already own some. But, lucky for Atomic Swag, our tee’s may just become vintage tee’s one day that you’ll own for many, many, years to come – while the others won’t.         

 Inkjet printed/digital printed tee’s first became popular from Mall Kiosks. Remember when you’d go to the mall to have you and your BFF’s face printed on the shirt (and grandma and her cat selfie t-shirt), you'd wait an hour and go pick it up? That’s inkjet printing. Mall Kiosk shirts.

Inkjet/digital print garments are not even close to silk-screened water base garments. Inkjet/digital printing will pass the “soft hand” touch. It feels like water base inks because it’s soft to touch with the hand. And, digital printing companies know this and don’t feel bad about charging you $20-$40 for a t-shirt that shouldn’t cost you more than $12 retail. Ouch!

Digital printed tee’s “absorb” the ink that gets placed on the TOP fibers of the tee. It doesn’t all absorb equally and because of this, the design isn’t consistent, and if the top fibers of the garment don’t “absorb” they can come right off in the wash. Yes, you read that right – your design could wash out in spots. The top fibers of the garment don’t just stay on because you will it to. The inks come off – with pieces of your design. Digital Inkjet inks have come further than they used to, but they are far from the quality of the all mighty Silk Screen - and water base & discharge inks. Digital inks don’t have the same resiliency that water base inks do and Inkjet/Digital inks tend to fade exceedingly fast in the wash and won’t last very long. Also, Digital printed tee's have a problem called "dye migration" which is when the ink colors can blend together and make the design look muddy. Yikes, no thanks!

Inkjet/digital printed tee's are not the same quality because their inks don't have the same properties as Silk Screen Water Base inks do. In order for inkjet/digital inks to print, the ink has to be thin enough to get through the small inkjet print nozzle - they do this by not including all the quality ink properties that Silk Screen water base inks do. Silk Screen water base inks are so thick you have to use a squeegee to push the inks through the screens due to all the properties in them. Do you know what happens when these thin Inkjet/digital inks missing all those quality properties in them do to garment? Digital printed tee designs denigrate at a high rate in the washing machine - even washed in cold water, washed inside out, and hung dry. That’s why companies selling digitally printed t-shirts tell you to “wash the shirt inside out to preserve the print” because it will wash out and fade exceedingly fast and they know they’re selling a bad product with a short garment life. 

Digital printed tee's have about 20-30 wash cycles in their lifetime before the design basically washes out and/or fades considerably, making your printed tee look nothing like the tee you bought only a year or two ago. Besides being dishonest of companies not to disclose that they inkjet print their tee's and that their tees have a short garment life - it's also unnervingly dishonest to charge customers the same price as a high quality hand Silk Screen printed water base tee’s. Silk Screened garments with water base inks - like we use - is immensely superior to Inkjet printed tees and have such a long garment life, that your t-shirt could actually become vintage one day.

Now that we’ve mentioned the differences, you’ll probably start noticing them yourself and it’s okay to be a printing garment snob, because you paid good money for something that you thought was the same as another product. Not. Even. The. Same. Thing. Inkjet/digital, and plastisol inks, are just a cheap way to make a product, make a profit, and doesn’t have a long garment life.

Atomic Swag promises to never, ever, sell you a horrible 1970’s style lead based plastisol printed garment and we will most definitely never trick you into buying a cheap inkjet/digitally printed modern printed tee. There is an actual skill and knowledge to silk screening water base inks with the same style and quality as the 1950s. We have over 20+ combined years in printing and merchandising experience to know better than to sell you anything less.