Screen printing t-shirts and apparel requires a good eye for color. Since most inks come to us in a primary color, our resident screen printers mix most colors by hand to match the digital design mockups. But what happens when there's a color gradient or fade?
Split fountain printing, plain and simple. While this isn't the only method of achieving this effect, we've found that split fountain printing produces some amazing results.
What is split fountain printing?
The image at the top provides a good visual example of a design that would require split fountain printing. To achieve the effect of one color fading into another, we placed two colors on the screen side-by-side. Split fountain printing is the process of these colors slowly blending closer together as you go through the normal screen printing process.
Here's what the final result looks like on a shirt.
Why use split fountain printing?
Split fountain screen printing can be tricky, but we love the end visual effect. This method may or may not be for you, but here's a few reasons why we think it's great:
new color blends and effects
more original designs
opportunity to reprint current designs with different colors
show off your creative flair
That being said, it's not necessarily the right choice for every design.
Is split fountain right for my project?
In most cases, split fountain printing is basically where we put all the ink colors of the gradient image on one screen and blend them to make the gradient happen. The caveat to this technique, however, is that each garment will be unique as each push of the ink onto the shirt will create a slightly one-of-a-kind blend. Some may like the inconsistencies and the uniqueness between each garment, but we know that it is not the preferred outcome for every project.
While creating a gradient effect is possible with color separation and the use of multiple screens and halftones, we find that using this method for gradients with fine detail doesn't usually come out with the desired look. So, we would generally recommend the split fountain approach, which can also be a much cheaper alternative (less screens used and fewer impressions). Win-win, am I right?
Is split fountain printing difficult to achieve?
On the production side, the setup and teardown may be a little challenging, but the printing is pretty simple and fun. One thing to note as a screen printer: no need to go blend-crazy.
For example, it's important to use less ink than you think you'll need. Think about half as much as a normal, one-color print. This is because if you use too much ink, the different colors can blend together too quickly and ruin the 'blending' effect. You might have to reapply ink more frequently than normal, but the end effect of consistently blended shirts is well worth it. So if you have a really large order to print, using the split fountain effect may increase your turnaround time a bit.
It's also near impossible to recover any excess ink at the end of your print if you use split fountain printing. But if you're using less ink (as mentioned above), you shouldn't have too much excess anyways.
If you can't already tell, we love geeking out over this stuff. Split fountain screen printing is just one of many ways to create a unique, awesome looking shirt. It just happens to be one of our favorites.