What is an underbase?

An underbase, also known as an underlay or base coat, is a layer of ink (usually White, but Grey or Black when used as Dye migration blocker ) printed directly onto a garment before the actual design colors are applied. It serves as a foundation for the subsequent ink layers, preventing the fabric’s color from interfering with the print and the inks from soaking into the fabric.

Understands Underbases The What Why and How

Why use an underbase?

Using an underbase offers several benefits:

  • Prevents color interference from the garment, ensuring accurate color reproduction
  • Provides protection against color bleeding and dye migration
  • Counteracts fibrillation (fibers showing through the print)
  • Enhances color vibrancy and opacity, especially when printing light inks on dark garments
  • Facilitates the creation of special effects
  • Improves overall print quality and durability

When to use an underbase?

While an underbase can prevent various issues, it’s not always necessary. Consider using an underbase when:

  • Printing light or translucent inks on dark garments
  • Specific areas of the design require more opacity
  • Customer specifications demand it (e.g., athletic wear may require a thicker print)
  • When used discharge ink
  • To flatten the fiber of the fabric

However, sometimes investing in higher-quality ink or refining your printing techniques can solve problems without the need for an underbase.

Types of underbases

  • Solid underbase: Easier to create but results in a thicker print
  • Halftone underbase: Allows for tonal gradation and enhanced dimension
  • Colored underbase: Can be grey, light blue, or other colors to maintain tonal balance and add depth

Factors in creating a successful underbase

  • Ink properties: Creaminess, opacity, and flashing/drying speed
  • Flashing: Underbase should be gelled, not fully cured, to ensure proper adhesion of subsequent layers
  • Mesh count: Ranges from 80 to 305 (T32-T120)

Proper application technique

  • Use a hard flood stroke followed by a lighter stroke, use high speed for water based inks.
  • Avoid forcing the ink into the garment, as this can cause issues
  • Flash the underbase correctly (gel, not fully cure)

Potential downsides

  • Can make the print feel heavier
  • Adds an extra step to the printing process

In conclusion

Understanding and mastering the use of underbases is crucial for achieving high-quality, vibrant, and long-lasting screen prints. While it may seem complicated at first, knowing when and how to use an underbase can significantly enhance your printing process and results. Always consider your customer’s specifications, the garment’s color and fabric, and the design parameters when deciding whether to use an underbase. With practice and attention to detail, you’ll be able to create stunning prints that stand out from the competition.

Questions & Answer to underbases in screen printing

When is an underbase important?

An underbase is crucial when printing light inks on dark garments because it prevents the dark color of the fabric from showing through the ink, ensuring the printed colors appear vibrant and true to the design.

Can an underbase be a color other than white?

Yes, an underbase can be a color other than white, such as grey or light blue. Using a colored underbase can help maintain the tonal balance of the design and even add depth to the print. Or dye migration blocker are grey or Black sometimes.

Is an underbase always necessary in screen printing?

No, an underbase is not always necessary. In some cases, using high-quality inks or refined printing techniques can achieve the desired results without the need for an underbase. It’s essential to consider factors such as the garment color, fabric type, and design requirements when deciding whether to use an underbase.

What is the difference between a solid underbase and a halftone underbase?

A solid underbase is a uniform layer of ink that provides a consistent base for the subsequent ink layers, resulting in a thicker print. On the other hand, a halftone underbase uses varying dot sizes to create a gradient effect, allowing for tonal gradation and enhanced dimension in the final print.

Why should an underbase be gelled and not fully cured during the flashing process?

An underbase should only be gelled and not fully cured during the flashing process because a fully cured underbase will not allow the subsequent ink layers to adhere properly. Gelling the underbase ensures that it is dry enough to print on but still allows for proper adhesion of the following ink layers.

How can an underbase affect the feel of the printed garment?

Using an underbase can make the printed area feel thicker or heavier compared to printing without an underbase. This is because the underbase adds an extra layer of ink to the garment. The thickness of the print should be considered based on the customer’s preferences and the intended use of the garment.

What factors should be considered when deciding whether to use an underbase?

When deciding whether to use an underbase, consider the following factors:

  • The color of the garment (dark garments often require an underbase)
  • The color and opacity of the inks being used
  • The design requirements (specific areas may need an underbase)
  • The desired feel of the final print (an underbase can make the print feel thicker)
  • The customer’s specifications and intended use of the garment
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35 years of screen printing have taught me a lot. I would like others to benefit from this as well. I strive for accuracy, use professional writing aids, and personally review all content. Affiliate links marked with (#) support my work without incurring additional costs. If you have a question or suggestion, please leave a comment. Thank you for your support!

Over the decades, I've had the privilege of printing for a range of clients, from startups to recognized brands like:

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