Are you ready to offer your customers great special effects and unique designs that will give you an edge over the competition? If you are passionate about screen printing, you are probably wondering: What are the next steps I need to take to get something unique in front of my clients?

Any discussion of using special effects inks has to start with one question: How much in-house R&D do you do? In other words, are you doing test prints and experimenting with the many special effects bases available? Whether I am at a trade show or visiting a customer, I ask this question, and 90% of the time the answers are similar: “We don’t have the time” or “We don’t have a dedicated (test) press.”

I hear you. It’s hard to to justify investing the extra time and equipment needed to experiment with all the options that are out there. But if you look at your R&D from a long-term perspective, you’ll discover that it is worth the time in terms of bringing something unique to your existing clients and having something eye-catching to attract new ones.

Consider this scenario: You have a customer who comes to you and asks for a print with flock, but the cost of  a traditional flock application puts the printed shirt cost beyond the price point they can afford. What do you do? You could suggest offering a special effects ink that produces a similar effect, but at a much lower cost. However, you can’t really promise to deliver that without test printing first, leaving you hesitant to give the customer what they really want.

Whether it’s a flock-like effect or something else, you’ll find that there are bases available that can help you achieve almost any look. However, you need to invest time up front to experiment with the ink so that you can mix and print something you think might work for the customer, while also knowing the costs and production time required.

If you haven’t done the R&D, you run the risk of taking the time to set up a job without being sure it will deliver the type of print you want, and most importantly the print your customer will be pleased with. Nor can you be sure of your costs up front, which is a bad risk for any print shop.

It would be ideal to have a printed sample swatch featuring a simulated flock (and other special effects) that your art department can reference and incorporate into your potential customers design. I say “potential” because what if your competitor already knew how to produce this print technique and had all of the pricing and print requirements figured out?

Bottom line: R&D equals dollars, and that is the name of the game – keeping your presses running and offering printing techniques that set your shop apart from competitors.