Below you can find a reasonably comprehensive list of terms which you may hear from us regarding our services, or that you might have heard elsewhere. We try to keep things simple, but if you are ever unsure about a term we’ve used and don’t want to ask – this list is always here.
Terms that relate to the preparation, creation and supplying of your artwork.
A software company who develops some of the more commonly used image programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator.
Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) is a printing process more commonly known as CMYK. Combining these 4 colours, you can create (almost) any colour and is commonly used for photographic images.
Combo Inside Neck
A term we use to describe a cost-effective inside neck print that incorporates all sizes within one design. You can see an example of this and other types of inside neck prints on our relabeling and product finishing page.
Raster images that have been reprocessed and reduced in size have been ‘compressed’. This is generally at the expense of image fidelity (see Pixelation).
Short for ‘dots per inch’. This is a measure of how many individual dots can be placed within the span of 1 inch. A higher density of dots allows for a higher degree of detail. Print images require a higher DPI (300dpi+) than web images (72dpi), so we always recommend creating images for print at a high resolution.
A digital typeface stored in a font file, used for changing the stylistic appearance of text. Font files used in your artwork files should either be rasterized or outlined. Visit our file preparation page for more information on how to prepare fonts for screen printing.
A technique that breaks up the tonal detail in an image into dots. These dots have different size and spacing to give the impression of shades. For example, you can simulate a number of grey tones, only using black dots. We generally recommend that you allow us to create halftones on your behalf, to ensure they work correctly with our printing setup.
Software for creating and manipulating vector files. Developed by Adobe. Probably the main vector software used in professional environments.
A visual representation of how the product will or should look. Although this term might be used to describe the demo we supply for proofing, we usually use it in the context of a mockup you provide us with during enquiry.
A method for vector files of turning text elements (that use fonts) into editable ‘shapes’.
Sometimes referred to as PMS colours. A standardized color system used across many printing industries, with each colour generally identified by a unique number (‘199 C’, for example). It helps designers and manufacturers ensure colour in production matches specification. A designer will pick the correct colour to use from a physical Pantone swatch book, then the manufacturer / printer will inspect the same swatch from their own Pantone book during production, to ensure a match.
Software for creating and manipulating raster image files and one of the most commonly used in professional environments. Developed by Adobe.
A raster images is made up of pixels. When these images are increased in size, these individual pixels become visible to the eye. Pixels may also become visible due to compression, in the form of artifacts.
The printed size of the artwork, as it will appear on the t shirt.
Also known as a bitmap image. Rasters are made up of individual square pixels in a grid to build an image. They allow for very detailed and complex images, but cannot be rescaled without a loss of quality (unlike vector files – see below). Example raster file types include: .psd, . jpg, .jpeg, .png and .tiff.
A method for raster files of turning text elements (that use fonts) into editable pixel-based data.
This refers to the detail of a raster image. Low resolution doesn’t exclusively relate to the number of pixels – an image that has been scaled up in size (or compressed) may have a lot of pixels, but the detail may still be poor.
The system used for presenting colours on a computer display, by combining red, green and blue.
To print your artwork, it must first be split into it’s separate colour components. The process and result of doing this are both called ‘separation’. The number of colours in a separation is usually determined by our recommendation, based on the art supplied and your budget. Software is then used to separate these colours from the original image, into their own colour plates. These plates are applied to individual silk screens as negatives (using our CTS printer). Each of these screens will have their own ink colour and once combined, will reproduce the original image. CMYK is one type of separation.
A type of separation, or an element of one. A spot colour in a separation will match a specific colour, typically a specific Pantone colour. A spot colour may be solid or halftoned. A spot colour will always match the same colour from previous print runs.
A file we can provide to be used as a guide for supplying your own artwork. We have these available for some of our services.
Artwork created as a vector (as opposed to a Raster) can be scaled indefinitely, which makes them very flexible. Rather than pixels, vector software (such as Adobe Illustrator) creates these images using points, lines and curves. Vectors are perfect for text and solid areas of colour, however they’re not particularly efficient for artwork that contains a lot of shades/colours (such as photographs). Example vector file types include: .ai, .svg, and some .eps and .pdf files.
A free third-party website useful for uploading and sending files to us. We recommend this for large files in particular. Files are stored on the WeTransfer website temporarily while we download them, then expire.
Terms that relate to our embroidery services.
Material used underneath the embroidery (beneath the garment fabric) used to support the fabric and stitching during embroidery.
The process of converting your artwork into a stitchable design, that will be used by our embroidery machine. This only needs to be done once, then can be re-used for future orders. The digitised version of your design will be sent to you for approval, before production begins.
The machine which reads the digitised embroidery file and then stitches the fabric with the digitised design. It has a number of heads, that allow for multiple garments to be stitched at the same time.
An embroidery hoop is a frame designed to hold fabric taut as it is embroidered. It consists of two rings, one that fits inside the other. Fabric is placed between the rings, and when the rings are placed inside the other again, the fabric is clamped in between. As well as holding the fabric taut, they are used to mount the fabric onto the embroidery machine.
Our primary supplier of threads. The threads are made from sustainable sourced rayon/viscose, rather than polyester.
A cloth badge (not to be confused with a woven label) that has been stitched with a design, which may then be attached to a garment (after manufacturing, with a pin or sewn on). We do not currently offer patches as part of our embroidery services – we only stitch directly onto the garment.
A stitch between two points that does not run back and forth or overlap. Very fine details may use this.
The process of sewing a design into fabric, using thread and needle.
Embroidery thread is a type of yarn used on our machine to stitch out your design. It is manufactured specifically for embroidery.
Terms that relate to the environmental factors of the services we offer.
Biodegradation is the naturally occurring breakdown of materials, either by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, or through other biological activity. Being able to biodegrade does not necessarily mean a product is eco-friendly. Some biodegradable materials can last hundreds of years in the environment without ever breaking down. Although similar in principle, biodegradable materials are not the same as compostable materials (see below).
Climate neutrality means achieving a zero emission footprint. This is by either ‘offsetting’ or eliminating emissions. As a business, this may mean making changes not only to your products, but the way they are made or sourced, and the way you operate day to day.
At Blackwater Studios we are constantly looking for new ways to improve our production practices and to make changes wherever possible to reduce emissions and waste. Read more on our organic t shirt printing page to find out more about how we work towards this goal.
An accelerated, managed form of biodegration with an added benefit. Composting is a human-driven process in which a material will biodegrade under specific conditions – such as at a certain temperature or within a set timeframe – when exposed to the correct balance of microbes, moisture, oxygen and warmth. To be called compostable, these products must biodegrade into nutrient-rich compost that can be used to grow more plants.
Continental Clothing’s signature collection.
A wholesale company dedicated to creating ethical, sweatshop-free, climate neutral, environmentally friendly garments. Continental Clothing owns three different brands: Continental, Earth Positive and Salvage. Their clothing is designed specifically to be decorated and is suitable for all printing techniques and all different ink types and this includes discharge printing.
100% Organic Products produced exclusively from organic Indian cotton, and the entire production process is controlled and certified in accordance to (GOTS). Earth Positive is one of the Continental Clothing collections.
A term used to describe a product, practice or process that has a smaller, less damaging or positive effect on the environment and its ecosystems. Within the textile industry, “eco” refers to fibers/fabrics that are sustainable or friendly to the environment.
A collection from Continental Clothing. Products showing the Fair Share label carry a small price premium that is passed directly on to the garment workers in India. This is part of a scheme between Continental Clothing, Fair Fashion Network and BSD Consulting that aims to deliver a Living Wage to garment workers at their factory.
Fair Wear Foundation
Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is a European multi-stakeholder initiative working to improve workplace conditions in the garment and textile industry. FWF verifies that its member companies implement the FWF Code of Labour Practices in their supply chains.
Fashion Revolution is a not-for-profit global movement with teams in over 100 countries around the world. Fashion Revolution campaigns for systemic reform of the fashion industry with a focus on the need for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.
Global Organic Textile Standard
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. The aim of the standard is to define world-wide recognised requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.
OEKO-TEX® Standard 100
The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is a globally uniform testing and certification system for textile raw materials, intermediate and end products at all stages of production.
Organic textiles are grown or raised without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, hormones or other harmful chemicals. Generally the best way to ensure a product is made from organic textiles, is to check what reputable certifications it has. The required amount of organic fiber for a fabric to be certified ‘organic’ varies depending on the certification agency in question and which certificate within that body has been applied for. For example, the criteria for GOTS to certify a fabric as ‘organic’, it must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fiber. However GOTS have another label grade called ‘made with organic’, which requires a minimum of 70%.
Chemical or biological agents used to kill or destroy any type of pests or insects. They can also damage ecosystems, endanger workers and poison water systems. According to the Soil Association, over a fifth of the total water used for growing non-organic cotton is used purely to dilute hazardous pesticides down to a level considered ‘safe’ enough to enter the waterways. For organic farming, these types of chemicals are banned.
These chemicals are salts or esters of phthalic acid. The esters are commonly used as plasticizers to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and increase the flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity of plastic products.
Abbreviation for polyvinyl chloride. (commonly called vinyl) A synthetic plastic polymer that is made softer and flexible by the addition of phthalates and is not biodegradeable. In terms of toxicity, PVC is considered as the most hazardous as it can contain traces of toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A, lead, dioxins, mercury and cadmium.
Energy generated from natural resources, including sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, all of which are renewable and easily replenished. At Blackwater Studios, our electricity is entirely offset by a renewable energy source.
Salvage refers to a Continental product collection. Products carrying the Salvage symbol are made from 100% recycled materials. These materials come from cuttings leftover in the production of organic cotton textiles and are mixed with fibres from locally recycled plastic bottles to create a cotton / polyester blend.
Organic and sustainable textile certification body that offer two independent organic certified standards (GOTS and OCS) and certify both schemes. Look for the logo: Products showing the symbol make it easy to find a certified organic product that meet these legal standards. These standards look at all aspects from: the harvesting of the raw materials, to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing.
You don’t need solvents (chemicals) to clean the screens down with waterbased inks – only water is needed.
Garments & Fabrics
Terms that relate to the construction and materials used for garment creation.
Bamboo fabric is a natural textile made from the pulp of bamboo grass. Bamboo is considered sustainable, because the plant grows quickly and does not require the use of herbicides and pesticides to thrive. Bamboo rayon is made by dissolving pulp bamboo into its cellulose component and then spun into viscose fibers. Organic bamboo products come with Oeko-Tex 100 Certification (see Environmental terms above), which helps ensure that there are no harmful chemicals in the finished product and no harmful chemicals went into the making of the product. Standard or discharge inks are recommended for bamboo t shirts, as the softer ink is more suited to this light weight material.
A finishing process for woven fabrics used to create extra softness. This is done by raising the surface (brushing) to remove excess lint and fibres.
The amount of variation considered acceptable for quality standards. Due to the nature of fabric (which is very malleable), the sizing of cuts does vary and it’s not uncommon for a degree of a-symmetry.
A shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, India and Africa. It is a fiber most often spun into yarn or thread and used to make a soft, breathable textile, that is the most widely used natural-fiber cloth in clothing today.
More refined and a step up in quality by specially treating the cotton fibres before they are spun into yarn. They are combed to remove any impurities or imperfect strands, leaving only strong, straight cotton fibres.
This describes the textile treatment process and finish. In the Ringspun process, the yarn is made by continiously twistings and thinning the strands making a very fine rope of cotton fibers. The fibers are aligned and all go in the same direction, making the garment feel softer and more durable.
Short for Chief Value Cotton. This refers to fabric that is a blend of cotton and polyester (poly-cotton), where the cotton content makes up more than 50% of the blend.
Where the edge of fabric has been narrowly folded on itself and sewn, to create a clean edge and prevent the fabric unraveling.
A natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre made from GMO-free plants that are grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals (fertilisers or pesticides).
Polyester is a polymer. In short, polyester is plastic. Polyester fabric is a synthetic fabric created by bonding polyester fibers together. Polyester fibers are the product of a chemical reaction between coal, petroleum, air, and water. Not only is polyester derived from non-renewable resources, but the process of extraction from fossil fuels yields a high carbon footprint and significant byproducts.
Fabric blends that interweave different colours, or types of fiber, to produce a unique multi-colour or tonal effect. For example, heather grey.
A registered trademark of the Lenzing Fibers Group for Lyocell. More accurately described Lyocell is a solvent spun fiber in which the cellulose is directly dissolved keeping the cellulose much closer to that found in nature.
A garment that has been constructed without side seams, created from a single piece of cloth.
A man-made cellulose fibre made from the pulp of wood or bamboo and chemically processed to create a new polymer. Viscose is traditionally made in a chemical process which requires significant amounts of water and the chemicals used in production cannot be recovered for re-use.
Terms that relate to the ordering process.
Short for Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services and is a type of bank transfer. Bank transfer is our preferred method of payment.
When a large quantity of a product is ordered in one go. Screen printing is designed for this style of ordering, as the printing process itself is the fastest part. The majority of the cost and time is in the setup. Therefore if you order larger quantities, the cost per unit goes down. It’s also why we have minimum order quantities.
The last date by which goods must be delivered. It’s important to inform us of any deadlines you may have, as early as possible.
Also known as a proof. This is a digital document that outlines in detail the size, positioning and colours to be used in your order with a visual representation of how the product will look once completed.
The stage where you check the proforma invoice and demo art to ensure everything is correct and you are happy to move forward. We must receive approval from you in writing before we can start your order. Payment alone is not considered approval of order.
An invoice sent to you prior to payment, with a breakdown of your order details. This is usually sent alongside your demo. This must be approved and paid before work can begin on your order.
Getting your products retail ready. Finishing services include, inside neck prints with labels removed, labeling, relabeling, folding and bagging, size stickers and swing tags. Some of these extras may extend overall lead times.
Also known as a quote. A proposed price for our services based on your requirements. This is generally the first email you will receive from us after you make an enquiry.
An example of a product. We offer printed samples in our sample store for purchase (refundable as credit). Due to the nature of screen printing, we cannot print samples of your own design. We do however, produce reasonably accurate demo proofs prior to payment.
A clear list of the garment products you require, their colour, and then with sizes listed from smallest to largest. See our FAQ for more information on choosing t shirt sizes. We recommend sending in the format below:
Colourway 1 (White Ink):
Small x 10
Medium x 15
Large x 15
XL x 10
Small x 10
Medium x 15
Large x 15
XL x 10
Colourway 2 (Black Ink):
Small x 10
Medium x 15
Large x 15
XL x 10
We discourage sending spreadsheets where possible.
A stock shortage occurs when our suppliers don’t have sufficient stock to complete your order. Stock availability is constantly changing – if this does occur, we will talk you through available options.
The time required to complete your order. We begin your turnaround time from the point of order confirmation and payment.
The cost per unit within an order. In an order of t shirts, each printed t shirt represents one unit. Larger orders typically have a lower unit rate / cost per unit. See ‘Bulk Ordering’ above.
Terms that relate to the screen printing process itself.
A circular automatic printing machine. Garments are loaded onto the machine, sent around to each ‘head’ to be screen printed, and then returns to the original position for the garment to be off-loaded.
Whenever an ink colour has to be replaced with another, part way through a print run. This involves stopping the print run, removing the screen that requires a colour change, cleaning the previous ink out by hand, adding new ink and then re-inserting the screen and resuming the print run.
Colour changes are per print position, as each position has their own set of screens, setup and print run.
Instead of using plastic film, we use a CTS (Computer-to-Screen) printer to apply artwork directly to the silk screens. This means no plastic and no waste. It is also much more accurate and time efficient.
Ink that has been dried at high heat (through our belt dryer) and successfully bonded to the fabric of a t shirt.
A light sensitive liquid that screens are coated with. The design ‘stencil’ is applied directly onto the emulsion using our CTS printer. The screen is then exposed to light. The light causes any areas of emulsion not blocked by the stencil to harden. Any emulsion that had been blocked by the stencil is then washed away, exposing a stencil on the mesh itself that will now allow ink to pass through it.
Once a print run is complete, the emulsion is entirely removed and then re-applied, ready for another design.
We no longer use plastic film in our printing process. Previously, artwork would be printed onto acetate film and then manually registered onto silk screens. This has been replaced by our CTS printer and is no longer necessary.
A bar behind the squeegee, used to flood the screen with ink. Once the squeegee has pulled ink across the screen (to print a t shirt), the floodbar pulls all the excess ink back, re-flooding the screen. This ensures the design has complete ink coverage, ready for the next print.
The act of pulling a garment *onto* a platen, so that the garment can be printed as the platen moves around the machine.
The mesh of the screen. Ink is pulled through this mesh, onto the garment below it.
A garment that has been printed incorrectly. We always try to avoid these, but sometimes it can happen. Due to the nature of screen printing process, it is generally not possible to replace very limited numbers of misprints (see Underage).
The act of pulling a garment *off* a platen, once the garment has been printed. The garment is usually off-loaded onto a dryer belt to be cured.
The ordering of extra stock to offset potential ‘underages’, that may occur due to misprints or faulty items (see Underages further down).
Platen / Pallet
This is the board which a t shirt is loaded onto for printing. These come in a number of different sizes and styles for each type of print position. A design must fit within the flat area of a platen in order to be printed. Larger designs need wider platens, but smaller t shirts may not fit onto larger platens without stretching them. This may influence the print size that we recommend for your order requirements when you enquire.
Print registration refers to the alignment of the colour layers within your design, in relation to each other. If any colour within a design is out of alignment by just a fraction, it can have a very negative affect on the print. If an underbase is being used, this could mean a white edge being exposed from underneath a design. Ensuring correct alignment/registration is required not just when applying artwork to a screen, but when placing the screen into the printing carousel as well.
Screen (Silk Screen)
A large frame with a mesh stretched across it. Each colour component in your artwork will have it’s own screen, and is applied to the mesh on each screen like a stencil.
Another term for silk screen printing.
A rubber blade that pulls ink evenly across a screen. It applies pressure against the mesh, forcing that ink through onto the t shirt (which is held on a platen) below it. When screen printing by hand, the squeegee is what the person printing will be holding in their hands. When hand printing the squeegee will also be used to ‘flood’ the screen, by pushing the ink back. On an automatic carousel, the flooding is done by the Flood Bar.
A layer of white ink that is printed as a base onto darker t shirts, which then has the lighter colours in your design printed on top of it. It makes sure lighter colours stay bright and true and aren’t muddied or dulled by the colour of the garment. It has a similar purpose to a base coat of primer, which you would use if you were repainting a wall.
Only one underbase screen is required per design, regardless of how many colours are in that design.
When misprints do occur, there may be a shortage (underage) on the products you receive. Most of time involved in screen printing is the setup itself, and the process of screen printing is not an exact science. Which means it’s not practical to reprint just a handful of garments.
As an example, if you were ordering 100 t shirts with three print positions, 99 t shirts could be printed perfectly. However, one t shirt may have two perfectly printed positions and the third position could be misprinted. To reprint this one t shirt would mean ordering more stock and then setting up all three print positions again. Instead of reprinting, this t shirt would be either credited or refunded and you would receive 99 t shirts instead of 100 (an underage of 1%). However, if there were as many as 10 faulty items, these would be eligible for a reprint.
If having certain numbers of stock is essential, it is generally a good idea to order extra stock (known as ‘overages’). We highly advise against only ordering what is required to fulfil pre-orders you may have.
Screen Printing Inks & Print Styles
Terms that relate to inks we do – and don’t – offer.
An additive for printing that allows vibrant or bright colours on most dark t shirts. The result is the softest print, but requires a bleaching process.
No Longer Offered. A shiny metallic foil that is applied to fabric with an adhesive. We no longer offer this type of printing, due to the plastic carrier films that the foil comes on. They typically don’t have very good wash fastness and tend to be quite delicate. We prefer to use waterbased metallic inks, although they are slightly more subtle in effect.
Glow in the Dark
A white ink that has a green glow when viewed in the dark.
A semi-shiny ink with a metallic flecked appearance. Commonly used to simulate a gold or silver finish.
A broad term for colours that may be a shade of cream/yellow/grey or even a white that has subtley adopted the colour of the garment it has been applied to. Due to the number of ways people interpret ‘off-white’, it’s generally best to send us a Pantone equivalent or send us physical reference so that we can match your own requirements as closely as possible.
The waterbased equivalent of plastisol ink. It allows bright, vibrant prints on any fabric colour or composition. Like plastisol (and unlike standard or discharge inks), this sits on top of the garment fibres.
Not offered. A PVC and solvent based ink. Blackwater Studios does not use any plastisol inks due to their harmful nature, although it is still used or offered by most other screen printers.
A water-based reflective printing ink that contains micro glass beads which reflect light. This is available as a clear ink that can be printed over other colours. Due to the micro glass beads, this ink requires a very coarse mesh to allow them to pass through.
This generally refers to any ink type that provides a special effect. This includes but isn’t limited to metallic inks, glow in the dark and reflective inks.
An ink that does not contain any animal (or animal-derived) ingredients. We use MagnaColours ink, which are vegan friendly.
An ink made up of pigment, resin and water that avoids the use of PVC and solvents. Waterbased inks are less harmful to the environment than plastisol inks and are also biodegradable.
Terms that relate to our product finishing services, such as relabeling and bagging.
Book Cover Fold
A woven label with a center fold, and additional folds at the ends (similar to a book cover sleeve). These are typically used for hem tags.
Center Fold (Loop Fold)
A woven label with a folded center. This is widely used for inside neck labels. They usually has a little extra length top and bottom, to allow them to be stitched in underneath the neck tape.
A woven label, usually a wide rectangle, with folds at each side. It is only sewn on the folded edges. Works well for wider logos.
Labels / Woven Labels
Fabric labels that are stitched into your garments. These are manufactured in bulk, with the base colour created on a loom and your custom design woven into it.
A woven label similar to an End Fold, but with a unique 45 degree angle fold at each end instead. Works well for wider logos.
Also known as polyethylene bags. A plastic bag used for containing and transporting goods and protecting them from dirt, dust and moisture.
Straight Cut (Border Label)
A woven label with no folds, that is stitched on all four sides. Commonly used on beanies.