Soft Tones on Darks? Yes!

People really love the soft, integrated finish you get with discharge inks. By bleaching the garment’s dye out the ink’s water based pigments show up nice and bright without having to be layered like with a heavy plastisol print (more on this in our Ink Types section).

However! Discharge does not lend itself to subtle tones. Yes, you can print water based inks through halftone screens but due to the runny nature of the ink, the dots tend to spread and after a few prints you start to lose detail in the darker parts of the image.

The design in question for this particular case study is Skull Mandala by Jonathan Shaw (original to the left). As you can see, the design is made up of solid white areas with a small shady skull in the middle. We could have approached this simply as a 1 colour white print and leave it at that. But we like to take a little extra care with this kind of thing!

To achieve the desired result we used 2 colours, white and black. First the solid white areas were separated. Then we applied a straight forward halftone to the white of the skull. You wouldn’t want to halftone the whole thing as this would make the smooth edges of the mandala and text slightly jaggedy. The skull was then duplicated again, inverted and lightened, mainly around the mid tones to retain the important detail in the lightest and darkest areas. This became our black screen.

The print was set up by Charlie E’s arms (bottom left) with white discharge going down first. The second screen was then registered, loaded with thick black plastisol (top choice for fine detail) and printed ‘wet on wet’ straight over the white. As the garment goes through the dryer the discharge activates and goes a superb skeletal white. The black plastisol halftone stays as black as coal and adds a subtle softness to the tones on the bones. Check out the close up of the finished print (bottom right). A very satisfying combination of styles creating a bold but cotton soft finish. Glorious.

BLOG skull tone