How to Get Ahead While Everyone Else Takes A Holiday Break

by Daniel DiPiazza

There’s a disturbance in the Force. The weather is getting colder. Winter is setting in. The holiday season is soon upon us.

I’ve found that there are primarily two types of people that emerge when the holiday haze hits. Which one are you?

Type #1 is the 99%. They are “The Sheep.”

By December 1st, The Sheep are already “mentally checked” out. They might be here physically, but their minds are roasting chestnuts over an open fire. “Dude…it’s December,” they’ll tell you.

The Sheep have plenty of big goals that they’re hoping to accomplish in 2016. (I mean, who doesn’t?) But right now, all that stuff is on the back burner. For them, December means it’s time for champagne at work. Time for gorging on an ungodly amount of pastries, moving up a pants size and snuggling on the couch with “bae” to watch that awesome claymation Rudolph movie. And I get it.

Going on mental cruise control around the holidays doesn’t sound like such a bad idea for most people. I think we can all relate. But inevitably, a sinking feeling begins to develop. Right in your core. It starts very subtly, when you look back at 2015 goals and realize, “Damn…I didn’t really accomplish what I set out to do this year.” “It’s ok,” you tell yourself. “New Year, New Me. Right? I’ll get a fresh start in January.”

So you set new resolutions to get even MORE done in 2016. It feels good to envision yourself following through. Maybe you even write some things down. Deep down inside, though, you know nothing has really changed.

You don’t really have a plan for getting from where you are to where you want to be — and in your heart-of-hearts, as much as it hurts you to admit it, you wouldn’t exactly be surprised if December 2016 left you feeling just as unsatisfied as this year.

So you kinda just bury your expectations in food and embrace the holiday slump. It’s a nice six-ish weeks of self-induced, “I’ll deal with it after New Years” bliss. But on a core level, it’s an agonizing cycle of self-defeat. That’s how 99% of the population spends their holiday season. That’s what happens to sheep. If that’s happened to you, or is happening to you, I’m not criticizing you. I’ve been there too. But there’s another way.

“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” – Henry Ford

Type #2 is the 1%. “The Hustlers”

On the outside, Hustlers seem like anomalies whose massive success can’t be explained with logic. They’re like “glitches” in the system. Remember that scene in the Matrix, when Neo walks through the crowd of sober worker bees all dressed in black and spots an elegant blonde in a red cocktail dress? The effect is jarring. These hustlers stand out like a sore thumb.

These are the people who set out to accomplish MASSIVE goals every single year — and not only CRUSH those goals,but surpass them. I know you’ve seen them.

Maybe you’re reading Forbes and catch a glimpse of some young, brilliant entrepreneur in his twenties who’s making billions with an app he developed in his dorm room. Or perhaps it’s the newest junior executive at your job, who despite being with the company for less time than you, has already put herself on track to become a partner (Meanwhile, your boss just rejected your request for a raise. Ouch.)

These seemingly extraordinary people pop up on social media too. How many times have you had to look at friends-of-friends taking selfies from Fiji as you agonize over which formula to use in an Excel spreadsheet? It just doesn’t seem fair. “Who ARE these people…and what are they doing that I’m not?”

It’s easy to look at outstanding people doing incredible work and think of them as outliers. They must be freaks of nature. Not “one of us.” Unusually gifted, uncharacteristically lucky. Probably have rich parents. Born with better facial structure. Ugh. The unfairness would be depressing if it wasn’t so intriguing. HOW ARE THEY DOING IT?

At the end of the day, you can come up with all sorts of reasons why the “chosen few” should see massive success while you sit on the sidelines, fighting for the scraps with the rest of the population. You can even choose to hate them because of their success. OR you could simply decide to become one of them. But to do that, you’re going to have to STEP UP YOUR GAME.

I’d like to invite you to undertake The 13-Month Year.

“If it is important to you you will find a way. If not you’ll find an excuse.” – Ryan Blair

What is The 13-Month Year?

The 13-Month Year is how true Hustlers get ahead. More than anything, someone living a 13-Month Year says: “Screw the norm. I don’t care that everyone else is taking the holidays off. I’m about to turn the rocket boosters ON.”

While your friends and colleagues are winding down, getting fat and singing carols, you’re grinding through the holidays. You’re starting your year early and you get an entire “bonus” month in 2016 to figure things out without wasting time. You’re working out all the kinks in your plans so that come January 1st, while everyone else is sobering up and crawling back to the office, you’re already well into the groove. THAT’S how winners kill the game.

This isn’t another played out New Year’s Resolution that you’ll sweep under the rug in a few weeks, quietly embarrassed. This is a proven strategy for success.

If you want to get in better shape, maybe you’ll use that extra month to start your workout routine and diet plan early. You’d be appalled how empty the gym is in December. Only Hustlers are gettin’ it in. Perfect. If you want to start a business, maybe that extra month is used to begin testing your ideas early and identify where to focus your efforts so that you already have momentum and clarity going into 2016.

Now here’s the catch: THIS STUFF IS IT NOT EASY. I’m just going to put that out on front street right now. I’m not here to sell you dreams. I’m not a guru. I’m just Daniel. I’m not a millionaire (yet). I’m not perfect. I’m not all-knowing. But I HAVE figured some stuff out that can help you. And the more I hang out with people who are MUCH more successful than me, the more I realize that success is not an accident. It’s not luck.

A big part of getting ahead is the ability to focus while other people are distracted. So I want to help you get focused. Not in January. Right now.

Quick Tips for Successful High-End Printing

Article by Scott Fresener

Printing Simulated Process Color, CMYK and Index Color on light and dark shirts can be very rewarding and also very frustrating. If you have never done this type of printing you might be shocked at the high mesh counts and type of ink used. If you normally print spot color and heavy athletic printing this will be MUCH DIFFERENT. In order to have great results with T-Seps/FastFilms or color separations provided by us you may need to change your thinking on how you print and make screens. It is important to try to follow these guidelines.

The first reaction screen makers and printers have when presented with their first high-end job is “we can’t do this.” The truth is if you go to and look at the handful of sample images, they are ALL done using the following techniques. Hundreds of thousands of shirt jobs have been printed using these methods. This is NOT the same as general logo/spot color printing and it requires an open mind. The truth is that printers and screen makers just need to buy into how the world of high-end printing is done and be open to new ideas that on the surface appear impossible.

Color Separations
You can pay to have an experience color separator do the seps or you can use a program like T-Seps or FastFilms. These programs have been used for over 10 years by most of the world’s largest printers. The following directions are the same exact specifications found in the Manual for those programs.

If you own T-Seps or FastFilms why would you need to use an experience separator? The truth is I do separations all day long for large and small companies. Large companies doing work for NASCAR, Disney, Harley and others often have a season rush and get behind. I do their overflow. Most printers who do this type of work use FastFilms or T-Seps. Smaller printers with these programs often get complex jobs where they want to really shine. And, some printers don’t do enough high-end work so they are not always as familiar with the tweaks needs for critical jobs. For a flat fee of $50 it is sometimes easier to have the seps done outside to save the hassle.

Film Output
When trying to expose very fine halftone dots you must have a film positive that is dense black in the image areas. That means vellum many not be the best choice for critical work. Many printers still use a laser printer with vellum and if that is all you have then you will just have to work hard to hold the small halftone dots.

You can get excellent and dense black film output from imagesetters or from inexpensive inkjet printers using a software RIP like T-RIP (raster image processor) that tells the inkjet printer to lay down more ink. One of the secrets to printing photorealistic images is HOLD THE DOTS on the film and on the screen. If you lose halftone dots then the image on the shirt will not look like the image on the computer. Halftone dots on vellum or laser acetate are not very dense and the exposure light burns through the fine dots.

The proper halftone screen angle is also important and may seem unorthodox to the untrained printer. For Simulated Process Color (not CMYK), use 25 degrees, elliptical dots for ALL COLORS. Trust me.

For real CMYK prints use the angles of C 15, M 45, Y and K 75 if you insist on having a “rosette” pattern but better yet use the angle of 25 degrees for ALL colors. Again, trust me.

For most general high-end jobs use a line count/frequency of 55lpi. If you run automatic presses and have critical jobs you can go to 65lpi and even 75 lpi. If you are using vellum or laser acetate then drop down to 45lpi.

If the job is Index Color (no halftone) the art department MUST have the job at the final print size and around 200dpi resolution before they separate it. The resolution will be the size of the small square pixels/dots and these will be VERY SMALL on the films and a typical screen maker comment is “we can’t burn that.” Read the following….

Screen Making
All screens should be properly tensioned. At best, use retensionable or rigid aluminum screens that have a tension of 25 – 30 Newtons. If you have wood frames, use the tightest ones you have. Yes, these images will work with wood, but you will lose some detail and may not have as good an Underbase. Don’t let your lack of the best frames stop you. Just work to use tight screens that are on stable frames.

The proper mesh count is critical. For most photorealistic jobs use a 230 mesh (90cm) for the underbase (go lower if the design has a lot of solid bright colors), and a 305 mesh (120cm) for the top colors. The first reaction is “I can’t get my white ink through a 230 mesh.” Not true. If you use a small amount of curable reducer and reduce the viscosity of the white so it is creamy it will work. You are NOT trying to lay down a rock solid white layer of thick plastisol for an underbase. The highlight white (last color down) will make the white pop where you need the pop.

When ordering screens try to get the 230 mesh screen for white ink with a thicker thread diameter. This will help make the stencil thicker and give you a better deposit of white.

Proper stencil preparation is critical and goes along with HOLD THOSE DOTS. If you have never exposed high mesh screens you need to forget what you know about exposure. Your exposure times for 305 mesh will be 20% of that for your 156 mesh. You MUST use direct emulsion. You must use thin coats of emulsion (1 coat on outside/bottom, 1 coat on inside). If necessary come back after you dry the screen and give it another coat on the outside. And, use the sharp edge of the scoop coater.

The best emulsion to use is a dual-cure (two part) emulsion. It has more latitude and is more forgiving that one part photopolymer emulsions which have a very fast exposure time.

The way to tell if you can hold the small 5% dots is to do test screens. Have the art department create a test film with squares filled with 2%, 5%, 10%, 20%, etc., halftone dots. That way you are not guessing at what size a dot is. Coat and expose the screen. Work hard to expose the 5% dot. Yes, it can be done. You will probably not be able to hold the 2% dot. That means if there are very subtle design changes these might be in the 2% to 5% area. Great screen makers do it all the time. The secret is keep reducing your exposure times. If you are using a pure photopolymer emulsion (one part), you might find times as low as 10 seconds!

For most non-critical cartoon or freeform graphic images it may not really matter if you don’t hold anything below a 10% dot.

If the job is Index Color then all the dots on the films are the same size. If you can burn one of them you can burn them all.

Simulated Process jobs are normally printed with a good high-opacity white for the underbase and highlight whte, and standard off-the-shelf plastisols for the top colors. Most colors are fairly creamy in the container but the white can often be very stiff. To get the white to print better simply add a small amount of curable reducer to the ink. Many brands recommend “soft hand” and this can work but a liquid reducer is better. It may seem counter intuitive to reduce white ink to get better opacity but the truth is when it is very thick it requires much more pressure on the squeegee which drives the ink into the shirt. By reducing the ink it clears out of the screen easier and lays ontop of the shirt.

If the job is Process Color CMYK, you must use special inks. You need the colors of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. These inks are very thin and transparent. They work well on light shirts but tend to mute down if printed on a base of white. That is why they are rarely used on black shirts. Some companies offer “triple strength” process plastisol with a heavier pigment load. If you must print CMYK on an underbase on dark shirts, consider using triple strength.

Printing Technique
Use medium-hard squeegees that are sharp. Triple durometers are better (70/90/70).

For the underbase try to do one good stroke. If necessary a second stroke may help coverage. You may need to slow down the stroke to get the ink to clear. Try to hold the fine detail in the image. You ARE NOT really looking for the white to jump off the shirt. This is the job of the Highlight white! Flash cure after the Underbase. This is the most critical print. If the underbase looks good as a black and white image then everything else should look good.

If the job has a lot of solid spot colors you may have to print the underbase through a lower mesh count and in some extreme cases print the base, flash cure, print the base again, flash and then print the colors. This more important when doing athletic type photorealistic images where the final feel/hand of the print is not important.

Since the underbase is through a high mesh, it will flash cure very quickly. You can place the flash cure unit 1 to 2 inches above the print and often get a skin cure in five to ten seconds.

The colors are printed wet-on-wet ontop of the underbase white. If they are smooth and creamy on a high mesh you should be able to do one clean stroke. Some jobs with a lot of colors may need an additional flash part way through the print order.

DO NOT PANIC until the last color is printed. Often, it is the Highlight that brings it all together. It brightens areas and lightens other colors. If printing a second white last in the sequence seems totally wrong, just give it a chance. This is often the magic that makes the print pop off the shirt.

For CMYK Process jobs, you must use a very consistent squeegee stroke. If you do too many strokes or “mash” the ink through the mesh, you dots will gain too much and the print will be muddy.

General Suggestions
If a design does not look like the original art, modify an ink color and try different color sequences. This is normal when printing on dark shirts. It generally takes more than one shirt for an image to settle in and print correctly. There are many variables that affect the final print, from screen tension to quality of the printing press, and technique of the printer or machine. Adjustments at the screen press are commonly performed by high-end printers.

Print on a good shirt. DO NOT use a test square – other than for lining up the screens. The print needs to have the absorbency of the shirt AND the tighter the knit the better. 100% cotton is obviously better than a 50/50 Cotton/Polyester blend because of the dye migration from the shirt.

If you are printing on fleece or a polo shirt with a rough texture you will need to lower your line count and accept the fact that the print will not be as clean as on a T-Shirt.

Be Positive
Having done thousands of separations, I know that some customers will simply not agree with the proper techniques and will use low mesh counts (110 is all we had), poor film output, and bad printing technique (this is not athletic printing). At the end of the day, the bad print quality is blamed on bad separations. Once you have had success with these techniques you will go out of your way to tell customers to “bring it on.” You won’t turn down any jobs or be afraid of photo realistic images.


Basic Screen Printing Techniques 101

by Scott Fresener

Articles Newbie Screen PrintingMarch 4, 2011


Stop! Don’t put this article down just because you a few years of experience. I teach beginners who can print better with ten minutes of instruction than many printers with years of experience. This article is written with the beginner in mind but take a few minutes – read this short article – and maybe there will be a tip or two to make even an experienced printer better. Why not.

Where Do You Start
The time has arrived. You just spent $15,000 on equipment and you have made a s screen. Now what do you do? What if you ruin a shirt? What if the ink washes off? What if the customer isn’t happy? What if you put the print in the wrong location? Maybe this wasn’t the business you wanted after all. Traumatic, isn’t it!

Fortunately, you’ll get over it – but these are the questions and problems that face beginning printers.

This article is about some basic fundamentals of making a print. These are things that beginners AND experienced printers need to know. Make sure your existing printers read this article. How many times has a printer told you how many years he has only to not be able to produce a salable shirt. Just because they have the title “screen printer” doesn’t mean they are one!

The Screen
For the purpose of this article we will assume you have a screen made using the correct mesh. No, 110 (43cm) monofilament doesn’t work for every job. You need to use the correct mesh count to have a good print. Although mesh count is an entire topic, for now let’s assume you are doing a simple three-color print on a light shirt. I would use a 160 (61cm) to 180 (70cm) monofilament mesh with either very well made wood frames that have been purchased with the fabric already attached (prestretched) OR I would use a metal retentionable screen that I had brought to the proper tension a couple of times to get the fabric very tight. I choose the 160 to 180 because I want to lay down a little less ink since this is a multi-color job AND in doing so I will not have to flash cure between colors. In fact I can print this job wet-ink-on-wet-ink. Trust me!

I would also have used a dual-cure photo polymer emulsion as my stencil since they can be used with only a single coat on each side and they hold up well, yet reclaim easily.

Press Set-up
Square the Screen to the Shirtboard The screen needs to be placed on the press and squared to the shirtboard. This is as simple as placing a t-square under the frame and looking through the screen to square the image on the frame to the edge of the board. Now when you make a print it will be straight to the board.

Multi-Color Print Sequence
When printing multi-color prints on light shirts you generally print the lightest color to darkest color OR the smallest print area to the largest area. This sequence, along with the right ink viscosity will help minimize ink picking up on the screen bottoms. This is called build-up and is a common problem in multi-color printing. The easiest way to line-up screens on a multi-color print is to make a print of the outline or main color and just line-up the other screens to the print. Sure you may get a little ink on the bottom of the screen but guess what? It will wipe right off.

Adjust the Off-Contact Distance
The screen MUST be set to sit slightly off the shirtboard. This is called off-contact printing and is how all good printing is done. Some presses have adjustments for this. Others will need to have the screen shimmed from underneath. Either way, you may need to put a thin piece of cardboard under the edge of the frame so it will hit the shirtboard as the screen comes down. This may seem unorthodox, but again, trust me. You need to keep the screen from 1/16″ to 1/8″ off the shirt and no matter how well made a manual press is, the tip of the screen is going to move downward when you get to the end of the stroke and nothing is going to keep it off the board but a simple shim.

The Ink
This is one area where there is a lot of confusion. The ink manufacturer told you that the stuff in the can was “Ready for Use” (RFU). That means just slop it in the screen and “pump up” to make a print. RFU is one of the greatest lies ever told.

Don’t Be Afraid of Additives
Most ink on the market it a little too thick to print easily by hand. It generally needs a slight amount of reduction – thinning – to make it work better. Thinning does not mean making it softer so I am talking about adding a curable reducer rather than a “soft hand” additive. A small amount of reducer will make the ink more workable.

Thin Some Colors More Than Others
Since our test job is a three-color print we will thin our lightest colors a little more. This will generally be the FIRST COLOR YOU PRINT and it needs to penetrate INTO the garment more than the others so you won’t pick it up on the bottoms of the other screens. If black is our last color, we can thin it less. It needs to lay on top of the other colors and will blend in with the undercolors if it is too thin.

Stir the Ink First
Plastisol ink tends to get a little thicker or “body up” when it isn’t in use so you should ALWAYS STIR THE INK BEFORE YOU THIN IT. By stirring the ink you will find out if it really needs thinner. I prefer an ink that is smooth and creamy to one that is so thick that you break the stick trying to stir it.

How Much Ink to Use
No matter what I tell you here, no matter how little ink you put in the screen, some people are destined to make a mess. I have had printers who would never get a drop on them and have the screen full of ink – and others who got ink on them by just looking at the press. You are better off putting a small amount of ink across the back of the screen. You need enough to make a number of good prints without running dry, but not so much that when you print it all rides up on the squeegee handle. It is much easier to put more ink in a screen and harder to take the excess out!

What Squeegee to Use
This is another debatable item. The rage now is a triple durometer squeegee that has a harder center around a softer outer edge. These actually do give you more control, especially if you have a lot of strength and try to flatten the blade as you make the print. (No, you really don’t want to flatten the blade.) The realities are that you could pick up an “old fashioned” medium hardness blade with a sharp edge and make a great print. Notice that I said sharp edge. A sharp edge shears off the ink cleanly and will make dd a much sharper print than a dull edge blade. If you are a messy printer, you should use the wider 5″ handles. These will help keep your fingers out of the ink.

How To Hold and Move the Squeegee
Top Grip

Another debatable area. A lot of printers use the standard “two-hand, top grip, pull towards you” stroke. While this works good, it can cause some problems if printing all day long. Not only will the tips of your fingers and thumbs be sore (and maybe numb!) you may also feel tenderness in your wrists. What you are getting is a repetitive motion disorder known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Some people can print all their lives and never get this. I am one of them. Others print only a few hours and have a problem. To minimize this problem you should use one of the special ergonomic squeegees that force you to hold your hand wider. You can also pad the handle with foam and tape or purchase the new squeegee pad made specifically for this industry. Carpal Tunnel is a very real disorder that should not be ignored.

Side Grip

This technique moves the strain from the center of your wrist to your forearm muscles. Simply hold the squeegee by the side and pull it towards you. This works great if you are short (aren’t all manual presses designed for tall people?), although my son, who is 6’2″ loves this stroke. You can actually get great pressure when printing with thick inks.

Push or Pull
Another area of individual preference. Pulling the squeegee towards you is the standard method, but pushing it away from you is really a lot easier. When pulling the squeegee you use more of your wrists and shoulder muscles. When pushing, you use more of your body weight to push the squeegee. You push it but don’t change the way you hold it or the angle of the squeegee. This stroke works best with thinner inks and it will take a little getting use to. Actually you can get high production with this method and you get into a little rhythm with your body leaning into the print. It is a much less fatiguing stroke on long jobs!

How Many Strokes Do You Do?
Does it take three strokes in both directions to “work” the ink in to the garment? I’d like to see the print! You really don’t have to work the ink into the garment. Just print the shirt with ONE – or maybe two strokes. If you must use two strokes for better coverage DO THEM IN THE SAME DIRECTION! If you have to do two or three strokes then maybe your ink is too thick and it is not flowing good through the screen. Try thinning it down a little and see what happens.

How Much Pressure to Apply
If your ink is too thick then you have to apply lots of pressure to get the ink through the screen. This excessive pressure spreads the ink and causes shadowed, uneven prints. If the ink is the right thickness (viscosity) you should be able to use medium pressure with one stroke and have a GREAT print. When printing on dark shirts you will find that excessive pressure drives the ink too deep into the garment and it actually isn’t as bright as when you lighten up a little.

What to do at the end of the stroke?
There are three options here. You can either pull the squeegee all the way to the end of the frame and scoop the excess ink up with the squeegee and place it in the back of the frame; you can quickly lift up the squeegee when you get close to the end of the frame and lift up the excess ink or you can stop when you pass the image area and lift the screen and do a flood stroke to push the excess ink back to the back of the screen. The last two are much more desirable than scooping the ink on the screen frame – although on jobs where the image is large you really will have no choice.

When Do You Flash Cure?
Never – if you can help it! The flash-cure unit has become the Band-Aid of the industry. People let the flash-cure unit make them a good printer by covering up thick ink, poor artwork overlays, too many strokes, etc. Almost anyone can get a good print by curing between each color – but with production rates in the low 30′s (I mean 30 prints per hour) you will find this a hard business to make any money in. By simply using the correct mesh, right ink viscosity, good artwork and not too many strokes, you could print the same job wet-on-wet. Granted, there are many jobs where you have to flash-cure. Just don’t let it be every job.

Keep the Finger Prints off the Shirts
Do you get ink everywhere? Maybe you cook dinner the same way. Try to clean as you go. This means keeping the ink containers, squeegee handles and screen frame edges clean. Get in the habit of not grabbing the squeegee too far down the handle. If you just can’t keep ink off your hands then have a helper load and unload the shirts for you.

Here is a Summary of Right and Wrong
(This way is typical of how many “experienced” printers print.)

Use 110 mesh for everything.
Use low tension screens.
Print the print on-contact.
Use the ink direct out of the container with no adjustment.
Print with a number of strokes in each direction to “work” the ink into the garment.
Flash cure every color.
Have a VERY thick “bulletproof” print.
(This is how good printers print.)

Use the proper mesh for the job. Higher mesh counts for multi-color work.
Make sure the screens are tensioned properly.
Print off-contact – even if it means using shims on the press.
Reduce the ink if necessary to make it flow and penetrate better.
Use just one stroke to make a clean print with minimal ink deposit.
Flash-cure only if necessary.
Have a soft print that has good detail and can be done in high production
It Ain’t Brain Surgery
OK, it looks hard, but it isn’t brain surgery. Just follow some simple and logical rules and you will find this business easy and very rewarding. Have fun with that first print!