Keep It Soft: Printing On The Keeper Tee

By Alternative
May 15, 2017

The signature quality of Alternative’s new 50/50 Vintage Jersey is its vintage soft look and feel. So the first consideration a printer may have while printing the line’s signature Keeper Tee is to select a design and printing technique that will keep the final product as soft as possible.

Alternative Keeper 5050 T-Shirt

Our seasoned printers at Motion Textile chose to test-print two of The Keeper’s popular colorways: Vintage Pine and Red. We went with a dark/medium green color (Pantone 5625C) for the Vintage Pine to complement the green of the shirt. This also prevented the result of a thick film of ink since there is lower contrast between the ink and the ground under it. Printing white on the Vintage Pine would have been an option, but the shirt is also light enough to take dark ink.


vintage soft screen printing


Vintage Pine - dark/medium color print (Pantone 5625C)
We used Rutland brand SHAPE base to modify the ink, but there are other comparable brands. SHAPE provides a soft hand and durable print. (Rutland’s Chino Mix will give an ever softer result, but will leave you with a less durable print).

Step 1: Mix 20% of the SHAPE by weight.
Step 2: Print through a 230 mesh with a hard 70/90/70 durometer squeegee.


The result of printing on the Vintage Pine Keeper was a great readable print, with a good hand and good washability.

For the Red Keeper, we decided to go with a light/medium color. Our first approach for the Red shirt was to print the artwork with a lighter ink, resulting in a slightly distressed print.


Red - light/medium color print (partially intact)

Step 1: Modify the ink by mixing a 50/50 ratio of Rutland Chino Base and Rutland Snap low bleed white ink. This will not stop dye migration. It instead allows the red of the shirt to tint the white ink. The result is a light ink coating that is intentionally light pink, which solves any dye migration issues.

Step 2: Print one coat of ink through a 230 mesh with a hard 70/90/70 squeegee.


red keeper t-shirt


Our second approach with the Red Keeper was to print a fully intact white logo, with no tint from the red shirt. We knew it would not be as soft as the partially intact process, but printers often have no choice but to match logo colors or to achieve a bold and bright logo for their customer.


Red - light/medium color print (fully intact) Endurance Method

This is our “go to” method for any blend fabrication that we haven’t printed on before.

Step 1: Apply 1 coat of Rutland’s Endurance Grey (as a soft grey barrier) through a 110 mesh using a hard 70 durometer squeegee. >This is not the old-school barrier grey that prints like concrete and feels even harder. This grey ink is softer, more printable, and stretches while still blocking almost any dye migration you are likely to encounter.


red keeper

Step 2: Apply 2 coats of Rutland Premier White through a 158 mesh using a hard 70 durometer squeegee. It seems counterintuitive, but three coats of ink printed properly make for a thinner final ink film than two coats. What may also be surprising is that putting down a thick white to prevent dye migration is the worst thing you can do. This is because a thicker ink film requires a higher temperature to cure, therefore the dye is never stopped – it just takes longer to migrate through. You won’t be able to see the dye migration at first, but your customer will when they take it out of the box three weeks later.



This “Endurance Method” takes up a fair amount of room on the press since it requires three screens printing, two flashes, and two cool down stations. However, the result is relatively soft, there is no dye migration, and the logo stays white over time.

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