CMYK Screen Printing Considerations
- Slight variations of print color across garments is unavoidable.
- Exact color match is not a guarantee. PMS match is not possible.
- Digital mockups can only approximate the finished CMYK product, as the colors on a monitor are using RGB rather than the more limited CMYK.
- CMYK does not result in neon or very bright colors. Because it’s a mixture of dots on a non-glossy fabric, it’s not possible to achieve as vibrant of a color result. If bright or neon colors are important in a design, Spot Color is the recommended method.
- After CMYK screen printed shirts are washed, the design may lighten up no more than 10%.
Why does the print consistency vary across garments?
For large print runs, the ink consistency may change as it is worked by the squeegee in the screens. This can result in slight color shifts across the print run, often tending toward a darker result near the end of a large print run.
The combination of the CMYK inks are not as predictable on a fabric substrate. CMYK inks are more transparent than spot color inks, so the saturation of the ink can potentially vary across fabrics. Even t-shirts of the same brand may have a variation in thickness, as most shirts are made all over the world. Size smalls might be made in Honduras, and size large might be made in Indonesia. The flexibility and thickness of the fabric is not as uniform as paper, and can introduce variations across the print. The thickness, fabric type, and weave of the shirt can affect the saturation of the ink, which can result in shade variation.
Is CMYK the right choice for you design?
Now that we’ve discussed the limitations of CMYK, there are many scenarios where CMYK is a great choice. CMYK allows for a full color design with fewer screens than spot color, making it a more affordable choice for many designs. CMYK can also produce very fine detail, shading, and photo realistic prints that often cannot be achieved through the Spot Color method. A CMYK print also has a very soft hand since the inks aren’t as thick and are more transparent.