The Print Room Blog

Yo, today I want to show a quick overview of how we keep all our custom screenprinting orders organized and how we always know what the most important thing to work on is.

Every order has a lot of moving parts, and a lot of these parts are unique to a screen printing shop, but I think the ideas and concepts here can be applied to any business or process with a workflow that has a couple things going on at once. We mainly use Trello to keep things organized visually.

Also, I just want to note that I’ll be skimming over some of the more technical and complex parts of this process, and recording detailed videos for them. So if there’s any part of this process that you think could use a deeper dive, please let me know in the comments and I’ll build it into this series!

Okay folks, today just really want to dig into Improvements. As we’re sharing more of this stuff in our Improvements Playlist I’m getting some questions, some concerns, some doubts so I want to cover all that in this short explanation true blood online sa prevodom of how we can have a team of several people, all free to fix what bugs them and make changes in the shop on-the-spot, and how we make those changes stick.

The main idea at Floodway here is Quality. Some serije online businesses might have different values and different priorities but here it’s all about the best quality for our clients. And the way we can provide that at a lower cost is by continuously working to improve the process. So not just the quality of the print, but our clients value a well-crafted email that answers all their questions and they received the reply quickly. Standards and perfection can be built into every process and when we do that the quality goes up, the cost of defects and rework go down, people are happier at their jobs, and customers are stoked.

But… “What if I have a team of 20 people? How do I get them to agree? This seems great in theory but not in practice.”

The answer is simple. If you have values and the 100 online sa prevodom principles as a company, you can use them to build a framework for ideas. Now I love to say that every great idea started with only a good idea, but there are so many bad ideas too! So here’s how we do it – four things. Safety, quality, simplicity, and speed. And this is a hierarchy. So what that means is your improvement must consider safety first. Danger doesn’t take a day off. It doesn’t matter how much it would increase the quality, or the simplicity, or the speed. If it reduces the safety, that’s a no.

And that’s the same for the rest of those points. But not every point is applicable to every improvement of course. But it makes it simple to decide on the worthiness of your idea, and it makes it super easy to communicate between people and articulate why you might think an idea is great or not great.

So we are always looking for ways to make things safer, increase quality, make the process simpler, or faster. But we can never improve a process in a way that makes it faster if it reduces quality or any of the other factors.

And notice cost is not even on this list. For example if a more expensive ink increases quality, then switching to that ink is an improvement. Cost is not factored. There’s a lotta reasons for that but mainly it’s just that there are a lot of ways to cut costs in your business before looking at your suppliers or materials.

Remember that this is not a theory, continuous improvement is a proven manufacturing style. So just because we’re a smaller shop than you, or a bigger shop than you doesn’t mean that this doesn’t work in practice at another company – huge companies is where this all started. So it’s pretty easy to get people to agree. Because here, if you think speeding up the process at the cost of quality for the customer is a good idea, then maybe you’re not a good fit here. Simple as that. We’re not all clones of each other, but we can agree on hierarchy of values. Safety, quality, simplicity, speed.

So let’s finish this up, how do we make it stick? If you have an improvement has increased the quality for example, without reducing the safety, then the next step is to make a quick video on your phone explaining the waste before, and showing the improvement, and then posting it in our Whatsapp Improvements chat. We go over the new improvements every day at our meeting, so every person in the company sees and is inspired by the new idea, is trained on how it works, understands the new process, and we all have an opportunity to discuss it a bit and ask questions if there are any.

We’re a team of four, which means we’re getting at least four videos a day into the chat and not really having any problems making new processes stick. Improvements are happening all the time, and the momentum is crazy. This literally can’t happen if every change needs to be approved by the boss. If the boss can put those values into a framework that the team can compare their ideas to, then you’ll be unstoppable. So that’s it, simple as that. Safety, quality, simplicity, and speed. That’s how we rate every change made to the process here.

So if you want to see real improvements from inside our company then you gotta subscribe, like the video, and check out our Improvements playlist. We’re adding new montages of the best ideas all the time. So please, take a look but most importantly ask some questions. Challenge these ideas, because that is how we all can grow!

Yo! Today I want to start sharing some small improvements around the shop. Interested? Good!

Alright, so since is the first video of this kind I want to say a couple things first. Number one, please excuse the overall production of the improvement clips. We’re getting better at them every time we film one, but something we stress here is to put the message over the medium. We want to encourage everyone on the team to dive in and teach the rest of the team about the waste they experienced and the improvement.

It’s not about being a video scientist but it does help improve all of our ‘presentation voices’ – which is a good skill to have. So these are quick, on-the-spot videos and all I’ve really done is combine our favourites and adjust some audio. No fancy editing or filming, it’s all about lateral communication.

They’re super easy to film and we watch these videos together at our morning meeting so everyone can grow together and learn a new process. And so I wanted to share some of the best ones as-is in this montage format and I hope it’ll inspire some good ideas on your end, as well.

Alright, here we go, I’ll be back at the end of all the clips – enjoy!

Yo, it’s Cory here at Floodway an I’m here to talk about one of my favourite effects, tonal prints, or tone on tone. Tonal prints are super soft, easy to print to keep your costs low, and they look outstanding, definitely one of my favourite special effects. I’m gunna show and explain bit of how these prints are done to help put this option on the radar for your next design. And give some tips about both designing for this process and a bit on the actual printing of it for our screen print pals.

Okay so we’ve been meaning to print some shirts and I was talking to Jeff about a huge stack of mixed colours that we were going to slap our logo onto for shop tees and giveaways and whatnot. We were discussing what would work across all the colours and we came up with these tonal prints or ‘tone on tone’ effect that we’ve been doing for a while. It’s soft, relatively easy to print, and we’ve been meaning to figure out an easier way to show it to clients because sometimes pictures and words don’t cut it. Game of Thrones online sa prevodom. So, that’s it, I pulled out the camera and started documenting a bit. yaknow, got the film out, whip up the ink and and got them on press. And since this was all coming together I pulled out the camera to talk about why we love this effect, and to give some design tips, and some advice on printing it for our screenprint pals.    

Tone-on-Tone look its best on blended or heather tees, but still outstanding across a wide variety of solid garment colours.

So, what is tonal ink? The main difference from a typical opaque ink is that it’s translucent, like really translucent. That means it’s going to show the garment colour through the ink a lot more which adds to this effect. So in our case the ink is pretty much 99% a soft clear base, and 1% whatever ink you want to tint the base. For our shop tees I’m doing a two colour print with this tonal effect which is kinda fancy, but keeping it super simple with black and white so that it’ll work across this stack of different coloured garments.

The reason I’m explaining the ink mix is because it’s important to know that it can be tinted any colour, not just lighter or darker. And can be more, or less translucent. So there are definitely a couple extra tweaks to this print style that you can discuss with your printer and not everyone does it the same way as a standard, so its worth asking about seeing. A custom effect like this is really tricky to show accurately in a digital mock-up so I always suggest working with a shop that is easy to discuss these things with and not blow off your questions. As a client you want to have a ton of confidence when you hit that approval button so the time you’ve taken today even to learn about the process will put you kilometres ahead.    

For the designers; in the case of a mockup you can just toss your design down to like 30% opacity and that’d give a pretty good idea of how it would look, which I know isn’t much advice so here’s what I gotta say about designing for screen printing. when the final process is taken into considering when choosing or making the design, things can really come together into a screaming product. So for an ink like this with a bit of a vintage look, it’ll often get’s paired up with blended shirts, and so a big bold design is going to look best. Smaller details are going to be much harder to spot especially if you’re using only one ink for the design.    


Tone on Tone prints, sometimes known at Tonal prints. Seen here in a lighter tone, and darker tone on various colour garments.

For the printers; sorry y’all I’m really not trying to be the tutorial guy, especially not the ‘learn it on camera’ guy so let me keep it short and sweet here and tell ya where we’re at after a bunch of testing and printing these over the years. These plastisol inks are a bit on the thinner side with it mostly being base, and since we’re going for a more vintage finish anyway we are not going to putting down a ton of ink. So higher mesh screens are great here, but we still use a softer triple-duro squeegee on these to help make sure the thinner ink makes it into the knit of the tee without having to add pressure to compensate. So the higher mesh screens keeps a thin layer of ink, and the softer squeegee helps keep enough of it moving through the stencil that it has good coverage. That keeps the print feeling softer and I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s not clogging up the weave from too much pressure and lets the tee flow better.    

So that’s pretty much it. It’s typically a softer and thinner print, but also less opaque, so a bolder design is suggested. Don’t be shy with details, but keep in mind that there’s some garment and ink combos won’t have a ton of contrast. Other than that, I hope this helps someone considering using this effect for their next design or learning how to print it in their shop. It’s a pretty simple ink mix to keep in stock, so we don’t charge any extra for it. A huge part of why I’m making this video is just to put it on your radar so that we can print more of it. I love the way it looks and it seems pretty trend right now.

Hiring a local artist or design agency to help with your merchandise is a great idea – but any order can go smoother when the right people are making the right decisions. Confirming some parts of the order before the designs are finalized can help save significant time, communication, and budget.

Getting a design onto the press is the best part, but there are some decisions about garments and print specs that are better to be made first.

At Floodway, we help tons of different clients make custom orders for apparel. We realized a major question was missing when a custom order is being organized by multiple people. This questions is extra important when people are working across different organizations.

The question: “Who Is Paying?”

Chatting about the budget can be uncomfortable, so make sure that when you choose a print shop that their pricing is transparent. That will ease a lot of concerns, but the budget isn’t always known or decided when the order is being planned.

The garment and total quantity have a lot of impact on the final price. So it is best to settle those details first. This allows your designer to submit the files once, instead of needing to revise if the print specs change due to budget further down the line.

The important part of this question is about who is making that final decision, not about how big the budget is. Who knows the numbers enough to make a final approval on the order?


This will save your designer (and billable hours) from having to re-create the design to fit a larger or smaller budget.

Some companies give their design agency a budget to execute the order, but most clients want to know more about the garments and how to make the most of the budget.
These kinds of considerations are best made directly with the print shop and they are key to making sure your design, garment, and print process all work together as a final product. So it is best for these considerations to be made directly, rather than relayed through anyone who is not making the decision.

It’s best to confirm quantities, garments, and print specs with whoever has the final say on the budget. Deciding on designs and print specs first may result in the artist needing to rework their design for the budget.

A common issue is choosing specific Pantone’s for clients who don’t have the budget (or need) for a custom ink mix.

Since the design is a huge factor on the final cost, it can be more efficient for the design to work within the constraints of the budget instead of the other way around.

A quick way to test this is to think about how many people are between your question and your answer. 

If you are finding yourself buried in communication about a custom order, it might be because decisions are being relayed through the wrong people. Ask your print shop how they can help!

This summer marks a big milestone for us at Floodway, and we almost missed it during our busiest summer so far – it’s our privilege to be celebrating FIVE WHOLE YEARS IN BUSINESS! It’s been a wild ride, from figuring out how to make screens in a basement, to a small shop on Portage, and now seeing how far our team has come in our new space on McDermot. We’ve printed for over a thousand different clients, and it’s been a dream come true.

We’re most pumped on upgrading to automatic printing equipment and settling into our new 5000sq/ft facility in The Exchange District. This new shop gives us the resources we need for equipment that produces higher quality with less effort, a long-term investment to keep costs low for our clients. It also gives us some retail space to start expanding our own line of designs, in addition to our passion of helping Winnipeg businesses with their own custom merch.


Floodway all began with me, Cory. I was a couple years younger and involved with putting on BMX events in Winnipeg. We had a ton of trouble getting our merch printed, and curiousity above improving our product led to a fascinating with screen printing and the processes around it. Now we’ve grown to a team of four dedicated and loyal full-time employees.


Here’s a little perspective on how much we’ve grown over the year. We used to buy white ink in quarts, one at a time, maybe every month or two. And now we get it in 5gal buckets every few weeks! Same with the emulsion we use to coat our screens – we used to do a gallon per month if we were busy. Now we’re using a gallon every few days!

Back in the day a ‘big order’ for us was around 100 pieces, because it would take a full morning or afternoon to print. Nowadays we can crush a stack of 100 pieces in about an hour, with a higher quality print and less physical effort from our team.


Can I just take a moment to thank Y’ALL!? We have the best clients a company could ask for. Your support for local businesses and passion for growing your own projects inspires us every day! I can’t thank you all enough for your support over the past five years.

We started from humble beginnings with one thing in mind: to make better prints, easier. We’re proud to still celebrate improvements every day and continually find new ways to improve our process and increase quality so that we can avoid the never-ending cycle of rising costs. This ‘long term’ thinking may have potentially slowed our growth, but only to a pace that allows us to make conscious decisions about how we can be the best service provider possible for our clients, our community, and our planet.

Again, I just want to thank you all for your support over the past five years. We couldn’t have done it without you! Here’s to the next five!


Cory Beal

Production Manager & Founder

There are hundreds of screen printing companies across Canada, dozens in Winnipeg, and countless more worldwide. So how do you choose the best shop to handle your orders? Before starting Floodway in 2014, we struggled through many different screen printers for our personal projects, eventually getting so frustrated that we bought equipment and started building our own company to solve the problem ourselves. 

That experience is long behind us, so we wanted to share the knowledge by putting together a short list of the most important factors that a reliable screen printing shop should have dialled in so you can skip the headache of changing shops every order!

A reliable shop will help achieve your goals with less headaches and less cost. Every aspect of the process should leave you feeling confident that your order is in great hands. Quality printing and a smooth process is one thing, but it needs to be done way before your deadline, too.

At Floodway, we strive for every experience to be outstanding and we’ll always make a recommendation when we don’t feel we’re the best shop for a particular job. Choosing the right printer can make or break a project, so we hope that this list of considerations helps with your due diligence.


Your shop should always be reachable, and have resources available to answer questions outside of shop hours. We’re still a small team, so at Floodway we focus on email. In today’s age of on-demand services it’s critical to get a timely response, so be careful if the return contact takes more than a business day. The more communication about the status of your order, the better. Following up yourself to learn about a delay is super frustrating!

The more communication about the status of your order, the better.

When you have a question or need more information you should always be able to receive that information in a timely manner, and in a format that helps you easily sort through the info. There can be a ton of variables in the print process, so it’s important to be able to review the info you’ve received as well. At Floodway, most email responses come within an hour or two, and our Frequently Asked Questions page is constantly updated with answers and information about every part of the process. 

We prefer email over the phone because the phone requires an immediate response, which isn’t always the best response. Email lets our team take a moment to gather the necessary information and consider all of your detail before drafting a response. We’re a small team too, so it can often be tough to get on the phone when the press is spinnin’. 

You can’t review a call, either. Each order has its own unique set of variables between the garment, sizes, colours, designs, and print process. It saves a ton of time (and potential headaches!) to have a written reference.

Examples of Past Work

You’ve gotta know what the printer is capable of producing. Every print shop will tell you they are the best in the business, and that their process is the best available for your project. It’s critical to do your own research in this area, like understanding the differences between screen printing and other processes like digital Direct-to-Garment printing. 

A print shop should be proud of their work. Proud enough to display it in their shop and use it to sell their services.  Do they have samples available in-house? Do they have quality photos posted on their social media? Be very cautious around shops that don’t make it easy to see the quality of their work.

Expert Insight

The best shops aren’t running a side gig, they do this day in, day out. So they should definitely be making suggestions, spotting issues, and identifying opportunities for improvement. If a shop is not making suggestions to improve your design, ink colour choices, or garment pick then you may as well just order from a form. If you’re talking to a human, they should be able to apply their human intuition to your order. The worst thing as a customer is when your order doesn’t meet expectations and the shop makes a suggestion for ‘next time’. Why didn’t y’all do it this time?

Wether you are price shopping or ready to order, your chosen shop should be able to nail down your exact cost and break down the best options to make sure your design, garment, and print process all sing together as a final product.

In-House vs. Outsourcing

Is your print shop actually doing the work? This may come as a surprise, but many shops in our industry do their own screen printing in-house, but outsource the rest. For example, if you’re ordering t-shirts, hats and pens, it’s very likely that the embroidery for the caps and pens are being sent out. In our opinion, outsourcing is a distraction.

Floodway was founded after frustrations as customers in regards to both quality, and customer service. Both screen printing and automated sewing are individual crafts and our industry has a tendency to split its focus between both print and embroidery. 

Instead of tacking on our own markup and making you play telephone between us and another company. Or worse, asking the outsource for a ‘industry pricing’ deal instead of marking it up, which could mean that your order is valued less than other jobs.

We can’t speak for everyone, but at Floodway we’d much rather recommend a local shop that actually specializes in the process.

Focussing on our own process allows us to always dedicate our extra time and resources to improving the print process, testing new inks or garments, and mastering techniques. And lends itself to a higher level of accountability, reliability, and efficiency. This allows a focussed shop to offer screen printing confidently, to truly understand costs, and to package it into a trusted service for a wide range of clients. 

In our opinion, many compromises must be made when part of the process is being outsourced, or when a team’s focus is split between two distinct production lines. It’s simply not possible to have the same level of accountability when your order is being brokered down the line to other shops. The added layer of communication between the shops adds a hidden cost to your order, as well!


Your ideal print shop is a business, just like yours – but are they a positive presence in the community like yours is? A shop that aims to be a great neighbour, create jobs, and contribute to local events is a shop that is laying down its roots. Contributions to the community show a commitment to building a lasting company. Not only so that you can rely on the company for screen printing, but so that the company’s community and team can rely on it as well. 

Like sustainability, an ideal print shop can show that they are involved in more than just offering their services. At Floodway, our opinion has always been that when the community does well, and when businesses in our community do well, we do well! So it only makes sense to find ways to contribute to our music, art, and other scenes. 

Remember, people do business with people, not businesses. So make sure the people working for your business in any capacity share some of the same principles, values, and ethics.

Modern, Safe, Reliable Equipment

A reliable print shop starts with the people, but even the best team is limited by their tools and processes. Being reliable means making long term investments in the equipment, the space, and the team. The state of a shop and its equipment can be a huge indicator of overall quality. A dirty floor and old equipment may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but your ideal shop should be able to show that they take care of every detail, not just the print jobs. 

Your ideal shop should be able to show that they take care of every detail, not just the print jobs. 

Besides inconsistent quality or bad communication, the last thing anybody wants is to waste time. If you had to chop down 100 trees, you would surely use a chainsaw rather than an axe – so your ideal shop should have the right tools for the job. 

Start-up printing presses can get the job done, but keep in mind that any shop’s pricing will be based around the time they need to do the job. Automated equipment is a great way to gauge how serious a shop is, and while manual printing is great – it cannot achieve the same accuracy, consistency, and higher print quality that automated presses can, and definitely not in the same amount of time.


Last but not least; waste! Waste is everywhere around us, and fashion is one of the biggest contributors of waste on our planet. Unfortunately, the laws surrounding sustainability are loosely regulated at best, so if sustainability is a factor for your project then it is critical to do some of your own research, and ask questions. The products used in our industry are marketed just like any other product, so buzzwords ‘green’ or ‘eco friendly’ will be tossed around a lot.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to make sustainable choices, so your ideal shop should be able to show some examples of things they are doing to reduce waste, put less in the landfill, and put cleaner water back down the drain. At Floodway, we are proud to be industry leaders in sustainability through small, conscious choices that we feature regularly on our Instagram Story.

If you value the planet, vote with your dollars and choose a shop that is making efforts that align with your values. 

So it’s not just a product, or equipment choice. And sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive, either. If you value the planet, vote with your dollars and choose a shop that is making efforts that align with your values. 

For any custom apparel order, one of the first choices to be made is the method you’ll use to get your design or brand onto the garment. Screen Printing is one of many options available, but each method has its pros and cons. We’ll go through the most popular methods; screen printing, direct-to-garment (DTG), and dye sublimation. This will help you get a better idea of which is best for your custom apparel order.

What are the Pros and Cons with screen print, DTG, and dye sublimation printing?

  Pros Cons
Screen Printing – cost effective for 12+ pieces
– more design placement options
– volume discounts for larger orders
– print almost any garment
– not cost effective in small quantities due to set-up
– one design per batch


  Pros Cons
Direct to Garment (DTG) – not limited by colours in design, can print photos
– suitable for small batches
– minimal upfront investment

– not cost effective for 12+ quantities, no volume discounts
– limited garment choices
– print colours not as bright or vibrant
– not as durable over time

Dye Sublimation Printingprint seam-to-seam, all over the garment
– suitable for small batches
– not limited by colours in design, can print photos
– only available on polyester garments
– not cost effective for 12+ quantities, no volume discounts
– not as durable over time


How do the different processes work?


– Direct to Garment (DTG)

DTG is a digital printer, that prints directly onto the fabric. Since it’s like a typical home printer, it can output multiple colours and photographs right onto a t-shirt.

Most machines can print a single garment at a time, and no set-up makes it perfect for small quantities with tight turnarounds. The only downside is that the machine cannot penetrate the fabric, and since the inks need to blend to create multiple colours the print is not as vibrant or long-lasting as other processes like Screen Print.

Pretty much every dot of ink from a DTG printer is made from a mix of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK) inks. When being Screen Printed, each colour is pre-mixed and printed directly onto the garment.

Why does this matter? DTG inks need to be thin enough to spray through the tiny heads of the printer, the inks can’t be as opaque or bright. Since DTG printers use a mix of CMYK inks, they are limited to the colours that CMYK can mix – which is a far narrower spectrum than our eyes can see, or that can be achieved with Pantone colours. Using fluorescent pigments lets Screen Printers nudge colours to be even brighter than the Pantone spectrum, too.


– Screen Printing

Screen Printing is the process of passing ink through a mesh stencil onto t-shirts, other garments, and consumer goods like circuit boards, ceramics, and tons more.

Screen Printing is a versatile process and automatic presses are capable of producing hundreds of prints per hour.

Screen Printing is a versatile process and automatic presses are capable of producing hundreds of prints per hour. The inks allow for precise control of the deposit and the colour, so the prints are sharp, vibrant, and long-lasting. Every print colour is its own ink and screen, but this also contributes to the downside; the setup time for multiple colours means some designs will not be economical in smaller quantities.

Screen printing requires a bit of set-up, but the process allows for a wider variety of inks, both in terms of colour variety and material. Bright and accurate colours make every design stand out, where-as some processes can leave your logo/design looking like an iron-on from a cereal box.


– Dye Sublimation Printing

Sublimation Printing is the process of printing onto a special heat-transfer paper, and transferring it onto the fabric with heat and pressure. The ink is heated until it melts into the corresponding fabric, but it works best only on 100% polyester garments. Since a digital printer is used to create the transfer paper, the dye-sublimation process can be economical in small quantities.


How to choose the best printing method

The two largest factors are your design, and the quantity needed at one time.

Your Design

The design is the key element in this decision. Most designs can be screen printed for best results, but may not be economical in smaller quantities. If your project is smaller and the design involves many colours, photographic images then Direct-to-Garment may be the best bet.

Total Quantity

Some business models demand smaller quantities, on tight timelines. For everything else like a team of employees at a business, a group, club, camp or an event, there is a need for a larger quantity of garments at the same time. When you think you’ll need 12+ of the same design, then Screen Printing will be your best bet for quality, versatile garment choices, and economical pricing. For smaller orders and one-off designs, Direct-to-Garment or Dye Sublimation may be the best choice.

Each print method has its own advantages, with Screen Printing being the most versatile.

When you think you’ll need 12+ of the same design, then Screen Printing will be your best bet for quality, versatile garment choices, and economical pricing.

Still having trouble with the decision? Let us know in the comments and we’ll help with the choice!

At Floodway Print Company, we specialize in Custom Screen Printing. A sharp focus on the screen print method has allowed us to grow at a steady pace while improving our print quality and customer service along the way.

Still having trouble deciding? When our Screen Printing Services aren’t the best solution for your project we will always be happy to recommend a local shop that can meet your needs, when available. Get in touch today!

Our eyes can be easily deceived when we view colour, and understanding the limitations of colour perception helps achieve clear expectations for colour accuracy. The deception is mostly due to our brain, which is processing a ton of information and doing the best it can. Some factors like genetics play a part, but so does the environment. The light in the environment is the biggest factor on how we perceive colour.

This post is a quick introduction to the different ways our perception of colour can be effected. This post is a summary – for a more in-depth look, please reference X-Rite’s Colour Perception Blog Series, the main source of this post.

Temperature of Light

The human eye can view millions of colours, but it breaks down to three primary colours: red, green, and blue.

RGB is the foundation of human colour vision.

It’s important to understand that objects don’t actually have a colour. They have properties that determine how light is absorbed and reflected. The mix of that reflected light is what our eyeball uses to perceive the colour.

This example of a red car under different light shows how our perception of colour can change when the ambient light changes. When the same colour is viewed under different light sources it can appear quite differently. Typically more blue under a night sky, or more yellow under a fluorescent light.

Our brains have learned that objects should look a certain way, so sometimes our brain applies this logic in interesting ways that can change our perception of colour.

The optical illusion below from Beau Lotto shows it really well. Once the rest of the colours on the cube are masked you can see how much they effect your perception of colour.

Optical Illusion images courtesy of R. Beau Lotto.

This is all very important to understand when colour communication is critical.

Reflectiveness and Texture

Since the colours an object absorbs and reflect have such a big effect on colour perception, the material of the object itself becomes important in the way the colour is perceived.

This can be a challenge in the manufacturing and print industries. Most print shops (including ours) will use bright ‘Day Light’ tuned bulbs to help ensure that colours are being viewed accurately, and to avoid common optical illusions.

Technology can be a roadblock to communicating colour, as well. One of the biggest challenges is between different displays on electronic devices. We view colour many ways: on our phones, TV, computer screens, in print, on a tablet, etc. The brightness and other variables will all change the way a colour is perceived.

The Environment and Fatigue

The environment that the colour is viewed in has a large effect on perception, but once that light passes through the eye there are other variables that can change the way a colour is perceived.

Retinal fatigue can contribute to colour perception issues. Just like the rest of our body, the eye benefits from rest, and is affected negatively by fatigue.

Use the example below from to experience retinal fatigue. If you stare at this image for around 30 seconds and then close your eyes, you will see a shadow of the image on the back of your eyelids. This ‘afterimage’ occurs because when we stare at an object the chemicals in our eye’s cones start to deplete and send incorrect information to our brain. Your eyes will adjust and reset shortly, but this is a good example of how quickly an eye can become fatigued and alter colour perception.

Background effects can play a role, as well. In the example below, are the arrows the same colour?

They really are. Each background colour strongly changes our eye’s ability to perceive colour.

So while light plays a big role, we need to remember that our eyes can be tricked. A tired eye cannot make great judgments. Surrounding colours and light in the environment can trick your eye and cloud your view.

Human Traits

Last but not least are our human traits. The human eye and brain has several limitations, and some people are better able to detect slight changes in colour. Curious about your colour deficiency? There’s a test at the end!

True colour blindness where a person sees only grey is apparently quite rare. We only use Red, Green, and Blue to perceive colour though, so any slight change in those chemical sensors will change the way we perceive light.

Do you see a 6, and a 2? If not, you may be experiencing a colour deficiency.

Age, poor colour memory, and life factors like stress can all play a role in your chemical reaction to wavelengths of light.

If you’re worried or curious about colour deficiency, the easiest thing to do is take a test!

X-Rite has a FM100 Hue Test available to do a quick check of your colour perception. There’s another version here, too. How did you do? Let us know!

What is a halftone? Screen printing is a ‘spot colour’ process – this means that each colour is printed using a mixed ink, and each colour has its own screen to transfer the image onto the garment. Halftones are tiny dots used to recreate shades of an ink colour on press.

Halftones give the appearance of multiple shades while only using a single ink colour.

Halftones are an advanced technique that can help add much more depth in your design without extra screens.

Since we are printing with solid colours of ink, it doesn’t give any tonal range. We are either printing ink in an area, or not printing ink. When we look at a photograph we see a wide range of colours, shades, or tones – so how do we reproduce this on press?

tonal range

What is tonal range? In screen printing, tonal range refers to the total number of tones possible in the stencil. In black and white terms, tone is shades of gray.

This is where the halftone comes in. A halftone is an array of different size dots which allows screen printers to simulate tonal variation when printing with a single ink on press. What’s the benefit? A halftone allows to use one ink colour in one screen, and approximate various shades of that ink colour. The eye blends these tiny dots into smooth tones.

Looking closely at a black and white photo printed in a newspaper will show that the image is actually made up of different sized dots. The smaller the dot, the lighter the shade of grey it represents to our eye. We use the same effect on press.


This is a simple ‘spot colour’ design without any halftones. A screen works like a stencil. Ink passes through the screen to transfer the design.

Halftones can be used to add depth and detail to simple spot-colour designs, as well! This is where halftones really show their benefits and value.

In screen printing, costs are based on the total number of colours in your design. Choosing a screen printer that can confidently work with halftones opens the door for more depth and range in the design without adding more screens. A simple halftone can make any design more dynamic without adding costs.