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Why a White Base?

Why a White Base?

The crew at South Shore Customs has been printing strong for nearly a decade and if we were to tally up the most popular garment color that we print for our clients, black would win by a landslide. Why are black garments so popular? We'll leave that speculation to you. One thing we are sure about though, with so many of our clients looking to order black or darker-colored garments, we wish more people understood the elusive and yet infamous concept of the white base. Why do black shirts cost more than white shirts?

To use interior decorating as a pretty commonplace comparison, think of printing on a black shirt with white ink like painting on a black wall with white paint. One coat of paint can only do so much when it comes to covering a dark wall—let alone a black wall. So what is the result? A splotchy coat of white and gray areas which is doing no good trying to hide the color underneath. So what steps do you need to take to get this wall to the color that you want? A base layer of primer is a great place to start and even one coat may not be enough to get the look you want.

Similar to the primer on a wall, a base must be printed on any dark-colored garment in order to guarantee a stark, bright graphic. This is the main reason why a dark garment averages a higher price point than the lighter ones. A lime green print on a black shirt isn't truly a single color. The addition of the white base renders a project like this (even if lime green is the only visible color) as a two-color print. The additional setup and labor involved with printing will drive the cost of the print-run up more than if you were printing the same color on a white t-shirt where no base would be needed. Take a look at this exact example below:

Cougar Invitational With and Without a White Base

Going further down this rabbit hole let's define what a "dark" garment is. Colors like cardinal red, forest green, navy blue, black and charcoal are obviously dark colors. Richly pigmented garments like royal blue, red, kelly green and orange can also behave like dark colors, requiring a base or multiple coats of ink to achieve high brightness. As silly as it sounds this can be a more complicated question to answer for one main reason: Ink composition. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that some inks have less body to them than others, which yields lower coverage. For example, yellow shade inks tend to run on the thin side so printing one coat of golden yellow ink on a royal blue shirt might not have the brightest final result. Observe the difference in color saturation and vibrancy of a yellow print on a black garment in this example below:

Splatter With and Without a White Base

Of course there are situations wherein we actually don't want to achieve high levels of brightness with our prints. This conversation typically happens when our clients want a vintage or “worn” effect from their prints (or don't mind it at the very least). This might also be something you consider for promotional shirts that have really tight budgets. Just like anything else in the screen printing world there is no concrete rule when it comes to the use of a white base. The final say of how your graphic will print comes down to a conversation between you and your printer. What can you live with? What can't you do without? Understanding how a white base works can help you better communicate your needs.

When it comes to bringing your project to life, the importance of who you choose to work with can not be overstated. The team at South Shore Customs is not only committed to providing a fast and affordable service, we also stand by our craft as artists who are invested heavily in creating the highest quality products for our clients. Have questions about process or pricing? Want to get started on a project? Speak with one of our knowledgeable team members today.

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