How to Create a Three-Color Print

Popular prints pop with color – learn how to create them in your shop.

1. Load the shirt on the pallet
Loading the shirt properly is crucial. A crooked print often has nothing to do with the artwork or screen setup – the crooked print is caused by the shirt being loaded improperly. There are many methods of ensuring shirts are loaded with the correct orientation. Shops may use a laser alignment system or traditional markings on their pallets.

2. Add the underbase
When printing on a dark garment, it’s likely you’ll need to lay down an underbase. This is mainly done in white or a light gray, and is used as a first layer (base) for your lighter/brighter colors to go on top. Having an underbase can ensure the brightness of the colors, as well as giving a full look to the print. Without an underbase, some brighter colors (yellow, light green, etc.) may look transparent, or allow the fibers of the shirt fabric to be seen.

3. Flash-dry the shirt
Printers who print wet on wet may not need to follow this step. If you’re printing other types of ink, flash-drying is a step you should include.

4. Print all the colors in the design
Each color will be printed separately. The artwork will, in some cases, determine the order and direction (from the outside in or from the inside out) the colors will print. It may be necessary to flash-dry after each color is laid down on the garment.

5. Remove the shirt and cure the design
Carefully remove the shirt from the platen and fully cure the ink, since improperly cured ink can wash off or smear.

Tip: For multicolored jobs, make registration marks around the artwork you’re using. Registration marks are marks (like a star or a bullseye) that will be in the exact same area on all of your print-outs. Marks should be made for underbase, the first color, second color and so on, through every color in the design. When the registration marks are lined up together on each screen, you’ll get an exact registration to ensure all colors are placed properly on the garment.

Underbase Smarts
An underbase may be one of the colors in your design, or it may be required to make the other colors stand out. It may not be required for every job. In most cases, an underbase is laid down when the color of the garment is dark, and something is required to make lighter colors show up properly. The need for an underbase, as well as the steps for printing a multicolor shirt, may vary based on the style and type of garment you’re printing.


In this video, “How To Screen Print Multiple Colors With One Screen,” Josh Wells from Ryonet Corp. (asi/528500) shows how to print a multicolor print using one screen. All the inks are added at once, and then the screen is printed. The result is a unique multicolor print. Watch the video: