Back On Top

Screen printers don’t lack for challenges. Learning new techniques, dealing with difficult fabrics, fixing bad art files, deciding whether to replace equipment, finding new customers, figuring out how to keep these customers, fighting off low-price competition … the list goes on and on.

Like I said, they don’t need another challenge. But we’re giving them one anyway, with the return of our Wearables Top Decorator contest.

Thankfully, this is one challenge our readers welcome. Last year’s contest started with eight top-notch decorators and whittled the field down little by little until a champion was crowned: Target Decorated Apparel (asi/90549), which prevailed through its creativity and technical expertise – not to mention a few show-stopping prints. “The competition was good for us as it challenged us,” says Steve Kanney, Target’s president and owner. “We were able to do some R&D and have gotten better as a result.”

That is why we were eager to bring back our Top Decorator Contest for 2014. We will be running challenges in each issue starting now through the end of the year – five in total. Any company that screen prints – distributor, decorator or supplier – is welcome to enter.

The biggest change is that companies can enter into as many challenges they want.

We understand you’re busy, and that some months you get really busy. We don’t want that to preclude you from participating at all in the competition.

All five winners will win a Visa Gift Card courtesy of our contest sponsor, Hanes Branded Printwear (asi/59528). (In addition, Hanes is graciously supplying hundreds of shirts for our competitors to decorate on.) Each winning design will be put in the running for a Best In Show grand prize at the end of the year.

Our goal is to test the technical and creative abilities of the best screen printers. The first challenge this month involves one of the most difficult tasks in the industry right now: printing on polyester. Dye migration is a constant problem, and the worst is printing white on a red poly shirt. (The red ink of the shirt will leech during the curing process and turn that pristine white lettering into a blush pink.) It’s no accident we tasked our competitors to print a shirt for a hypothetical charity walk that featured a large white heart logo on a red poly shirt. Yes, we are nefarious.

The good news is that our competitors passed without the flying colors. Turn to page 38 to see our winning entry (along with all the other submissions), and find out how the winning company nailed it.

There are more challenges coming up this year, and it’s not too late to enter. E-mail me at cmittica@asicentral.com for all the details.

We’ve got plenty of great content in this issue. Check our annual SourceBook to find hundreds of companies for apparel and decoration equipment. Our Trends section features the hottest pattern in golf polos, while Screen-Printing Success spills the secret on one technique that is severely underutilized in the U.S. Challenge accepted.