Hardpressed is known for ever-rotating designs that embrace local treasures of Saskatchewan. Our start-to-finish involvement sets us apart from a conventional retail store - everything from design, product sourcing, printing, photography & videography, marketing, order fulfillment, and sales is done right here at our flagship store. Today, we're going to talk about the process of our in-house line from start to finish!
Step 1: The Design
Each piece of Hardpressed clothing starts with an idea - a little lightbulb goes off and our in-house designers get to work on initial sketches. Feedback and revisions go on for a while, along with choosing the garment that the design will go on. A lot of time goes into each individual design and the final product is carefully thought out to ensure that it performs in the best way possible.
Step 2: Printing Transparencies & Burning Screens
Next, the design is prepared for print. Oftentimes this means creating different layers, one for each colour of the design. Each colour will need its own transparency and screen. To start the screen burning process, the bare screen must be clean and free of any particles, grease, old ink, etc. Then we coat the screen with a few layers of emulsion. This is the material that hardens when exposed to light, and when the remnants are washed away, the image from the transparencies will remain.
Step 3: Mixing Ink
Next, our production team mixes up ink to match the graphics. We test print the mixes until they perfectly complement the colour of the garment. Once the tests are approved, production goes ahead to print the full batch. There's often a lot of back-and-forth during this process. Sometimes even a fingernail-worth of pigment can entirely alter the colour of a whole pot of ink. This process may appear to be as fun as stirring up some icing for a cake, however, matching ink requires years of patience, printing experience, and a heck load of knowledge on colour theory. And yet, our printers nail it every time.
Step 4A: Manual Screenprinting
The manual press requires some good old-fashioned elbow grease, mostly. When the screen is mounted on the press, we apply the ink colour we’ve chosen and lower the screen onto a flat ‘pallet,’ where the garment is laid flat. Using a good deal of pressure, we then pull the squeegee to distribute the ink evenly through the mesh screen and pull it up once the whole graphic has been passed over.
Step 4B: The Automatic Press
While it took us quite a bit of training, tweaking, and dialing-in to get the auto press up and running, it now does a fair chunk of the work for us. There still needs to be a human present to program the machine, add the ink, load and unload the garments, and assure quality - but the printer that gets to run the automatic press doesn't have to feel the burn in their forearms as much as those on the manual press.
Step 5: Curing the Ink
The type of ink that we use for screen printing will almost never dry out on its own. Some inks used for fine art will dry at room temperature, but plastisol must be cured to a temperature of 320ºF. To ensure that the graphic on your Hardpressed clothes won't smear or crack in the wash, we run all garments through a dryer to cure it. Very seldomly, there is a chance it won't fully cure, in which case it's considered to be defective. We'll gladly replace it for you if your print cracks after the first wash.
Due to the nature of our process, it's impossible to keep every design around & in stock forever. We have a limited number of screens - we call it our screen library - where we store the designs that are currently in rotation. Every time we bring a new design into the line-up, we typically take an older one out. The great thing about our silkscreens is that they can be washed out and repurposed. There are many coveted designs that our customers often ask us about - so sometimes we'll bring an oldie back for a season or two! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on our website and socials, as we always have something on the go. In the meantime, consider this your tip to grab something if you like it, 'cause it might not be around forever!