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Spectra: Quality Prints Require Quality T-Shirts

Mar 03, 2013

Spectra USAWe sat down with Brian McLaughlin at our Costa Mesa, California offices and asked him some t-shirt specific questions.  Brian is National Sales Manager at Spectra USA, an apparel company out of Chino, California. AnaJet relies on Spectra shirts for good quality samples and for training our customers.

Q: We’ve been printing a lot of samples on Spectra shirts. Why do they take digital prints so much better than most of the other blanks?

A: We use a proprietary Spectra Spun yarn in 6 of the styles, we offer and it’s perfect for Direct to Garment Printers. Most blank wholesale t-shirts on the market use Open End (OE) yarn, which is one of the roughest (and cheapest) apparel yarns. OE yarn has a notably rough hand and distinct knitted ridges which are easily identifiable by the naked eye.

Q: We have seen pilling, torquing and other issues even with some well known brands. Why doesn’t DTG print well on these OE t-shirts? Sometimes they look perfect after a print, but then fail in a wash test. This drives us a little crazy.

A: Most DTG printers heat press their t-shirts before printing. In the case of OE t-shirts, the heat press flattens the ridges and the t-shirt prints great. However, once washed or tumbled, the cotton returns to its natural form and therefore the ridges separate and are exposed which results in a blurry/grainy graphic.

Q: So why does the Spectra T-shirt differ?

A: The Spectra Spun cotton in comparison to OE yarn is like comparing a Mercedes-Benz S500 to a Mitsubishi 2 door. Basically our yarn at its source is softer; it is spun slower than OE and during the process it is “brushed” which enhances the luxurious hand feel. In addition, due to the tighter knitting process we essentially eliminate/minimize the ridge effect. Plus since the yarn is spun, it exposes more fiber which fills in the natural texture that is inherent to jersey fabric.

Spectra does offer 18 singles OE t-shirts, but we only sell that to promotional style companies & do not recommend for digital printing.

Q: Our customers occasionally need a range of colors and styles. What specifically do you recommend for best results on the SPRINT or the mPower?

A: We offer several Spectra Spun styles and I always recommend you check out our website for more insights: www.SpectraUSA.net

Here’s brief description of what is available:

  1. Men’s 20 singles crew neck 5.5oz Spectra Spun available in 12 colors
  2. Men’s 30 singles crew neck 4.5oz Spectra Spun available in 12 colors
  3. Men’s 30 singles V-Neck 4.5oz Spectra Spun available in 3 colors
  4. Men’s 30 singles Tank Top 4.5oz Spectra Spun available in 3 colors for DTG
  5. Juniors 30 singles crew neck 4.5oz Spectra Spun available in 7 colors
  6. Juniors 30 singles V-neck 4.5oz Spectra Spun available in 7 colors
  7. Boy’s & Juvy 20 singles OE available in 15 colors – Note: we increased the yarn count to minimize the texture.
  8. Additional styles are available but not ideal for DTG.


Q: Pretend we’re just getting started in garment decoration. What does “20 singles” or “30 singles” mean?

A: It identifies the gauge/size of the yarn. The higher the number the finer the yarn and usually the lighter the fabric.

Q: Any other interesting bits of information that might be helpful to AnaJet owners?

A: If we do $50 or $100 million of business this year, 90% will be in just four colors: Black, White, Heather Grey & Charcoal. I tell all our clients, keep it simple and don’t try to reinvent the wheel, it’s already been done. :)

Thank you Brian for the insight. We recommend to our customers who are just getting started that they stick with the well-beaten path, phase in product lines, unusual configurations and dark colors as they become practiced in design, marketing, pricing and operations. Ringspun may have a soft hand, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to a good, durable print. Likewise, a thicker weave may require less pretreatment and deliver a very permanent print, but it can have a very rough hand.

We base our payoff calculations for our direct to garment printers on using the most inexpensive blanks. Something to keep in mind when pricing your products is to set expectations with your customers appropriately. If they are looking for a certain tactile experience, make it abundantly clear that you will have to upcharge for more expensive shirts. A short sleeve tee with a pocket can cost $5-$6 more than a plain white tee made of the cheapest cotton. You should not eat the cost of a more expensive blank – you need to pass this on to your customer in order to maintain a healthy margin.