There are a variety of pretreating methods being promoted around the garment decorating industry. The options leave those new to the business scratching their heads and wondering what is the truth on all these options. Beyond budget issues, some ideas are just better than others.
Hand pump sprayers, similar to Windex bottles, at first thought sound as if they would be an inexpensive and effective method to apply pretreat solution. But in reality, it is impossible to get an even layer of pretreatment on the garment using this method. This uneven application will be evident in the finished print. You will see the irregularities in the image.
The paint roller method has come and gone in the industry, and for some reason has made a resurgence of late. Rolling pretreatment on a garment lays down far too much pretreatment and is labor intensive. I’ll describe this as a hobbyist’s method of applying pretreat solution.
Pretreat paper (paper soaked in pretreat solution) is an interesting idea but is not yet “ready for prime time.” This is a multi-step process – cold pressing and then hot pressing – as well as being difficult to control the amount of pretreatment being applied. Also these sheets are rather expensive, from $1.20 for small sheets and $1.80 for larger sheets.
An aerosol spray pretreatment is now available. Again, this method can be expensive, but can be an effective method of pretreating a specific area such as for left chest prints.
The first acceptable method of pretreating is by using a hand-held power paint sprayer. On a tight budget this is your best choice. This method does take some practice, and must be done in a location away from your direct-to-garment printer. Hand spraying is a bit messy with the overspray being sticky and difficult to clean up. Consistency from shirt to shirt can also be an issue.
Automatic pretreat machines are becoming the norm in direct-to-garment businesses, with most customers now buying a pretreater as a part of their printing package. These machines will give you consistently pretreated garments one after another. With a fully enclosed unit, you can place the pretreat machine in the same room as your printer. If your budget allows, an automatic pretreat machine is your best option to eliminate the variable of pretreating your garments.