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Misprint Monday: Ink Color Substrate Issues

We recently printed some expensive UnderArmour reversible jerseys for a contract customer. It didn’t work out very well.

As you can see from the photograph, on the black background the letters look “yellow” and on the white the letters look “gold.” To be more exact,  the white jersey printed at Pantone 1235c and the black jersey printed at 1225C.

How did this happen? We actually used the exact same ink to print them, but the black was printed over Endurance Grey and then a white underprint. Plastisol inks are translucent and the white underprint changes the look of some saturated colors and in this case caused the athletic gold ink to a yellow ink, visually 1235C to visually 1225C.

This issue was aggravated by the fact that the customer was taking these jerseys and adding numbers which were 1235C, so the numbers would not match the words printed and in fact clash and would look terrible.

As with any issue like this, we take three steps and always in this order:

  1. Figure out how to make it right for the customer
  2. Figure out how it happened.
  3. Figure out how you can avoid the problem in the future.

To make it right we considered the following:

A. Get the customer to accept the difference by giving them a discount. Not acceptable to them.

B. Screenprinting the numbers in a color that would match the lettering. The cost and the time it would take made this impossible, it would have required shooting 90 screens.

C. Getting some entirely different numbers like just white or white and black. This was not acceptable to the customer either.

D. This is where having a great relationship, even special relationships with your vendors comes in. At a relatively low cost F + M Expressions did a new set of numbers in 1225C and they did it in a big rush without a big rush fee, and the customer was ok with this solution.

So next, how did this happen?

When certain colors go over white underprints it alters the color, making them appear lighter than they look in the bucket.

We use Rutland ink and they in fact as part of their matching system have a “ul” or underlayment set of formulas to assist in getting colors matched properly when those inks go over a white base.

So how could this be avoided in the future?

First thing we probably should not have taken this job! Our forte is not printing athletic jerseys and these were very expensive ones. If you do take jobs out of your wheelhouse you should be making more money on them, both because they will take more time and also because you inevitably will make more mistakes and you better make enough on the ones that work out to fund the ones that don’t.

One solution would have been to print a white underprint on the white portion of the job. Then the white jersey portion and black jersey portion would have matched. However, you still would have printed a yellow not a gold that way and you would have had to in addition alter the formula to get 1235C

Another solution I have not tried but reliable sources tell me can work is to print more of a tan colored underprint instead of white, or to add some of the color in question (yellow in this case) to the white underprint. This then prevents the color shirt or reduces it.

Yet another solution would have been to remix the gold ink for going over the underbase white with the “ul” formula at least as a start. This works but has the down side of then giving you yet another bunch of pantone colors of ink on your shelf and I don’t know about you but we have too much ink on the shelf already.

In the end the customer was happy and we learned an expensive but not unbearably expensive lesson.


  1. Most of my printing for the last 15 years has been athletic apparel. Fastest way to do it no prob is to not back it on black ( dependens on size of run, most teams are 20 jerseys average) adds a rotation but typically your not backing numbers if u print em. You should have a poly gold that stands up on dark poly jerseys.

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