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Heat transfer printing- This is the industry standard printing process. Full bottom, full color printing is achieved by transfer printing. A custom skateboard heat transfer is a form of screen printing. Each transfer carrier sheet is printed reverse order with screen printing ink and/or digital ink. To apply the transfer graphic the printed transfer sheet is aligned to the deck and run through a heated silicone rubber roller machine that heats the specially formulated ink.
Screen printed transfer- For a spot color transfer a screen is made with a stencil for each color in the graphic. Each color is screen printed to the carrier sheet in reverse order. Four color process/CMYK are printed in a similar fashion with a screen made for each of the C,M,Y,K, and white ink colors that come together to form the graphic. The inks are highly specialized and contain compounds to chemically bond with the lacquer that seals the skateboard deck. Choose this method if your graphic is full board and 1-2 colors but not too fine of detail. Sometimes if you are doing 100s of the same graphic this might also be a more economical choice with more than 2 colors.
Digital printed transfer- The highest level of detail is achieved using this method. In this process the graphic is digitally printed to a carrier sheet with proprietary techniques and materials. This is a big advantage for graphics that have a large amount of colors and/or really fine detail as it doesn't require the screens (set-up fees) to produce the graphic although some screen printing is used to make the transfer. Specialized coatings are used to bind the ink to the skateboard deck. The final print adheres as good as a screen printed skateboard deck graphic. Single sample custom printed skateboard decks are available using this method. Choose this method if you are trying to print detailed or photographic prints. Most artwork is best reproduced using this method.
What print method to use? The artwork will determine the best method to use for printing custom skateboard decks. Below is an infographic of what method works best depending on the artwork.
Why no full board direct screen print option? Art has to be built with large amounts of possible color shifting taken into consideration. Fine detail like photographic printing is not possible. The print adhesion of transfers is the same as direct screen and the cost for a full direct screen print is more than 3x as much. We don't see a reason for less quality printing that costs more*. Please know that other companies may say 'screen printed' when referring to the printing of the transfers and that does not mean 'direct to deck screen printing'.
*There are some exceptions to this rule like a completely flat longboard deck or printing the veneer pre-pressing. Some just like the nostalgia, more power to you if disagree.
We do not sell transfers apart from a custom printed deck. We do not print on skateboard products that we did not produce.
Direct Screen Print-This process involves direct screen printing to the bottom of a custom skateboard deck. The print area and size are limited because of the curved surface of the deck. Smudging and registration problems can also occur. Direct screen printing can be an economical alternative to transfer printing for companies that are looking for a lower cost and small 'mini logo' type print. 14"x7.5" maximum print size between the truck holes. We recommend this type of printing for smaller, less detailed one or two color graphics or top prints.
Actual picture below. Small 1 or 2 color print usually for top prints or mini/small logo/graphic prints. This type of print works well with our stocked background colors when trying to have a variety of colors in a smaller production order. More info on background/bottom pass colors.
Actual picture below. Works best for 1-2 solid full length print colors & not too much detail, more colors than 2 then digital transfers are usually more cost effective.
The pic doesn't do it justice. Much better in person. Full board full color. Super detailed image reproduction. Spot color, gradient, and flesh tone reproduction excellent as well. Other pics of a digital transfer print.
Please be aware that there is a lot of miss-information about skateboard printing floating around the web. The information might have been somewhat correct a long time ago but many advances in skateboard printing have happened since then. Our reps will advise on the best print method when you submit your art.