Jesse MacKenzie
January 26th, 2015

The Meanest Guy Around

Migration refers to any sort of discoloration caused by the dye of the shirt affecting the ink color. When certain fabrics and dyes are heated up to cure the ink, they can release some of their dye which seeps into the ink. This can be apparent as soon as it leaves the dryer or can shift the ink color over time and be noticed a week or more later.

An example of migration on a black shirt.


The most prominent cause of ink migration is fabric-based. Certain fabrics like polyester are prone to migration because they do not hold onto the dye as well as cotton. Whenever polyester gets hot enough to cure, it is prone to release its dye into the ink and corrupt the color. This is most apparent in large white prints on brightly colored shirts.

The second cause of migration, which is less common, is a re-dyed shirt. If a shirt manufacturer ends up with a large surplus of a specific color, they will sometimes re-dye the shirts. Usually these are re-dyed black, and these have a much greater risk of migration than normal shirts. Usually the top color will want to bleed into the ink, but we have also experienced the ink shifting towards whatever the underlying color is. Re-dying is impossible to predict, and sometimes just a few shirts out of an order will cause problems.

An Example of migration on a purple shirt.


There is no true solution to migration besides using only cotton garments. We spend a great deal of time innovating our process to avoid it as much as possible, but in many cases it is unavoidable.

The biggest thing you can do to avoid migration is to use high quality shirts, and avoid fabrics like polyester or spandex if you want pure colors or super bright white. Many times lower quality shirt manufacturers will use sub-par dying techniques which can make the problem worse.

We are not liable for migration, it is unpredictable and unavoidable with certain blanks. We work hard to improve these processes, and we will make sure you are aware of any blanks and inks that are prone to migration.

Jesse is our Creative Director. He splits his time between the Art Department and Creative duties, looking to innovate and push the company in both areas (unless he overslept.)

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