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This is a photo of the skateboard veneer before we glued it up. One of many printing process we used here.
Screen Printing on Skateboards
Here is some info on two different skateboard printing options. First lets talk a little about the first style of applying successfully to skateboards. When skateboards started to become main stream graphics became an important part of the skateboard manufacturing process. There were a bunch of shops building decks and needed to put their brand logos on the decks they were making. Screen printing was the first choice of the skateboard manufacturers in the USA. With a ton of people out there that already had been using the screen printing process for all kinds of products it was a no brainer. No matter how much experience you have with using a squeegee when you try to translate what you know to a deck there are some really big differences between a normal traditional screen printed product and a skateboard. Most articles that were printed with a screen are flat and when it comes to a skateboard that is bent plywood it is like night and day. The first boards that were screen printed were done in the middle basically between the trucks and the background color was applied using a spray gun. These boards did not have much concave so it made it easy to do. Yea it looked cool and still to this day there are tons of guys that put their heart and soul into this method. It gets way more complicated when it comes to the new shapes that were flooding the market. A kick on the nose and a tail with deeper concave presented a whole list of new challenges. One of them was to get the screen to go all the way from nose to tail. The relatively techniques were to rock the screen as the person pulled the squeegee down over the tail. ROCK THE SCREEN? Simply there is a tilting action that changed the angle of the screen as soon as a printer would get close to the bend in the wood. This is difficult and I spent many years doing it extremely well. What I did not like about doing it this way was that if a color went all the way from the nose to tail you had to break it up and do the tail first and later do the nose. This is time consuming printing due to the same color printed twice in two different steps. Thinking about it makes me want to do it again because I loved the smell of the ink. I am not sure that customers would be willing to pay the price I would have to charge in order to do so. I knew a guy that had a manufacturing company making 30 thousand boards a month for Alien Workshop Scarecrow and many more. Really cool set of guys running the place gave me a hint that they were using bent screens. So I started to experiment with making a bent screen. I used a bent screen for years and this gave me the ability to print from the nose to tail in one pass of the squeegee. The screen had to be really loose and this made it so there was seconds during the process. Having to reprint decks because they were messed up the first time around really was a bummer. When a screen is loose it can smudge the lines in the graphic. This is why we stopped screen printing skateboards and went to the Heat Transfer Process. When I look at a screen printed deck I can always find an area in the graphic where the screen smudged the graphic. We are super anal and I know our customers are as well. The wood strength is way more important then the graphic. We work hard and spend a great deal of time and money to produce colors that display properly on a calibrated monitor. We know how important it is and we want our customers to have a good experience with the arrival of their new decks. So that is where we jump to the whole Heat Transfer Process.
The photo below is an old screen we kept around to do the top prints on skateboards. We still do some screen printing here and looking to bring it back full time for some situations where screen printing just works out better then a heat transfer. This is a recent photo of a job we did a top print on. Making heat transfers for the top of the deck is just not the way to go. When you put a top print on with a heat transfer you will see where the roller came down on the wood and it start messing with the gloss finish. There will be a different looking gloss on the top of the skateboard if you use a heat transfer for the top. It is best to do a transfer from nose to tail so that the gloss or finish is the same constant look.
Heat Transfer On Skateboards.
Here is all I know about this process that has transformed the skateboard industry. Back when it started we dove into the heat transfer. We have made them so many different ways in the past and have picked the best process for where we are today in this market. First we started screen printing them with many different inks and yes it was still a Screen print. Printing on a thin plastic was great because the detail you can get from printing on a smooth surface is outstanding and above any direct to wood printing. When printing on wood the surface of the wood is not always perfect you are dealing with wood grain and any dust or particles that can fall on the decks in the racks. A stretched piece of plastic has a much higher rate of perfection. We are able to print higher quality detail graphics. We started with a process of screen printing directly on the wood this worked 20 years ago because the designs people were bringing us were easy to screen print directly on wood. Then the art became more complicated and we printed on the veneer before going in the skateboard press. This gave us a higher quality. Finally the art people were giving us were photos and we switched to heat transfers because this is the only way to get the highest quality photo quality print. For over 5 years I worked at finding a way to make a transfer that was a digital print. This was way before any company was selling a single one off print. All decks were screen printed even the heat transfers were and there were setup fees associated with this process. From day one we never charged a setup fee for screen printing. We set up all the jobs without charging a setup this was the foundation of building our customer base. We never made money doing this and all the time we were setting up screens and cleaning up graphics for free. I started making skateboards because when I was working for a manufacturer and noticed the high price they were charging I was tripping and wanted to help skaters not make it hard to get decks made with their own graphic. I am the guy that wants to hook up people get them a killer deal and not doing it for the money. So back to the trial and error for making a digital heat transfer for years and finally I had a break. We had successfully made a digital print for a skateboard the right way. I wanted it to wear just like a screen printed deck. The slide and feel of a deck is important and needs to remain as it was back when it all started. So at that point I set up my first design online site and within months there was another company out there trying to compete with my company. We were the first ones to the market and the other company was doing it but not a manufacturer. They would buy the deck and put the graphic on it. Where does the deck come from is it imported is it quality? We know our wood is great and our printing is top notch as well. Then we had another artwork call us wanting us to do the printing for them so they can compete with us. This is the strangest situation to get into so we company. Shortly they were on the top of Google and pushed us down. For years we were on the top of Google number one on all the declined terms. Then another came in and pushed us down and we knew all about them how they would buy a low quality deck and put a graphic on it. At this point we did not even sell blanks because we did not want our high quality wood get in the hands of these competitors that were not search to the skateboarding industry in the way we were. Our prices just could not be beat and sometimes people just did not understand why our prices were so good. Simple we are a skateboard manufacturer we start with the wood and the glue and press it up. So we will always make sure our prices are lower then our competitors contributing the ones that buy imported decks and slap a graphic on it for you. This just does not make especially to me because all the hard work and passion we put into making these decks only because we want to make sure the wood you skate is good. We know that once all the big brands went to bringing the decks in from overseas the quality and sense was quickly brought down by mass producing cutting cost on labor and materials. So with the Digital Heat Transfer it gave us the ability to offer a deck at a great price for people to get one deck with their graphic to try out. While others are trying to sell hundreds we just wanted the customer to get just one so they can feel the difference and switch to our wood for life. We have had strength of customers buy from us and maybe we were slammed and it took a bit longer then it should so they went to our competitors. Within a year they come back and tell us they were buying from another company and all their customers did now want their decks they wanted the decks they were getting from us instead. It make a big difference when you are starting to sell your own brand. I get a ton of plenty tell me that yea the Imported decks are rad for one day and after that they loose their pop and break. They are cheap people the same price or sometimes more then ours. The worst ones are the decks you get on the online auctions sites. You know what I am talking about! You can get 5 for 50 or 10 for 100 these decks are the lowest quality decks in the world. Maybe good for painting or if you don't mind replacing them on a daily basis. This is basically a waste of grip tape. So stay true to skateboarding use American Made Decks. We make them blank or printed with your graphics simply printed on the bottom.