707 Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94124

STRIKEOFFS: Terms and Explanations

Hand Screen textile printing is as much an art and craft as a science. There are many variables that are beyond our immediate control. To deliver printed fabric to your high standards we need to print a STRIKEOFF before running production.

In the Textile Printing Industry a Strikeoff (abbreviated SKO) is defined as a small run of fabric printed with screens for the first time after the screens are made, or fabric which is printed in new colors or on new grounds with existing screens. The entire screen must be used, and there usually must be enough yardage to show at least 3 repeats.

Strikeoffs serve a number of functions.
1. Testing the screen to see if the image has been burned in properly.
Look for pinholes, blockages, and any other areas of deficiency.
2. Checking the repeat to find the most accurate measurement.
3. Testing the colors to see if there is any color shift between color dabs and production conditions.
4. Testing the ground under production conditions.

You can see in particular the need to run Strikeoffs when new screens are made ("burned"). This is why ZOO-INK partially includes the cost of a Strikeoff in the screen fee. We want to encourage our clients to order a few yards so we all can examine the screens and their printing results to maintain excellent quality standards.

The only reason for not ordering a Strikeoff is to save time. Sometimes this is understandable, but it carries some risks. Since the Strikeoff is the basis for our standards of production, we cannot guarantee quality standards without a Strikeoff first. When grounds are known, colors are not critical, and the design is straightforward, we can proceed to larger runs without a Strikeoff, but it is always at the customer's own risk.

After the screen has been printed once, there is much less need to print a Strikeoff. It is most valuable to check color matching, as there is almost always a slight shift between the color test and production conditions. A single frame Strikeoff (no repeats) may be sufficient for color checking. If colors are not critical a Strikeoff may not be needed.

Occasionally a new ground fabric will not behave predictably under production conditions. If we have never printed on a certain fabric before we would like to recommend a Strikeoff. Also, sometimes fabric that a mill supplies as a sample will not behave the same way as a production fabric it delivers.

You may think "why not set up to print 60 yards, and then if things go wrong stop printing?" Two reasons why that is not a good idea. Firstly, in production alternate frames are printed. Errors in the repeat will not show up until all the fabric has been committed and the between frames are filled in. Also, if the fabric shrinks too much it may ruin the repeat. Shrinkage sometimes does not show up until 30 minutes after the fabric is printed. It is then too late to fix the problem. There may be large losses of fabric, at the customer's expense. Secondly, our prices are based partially on the maximum use of the print tables. To hold up the use of a 30 yard table to test 5 yards is not efficient, and would result in higher prices all around.

It may seem that if we can print 60 yards at $3.00 per yard, we should be able to print 3 yards for $9.00. Unfortunately, it takes almost as much energy and labor to print 3 yards as it does 30 yards. Screens have to be pulled, fabric set, stops set, ink mixed, fabric has to dry, documentation written, screens cleaned, put away, invoices written, and on and on. Many of these tasks take the same time whether 1 yard is printed or 60 yards. The efficiencies of scale play an important role in handprinting small runs.

We hope this explanation will answer some of your questions and help us work
toward an efficient and productive relationship.