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What Is Simulated Process Printing?
Tips & Tricks
min read

What Is Simulated Process Printing?

Simulated process printing, also simply called "sim process" for short, is when you use a few ink colors (a few screens) to make a myriad of colors. This process utilizes traditional spot colors in a manner that blends them together with halftones and gradients similar to full color process. This allows for a shirt design with dozens of colors, to use under 10 colors to make the exact same design.

transformed design with lots of colors printed sim process

What is simulated process printing used for?

Sim process is usually used to printing photos and high color graphics onto shirts.Think photo realistic designs, or similar to it.

Is sim process more expensive?

Generally yes, simply because the design is still going to have a high number of ink colors in it. So if you're screen printing sim process, the added color count will increase the cost. There could also be an added art charge, maybe $100-$200, to have your colors "separated". This is the art prep side of sim process. This a complex and super important part of the process.

Although this process is an added cost, it saves much more money than having to print all the colors separately which might not even be realistic. Added bonus? Once your design is separated, you never have to pay for that process again.

How does simulated process affect my turnaround time?

Simulated process adds three business days to your turnaround.

Why simulated process?

It provides vibrant designs, but still allows for a light, breathable, soft-hand shirt. It is the best option for color heavy designs with a lot of gradients and blending.

Examples of simulated process

photo realistic print via sim process
make love a verb printed with simulated process printing
rend collective printed with sim process
la printed with simulated process printing method

Printing photo realistic images with simulated process

If you have a photograph that you want to print on a shirt, odds are it will be printed using sim process. Due to the high count of colors in a photograph, a screen-printer needs to simulate all of those colors using just a handful of inks. The benefit of printing sim process designs using water based and discharge inks is that you won’t be able to feel the print on the shirt. Most other printers who default to printing with plastisol ink will need to lay down a base and then print even more ink top of that base layer of ink to achieve successful simulated process screen printing. Water based or discharge ink keeps the shirt feeling softer after printing.

How does shirt color affect sim process?

Now it’s time to decide what shirt colors you should have your design printed on? White will always work best because the colors can blend together with a white base and create a more predictable color.

However, if you choose shirt colors that discharge well, such as black or navy, you can still get a fantastic print result. Simulated Process screen printing will work great on both light and dark garment colors, though dark is more complicated.

dog shirt printed with simulated process

More about sim process art separations.

In order to successfully print a sim process job, the design will first need to be separated. The separation process will allow screen-printers to get all of the needed colors onto their own screens. All of the red ink halftones will end up on one screen, all of the green ink halftones will end up on one screen, and so forth.  The separation process usually costs about $100 - $200 depending on the complexity of the design. This is generally a one-time fee which means when you come back to reorder the same design, you won’t have to pay a separation fee again. 

zoomed in dog shirt printed with simulated process printing

Simulated process screen printing has been growing in popularity over the past few years. If you’re thinking about using this print method on apparel, let us help you get the best print possible with our water based and discharge inks. Visit www.realthread.com today to start planning your next project!