July '22

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4 8 G R A P H I C S P R O J U L Y 2 0 2 2 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M A P P A R E L D E C O R A T I N G W hen the pandemic shuttered busi- nesses, Todd Downing realized he didn't need a retail storefront for his printing solutions business, Fat Dad Custom Designs. While consider- ing the future of his business, Downing also knew he was ready to pivot into the direct-to-film ( DTF) market, which prints designs onto a polyester film using water- based inks and is then cured and pressed onto a garment using a heat press. e implementation of these two major changes meant Downing could downsize, so he moved his operation to his Moline, Illinois, home where he had 1,100 square feet he could dedicate to his shop. "We get a lot more done in a lot less time now being home-based," says Downing, who's been in business since 2006. Fat Dad focuses on two product lines, wholesale printing for his trade clients, who are distributors or resellers, and print- ing finished goods for his retail custom- ers, which include signs, banners, decals, garments, bags, and other products using DTF, heat transfer vinyl (HTV), eco-sol- vent, and screen printing methods. "We try to be a one-stop solution to be able to print on any style garment with any type of decoration," Downing adds. TAKING ON DTF Initially, Downing employed HTV and screen printing to decorate products, but HTV had "a heavy-handed feel" and is limited by color availability, the reproduc- tion of fine details like small numbers and letters and the labor involved in weeding. Downing learned about DTF in the summer of 2020 after the pandemic shut- downs. at fall, he invested in an Epson Fat Dad Pivots to DTF for Custom Designs SHOP THRIVES BY TAKING BUSINESS HOME B Y S H E L L E Y W I D H A L M Poly-blocker printed HTV for the Red Dragons sports team.

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