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As you might have been worried about, the first time you try to print over polos, flannels, dress shirts, and the dreaded zipper hoodie, you might run into a few issues. As you are pulling the squeegee across the screen and begin to approach the button or zipper it can end up leaving a mass of ink around the zipper or button. By the end of it, it turns out to be a messy print. When printing on garments with buttons or zippers it can pose to be fairly difficult. However, with a little effort and the right tools, we assure you that it’s possible to do it right.

The biggest goal for screen printing on zippered hoodies or buttoned garments is trying to get the screen to lay flat. The best way to describe it is by saying that garments with zippers or buttons are like Mt. Everest, but we know that they need to resemble the plains of Oklahoma.


To get your Oklahoma plain, the first step is going to be looking at the artwork. What does the customer want? If it’s text with no background filler, you shimmy your way around this problem by putting an extra inch or two in the middle of the design so it doesn’t touch any of the zippers or buttons.

Now, on the flipside, if the customer has a design that is going to fill the front of the garment and go over the zipper/buttons, then you’ll need to have a conversation with the client. You’ll most likely have to tell them that if they want to maintain the design, they’re going to need to switch the garment.

You could also agree on how to adjust the art and move it towards a more “distressed” design. If the print turns out less than ideal, it’s okay because the design is weathered, so it’s not meant to look perfect.

If the client MUST have that garment without a distressed design, ask them if they would be interested in having the design on the back of the garment and possibly a left chest print on the front. What if the customer requests a bright, durable print over the zipper or buttons. While you won’t have to alter the art, you may have to explore a few options on press to make it happen.


One of the ways that we suggest doing this is going to be using a direct-to-garment (DTG) printing method. While it still won’t be perfect, it'll be better in comparison to other methods.

We understand that not everyone has a DTG printer. To overcome this, screen printers can use the option of traditional water-based and discharge inks because the ink evaporates more. When printing with discharge inks, it requires specific equipment and shop setup. If you are considering this method, we suggest looking more into the method so you can decide what works best.

Printers can also use plastisol ink if it has been thinned out with a curable reducer or fashion soft base. By doing this, the ink will flow better and make a thinner deposit. A risk with this that the print will look more vintage rather than bright and vibrant.

As a reminder, be aware that the zipper and buttons have a lot of texture, which can break down the durability of the screen. To try and minimize or avoid this potential issue, try and do shorter runs, use emulsion hardener on the screen, perform post-expose, and finally be prepared to create an extra set of screens. Also, remember that zippers can hold heat easier so you should use little to no flashing.

Next, it comes down to the excessive ink buildup that happens when you are printing over zippers and buttons. To fix this issue you’re going to need a special tool to reduce buildup — a zipper platen. For these, you can buy one, or make your own fairly easily.


For many screen printers, zipper and button oriented jobs may be few and far between, and so sometimes the idea of getting an entirely new platen for just one job might not appeal to you.For your DIY zipper platen, you can temporarily rig up a surface that allows you to print without the need to purchase another platen. Now it is important to note that having a DIY platen will work if you’re only planning on printing on a side of the garment, not actually over the zipper/buttons. If your customer wants the design to go over the zipper itself, it is going to be much better and easier to purchase a platen.

To make your own platen, you’ll need two boards that are about 1/4″ thick. For example,iIf you took a single board that is the same size as your normal platen (usually a 16x16″) and cut it in half, it works perfectly. From here you will need to mark the center line on your DIY platen, and use a spray tack to put your boards in place, leaving a gap or “trench” that is the same width as the zipper/button. We suggest using duct tape to help reinforce the boards because you do not want the boards to shift at any point during the printing process.

Whether you’re planning on using a DIY platen or have purchased one, you will need to make sure to adjust the off-contact for the garment thickness, zippers and buttons, especially since fashion garments are much thinner than heavy-duty garments. For example, if you had just finished a run printing on Bella + Canvas zippered hoodies and the next job was to do Carhartt hoodies, you would need to increase the off-contact.

As for the zipper or button, make sure you are adjusting your off-contact to compensate for the additional 1/4″ height that is caused by them. You’ll also want to run a thin piece down the middle of the backside of the screen, between your image areas to strengthen it when you are screen printing. The tape helps you avoid damaging your screen, as it is possible for the screen to split upon coming in contact with the zipper or buttons.

Once you make sure the zipper or buttons are settled nicely into the trench you have made, finally make sure everything is good and flat. Now you can print, and if done correctly, you will see a nice, smooth print come out as the product.

Keep in mind that the DIY platen you created is only going to work for that one job. Since zippers differ from garment to garment, varying in thickness and construction, you will need to adjust the platen for new orders.

Here at BOLT Screen Printing we pride ourselves in creating quality custom apparel that brings your vision to life. We have assembled a team of professionals, who strive to understand your goals and assist you with out of the box advertising and branding techniques. We combine our knowledge of all things apparel with your project goals in order to provide killer gear and a stress-free experience.

With an ambition to create premium quality vintage threads, Bolt was born. From our passion of creating the best clothing for our clothing store Opolis and our customers expressing the desire to see their designs on our high-quality apparel we knew the next step would be to open Bolt. After being in the industry for over 13 years, we've perfected the process of turning amazing ideas into even better results. Contact us today by emailing us at, or giving us a call at 405-493-9557!

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