You may have noticed that we’ve restored the entire line of OKI LED textile transfer printers to our product line. Some of the most frequently asked questions from prospective OKI printer customers, are about the design process. Designing transfers for OKI WT printers requires applying white toner only under the composite color. Then you have to send the file in a format the printer driver reads correctly.
Adobe Photoshop works, but the design process is complicated. And, if you’re not already familiar with Photoshop, it can take quite a while to become proficient enough to be efficient. Fortunately, there’s a simpler solution. Vinyl Express LXI has a simple interactive interface that shortens the learning curve and gets you into production more quickly. And LXI RIP 12 has a unique underbase feature that fully supports the OKI WT white toner printers. It allows you to quickly add a white layer to your design and print it using the Windows print driver. Here’s how it works
LXI RIP 12 Overview
LXI RIP 12 is the flagship edition of the LXI product line. LXI RIP is made for digital printing. The large format RIP engine supports PrismJET eco-solvent printers. LXI RIP 12 includes outstanding color management tools, an ink cost estimation module, bitmap editing tools, and full support for print and cut workflow. But RIP 12 can also be used as a graphic design application to output files to any installed desktop printer using the Windows print driver.
In addition to large format rip and print tools, LXI RIP 12 includes an underbase effect that provides correct color and opacity when printing to non-white substrates. The feature was originally developed for use with UV inkjet printers, but it’s also ideal for garment decoration with white toner laser transfer printers. This feature works with the OKI 711WT, and Pro 8432WT printers. For simplicity’s sake, the focus of this article will be the OKI Pro 8432WT. By the way, this work flow isn’t compatible with UniNet iColor 500 and 600 printers because the iColor Windows drivers for these are based on CMYK printers. So there’s no white toner support in the default print driver. But you can still use LXI RIP 12 or Master Plus to design your iColor graphics and import them into the iColor TransferRIP. More on that later.
What Does the UnderBase Effect Do?
It works like the contour cut tool. For vector shapes, it mimics the path and generates another layer directly under the object. For raster shapes, it analyzes the difference between the pixels and the background and generates a vector shape that mimics this path. So if you want to add an underbase under a raster image – an imported jpeg for instance – you have to make the background transparent first. Then add the underbase. Otherwise, your white layer will be an unsightly rectangle.
Another aspect that is similar to applying a contour cut path is the offset tool. The Underbase dialog box in Design Central includes a Choke Distance window that allows you to determine the size of the underbase layer relative to the object (FIG 1). The default value is 0.00. This means the white layer will be the same size as the object. In practicality, this means that there is a chance you will see a slight white halo as the white toner peeks out from under the composite color. Standard garment decoration practice with white base layers is to reduce the size of this layer by dialing in a ‘choke’. Changing the offset to a negative value- i.e. -1.010- will choke the white layer so that it’s a wee bit smaller. No halo. A choke of 0.002″ is recommended. You can do the opposite if you want to add a white stroke to your applied transfer to set it off from the dark textile substrate.
The underbase layer is a white spot color. In a thoughtful touch that makes it easy to manage in your work space, the underbase appears on your screen as off-white. There are actually two underbase options; solid and variable. The Solid Underbase option produces a solid fill of 100% white. This is the same effect you would get printing from Photoshop using the clipping path tools. The print driver interprets it as a solid layer of white toner.
The Variable Underbase option analyzes the tonal values in the image and adds white as needed to give the lighter values more vibrancy and opacity. Using the variable underbase option will reduce the amount of white toner used, which can reduce toner cost and soften the transfer.
How to Generate an Underbase for OKI WT Printers
Here’s a step by step summary of the process.
- If you’re working with a raster image file like an imported jpeg, first make the background
transparent by using the the aptly named Make Background Transparent tool. It may be hiding in the Bitmap Tool Box. Otherwise, your white underbase will be a rectangular bounding box.
- If you’re working with a vector object, just select it. If your design includes vector objects with multiple overlapping shapes, group them first. That way you’re only creating one object as your white underbase layer. This makes it easier for the print driver to interpret the white layer.
- When you have your object ready, click the Effects menu from the top tool bar. From the drop-down menu, click Underbase. Then, from the fly-out menu, select Solid Underbase or Variable Underbase. (FIG 2).
- Use the Choke Distance window to choke the white layer to prevent halo around your color. A value of -0.020 is recommended. Or add a positive value here if you want a white stroke.
- Use the File/Print command to open the OKI Pro 8432WT windows print driver. Click the Properties button and make sure the paper tray, media type, color, and mirror settings are all correct. Use the Multi Purpose paper tray. Set the media type to match the transfer paper. For Forever Laser Dark No-Cut or iColor Standard 2-step media, select Transparency. If you’re using iColor Premium paper, select the Medium Light media type.
- Click the Job Options tab and make sure the Mirror Print box is checked.
- Click the Color tab and make sure the ‘White On’ box is checked. Click OK to return to the main print window and click OK again to send the job. If you’re prining on Forever Laser Dark or iColor Standard A Foil, you should have an image that reads correctly from the glossy side and shows the white toner on the back of the matte side. Congratulations! You’re ready for the heat press.
LXI RIP 12 White Toner Underbase Tips
Because this feature was developed for different print technologies, it actually appears up in more than one tool menu. There’s an underbase tool in the Arrange Menu as well. For UV printers, the workflow includes going to the Arrange menu and releasing the underbase before printing. Don’t do that. The Effects/Underbase tool generates a mask to create an underbase from grouped objects. If you release the underbase in this application, you may lose the mask and you’ll get a white bounding box instead of the actual contours of the vector object.
Mask Effect: You can create some cool effects by using a vector object over a raster image and using the mask tool to fill the vector shape with the pixels from the underlying raster file (Fig 3). If you do this, you can’t generate an underbase from the visible vector because the masked raster image file is still there. It’s just hiding. The underbase layer will be applied to the background file, not the visible vector shape. To work round this, select and export the image as a .tiff or .jpeg. Then import it and use the Make Background Transparent tool to remove those pesky white pixels. Then your underbase will be applied only to the original vector object.
Designing for TransferRIP: Forever TransferRIP is an extra-cost option for OKI WT printers that adds some useful features. These include screening options that turn transfers into halftones to soften the hand. Since TransferRIP is not a design application, you can still use LXI RIP or Master Plus to generate your image files. In this case, you don’t need to generate the underbase. TransferRIP does that when it processes the image file. To do this, TransferRIP requires a transparent background. So when you finish your design in LXI, just select all the objects and export them as a .png file.
Ethernet Option: For faster throughput, use the OKI printer’s Ethernet port instead of the USB port. This requires an Ethernet crossover cable and some tweaking of your network adapter settings. The network adapter setup on your PC is the same as the that for printing to MUTOH or PrismJET large format printers. You can change the OKI printer’s IP address in the printer’s admin control panel menu. Check pages 35 and 36 of the OKI Pro 8432WT Setup User manual for instructions.
If you’re thinking about an OKI Pro 8432WT or 711WT and don’t have design software, or don’t want to tackle Photoshop’s arcane clipping path tools, take heart. LXI RIP 12 is the simple solution. In addition to all of its great design tools, LXI RIP 12 offers a simple Underbase feature that activates the OKI WT printer’s white toner, via the print driver. You can even opt for a solid or variable white to soften transfers and reduce costs. With LXI’s interactive and intuitive workflow, adding a white layer is quick and easy. Just create your graphic, activate the Underbase effect and let ‘er rip.