A Northland company is at the forefront of producing some of the best transfers for textiles in the world.
Supacolour Group, of Whangarei, is one of only a handful of printers internationally that has been able to work out a way to combine digital and screen printing to create transfers for clothes, caps and umbrellas that have more vibrant colours, are durable and are softer to the touch.
They also comply with standards required for children's wear and last longer in the wash compared to traditional methods.
The breakthrough offers huge scope for the branding market such as sports clubs and company logos, and the leisure and fashion market.
The company has been announced as joint winner of the Industry Development and Creativity Category for New Zealand Pride in Print 2017. Its entry, the Custard World transfer, wowed judges for its innovation.
"As one of the few companies in the world who can do this, Supacolour are breaking through the boundaries of what is available through print in New Zealand and are delivering something new to the market," said design judge Angelique Sparnaay-Martin.
"They have aligned digital and print technology, creating a transfer with millions of vibrant colours combined with the durability of a screen-printed transfer.
"The transfers are then sent to retailers with instructions on how to apply them to the T-shirt or other items. The transfers are beautifully soft and don't deteriorate after being washed many times.
"This shows real innovation in giving New Zealand something we have not had before."
The Custard World transfer on the winning T-shirt was created for end client Embroidery Works, a full-service branding company based in Auckland.
Supacolour came about after a meeting of minds between Mike Modgill of Embroidery Works and Bill Armitt of Hot Printz in Whangarei.
A group of investors was created to form Supacolour and bring the technology to New Zealand to make a difference to the local promotional products industry.
Mr Armitt said it was very satisfying to see things reach fruition in a commercial sense.
"We are very excited to receive the recognition. We've been working hard on this for quite some time," he said.
Supacolour took on extra premises to start the company, employing seven people in the first 12 months of operation, Mr Armitt said.
The company is supplying transfers to Canada, Europe and Australia and is expecting to expand further with the prospect of more jobs being created.
Mr Modgill said the colours provided on traditional digitally printed transfers are more muted, and screen-printed transfers are more limited in colour range.
"Digital colours just don't 'pop' as much. What we can now produce is much more stand-out and vibrant.
"From a customer's point of view this makes their life easier. They don't have limitations on colours. They can choose photography or modern art for a design and it will look great. That is perfect for company and sports branding."
There are huge advantages for colour-fast products too.
"The transfer will stay vibrant for between 60 and 80 washes for normal clothing. For workwear branding that is going through commercial laundries, we have an additional process whereby the colour will last for up to 100 washes."
Last year Supacolour won an innovation award at the Westpac Northland Business Awards.