Get Set to Success with This Practical T-Shirt Printing Guide
Whether you’re starting your own custom printing company or just starting to sell custom t-shirts, you’ll need to know the difference between different t-shirt printing methods / techniques. Many printing techniques are best suited for different fabrics and, depending on the volume of the work, a certain printing technique may be best suited for a job. The printing process you end up using will also be affected by the number of colors you intend to print. With so many variables, selecting a printing technique is difficult!
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Truth is digital technology has changed the world of t-shirt printing options, and many new printing methods have arisen, but conventional printing continues to struggle. Printing methods like plastisol transfers that combine heat and pressure can also be a great option depending on what you or your customer wants.
T-shirt Printing Methods
- Screen printing
- DTG Printing
- Heat Transfer Printing Techniques
- Sublimation Printing
- Heat Transfer Vinyl
Screen-Printing is the most well-known method of t-shirt printing. Since your childhood, humans have used screen printing. Screen printing is done by machines and by hand. Decipher why screen printing is so common.
Part of the screen printing charm is screen printing inks. Screen printing inks are thicker than other t-shirt printing methods, enabling them to last longer and deliver vivid true-to-life colors. Make sure you use high-quality inks or your screen printer, that’s so important! Low-quality inks can quickly fade and also feel strange.
Screen printing best suits high-volume orders. Depending on the size of the layout, the ink quality, how much squeegee pressure is applied, the number of strokes and the mesh count; you can print 200-500 t-shirts with a gallon of screen-printing ink, making it super-cost effective. Hey, these are all factors to consider if you want to find out how cost-effective screen printing is.
- Screen printing ink is absorbed very deeply, giving you vibrant, vivid colors and full longevity.
- When built, you can create hundreds of t-shirts with the same model at blazing pace.
- It is compatible with most fabrics when using the right mix of inks and screens for your fabric.
If you intend to do it at home, remember this: it gets messy when screen-printing. Keep in mind that you’ll deal with ink and there’ll be spillage.
- You need considerable space to set up a proper screen-printing area.
- The room you need should be dust-free and dark to help preserve screens and ink.
- Deep learning curve.
- Small positioning of artwork.
DTG (Direct-to-Garment) Printing is an inkjet process that can directly print high-quality, full-color, photographic prints on a t-shirt. DTG Printing is best suited for designs or artworks considered too complicated for other printing methods, such as screen printing, which is best suited for low-color designs. DTG printing machines have tremendous color mixing capacity for printing even the smallest details.
If you’re looking to print only a few (1-5) t-shirts, DTG Printing is also the best option since it’s as simple as loading and printing a blank shirt into the DTG Printing Machine, while screen printing allows you to go through a multi-step, back-breaking process to print your t-shirt.
DTG Printing Pros:
- Print as many colors as desired. Any limits, woo-hoo!
- Unlike screen printing, set-up times are low. You could print a t-shirt within 30 minutes.
- DTG printing machines aren’t that tall, making your company more mobile.
- Similar to screen printing inks, ink cartridges shouldn’t make your space dirty.
- Because DTG printing machines inject ink directly into the fabric, you won’t feel the’ write’ on the fabric.
Cons of DTG Printing:
DTG Printers are best designed for printing on 100% cotton t-shirts (or high-cotton fabrics). The more cotton the t-shirt has, the more vibrant the picture.
- Machines can be very costly.
- Colors tend to wash over time.
- Small positioning of artwork.
- Your DTG printing machine needs maintenance.
Heat Transfer Printing:
In a nutshell, Heat Transfer Printing involves placing sheets of transfer material on top of clothes and then pressing them heat to permanently apply custom graphics to clothes.
The ideal graphic is first printed digitally on heat transfer paper using solvent ink. This sort of ink can be transferred from the paper to the t-shirt when pressed with a heat pressing device.
The beauty of heat transfer printing is that it works on different materials and fabrics, creating almost no mess and requiring minimal maintenance compared to other methods.
Dye-Sublimation Printing is one of the most common variations in heat transfer printing. The way it works is by digitally printing images and then heating them into t-shirts.
Unlike other heat transfer printing methods, dye-sublimation printing works with dye-based ink that becomes gas when heated. Heat, pressure, and time cause dye-based inks to shift from solid to gas, then back to solid. It’s quite unequaled as the gas reaches the polyester, being part of the material, not a coating on top. Interesting, huh?
As seen in above’s YouTube video, sublimation is a particularly popular printing technique. Neither screen printing nor DTG printing may produce the allover effect of dye-sublimation printing. All-over print t-shirts allow designers to express themselves entirely, creating unique t-shirts.
Dye-Sublimation Pros Printing:
The dye is part of the t-shirt fabric making the print last long.
- It feels soft on the hand, breathable.
- Prints won’t fade, crack, peel or deteriorate.
Cons of Dye-Sublimation Printing:
- e.g., the region under the sleeves will remain undyed.
- Use only polyblend-based t-shirts. The more polyester you get on your t-shirts, the more bright colors.
- Dye-sublimation is not easy.
Printing Plastisol Transfers:
Plastisol Transfer Printing process is very similar to screen printing only because the artwork is first printed on plastisol transfer paper and then pressing the model on the shirt with this paper.
This custom t-shirt printing method allows us t-shirt preneurs to outsource part of our business if we so wish. You can send your designs to companies and have them printed on the high-quality plastisol transfer paper you need, and then have them sent to you. When you receive them, you can apply the designs on t-shirts with a heat press. Perfect.
Plastisol Transfers Pros:
- Some performance is similar to screen printing.
- Many models can be mounted on a single transfer sheet, then cut and printed separately.
- It doesn’t mess.
- Use this method to check t-shirt designs. Once a model starts selling, switching to screenprinting makes sense.
- Great for full-color jobs and few-color work.
- Allows different t-shirt placements.
Cons of Printing Plastisol Transfers:
- If transfers aren’t done properly, they’ll crack and wash out pretty fast.
- Suppliers can demand minimums.
- It may take you a few runs to learn the right amount of pressure / temperature required for this new technique, so I’d recommend you ask for a few prints to run some tests first. Your supplier will most likely send you directions, otherwise just contact them and they should help you if they’re good.
- Big runs are costly and time-consuming.
When writing this blog post, I learned a lot, I hope it helped you! New t-shirt printing methods continue to emerge, and keeping informed about the options available is a must for us all in the custom t-shirt industry. Also, if you’ve been on the market for a while, consider creating your own clothing brand, or if you’re thinking ahead and want to know more about selling your t-shirt designs, you can learn more about our Best SEO Keyword Tips for Your T-shirt brand.
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