What are the different t-shirt printing techniques?
If you are on this article today, I imagine it is because you are trying to find out how to print a t-shirt in order to produce the most beautiful designs, images, and slogans out there. Although heat press and screen printing are the two most common and popular printing methods these days, we are going to describe 3 other methods.
Each technique has an importance and a particular interest which meet the requirements relating to the product and the expect design.
Customers have become savvy and more and more are familiar with the different printing methods. And the more familiar they are with a certain type of design, the more they will be able to say what they want in terms of printing technique: some printing techniques leave a thick line, while others seem watermarked in the material.
To better understand, I describe below the 5 different main printing methods that exist.
Printing techniques in detail
• Screen printing
Screen printing is the most famous t-shirt printing method among t-shirt printing methods. Humans use screen printing long before you and I were born. Nowadays, screen printing is do both by machine and by hand. Let’s take a look at why screen printing is so famous.
Part of the magic of screen printing is screen printing inks use. Screen printing inks are thicker than inks use in other t-shirt printing methods, allowing them to last longer and produce vibrant colors that are truer than life. Make sure you or your screen printer is using high quality inks, this is very important! Poor quality inksquickly erase and give a weird impression.
Screen printing is more suitable for high volume orders. Depending on the pattern size, ink quality, squeegee pressure, stroke count, and stitch count, you can print anywhere from 200 to 500 t-shirts with one gallon of ink for screen printing, which is very cost effective. Yes, those are all the variables to consider if you want to know if screen printing is profitable.
The advantages of screen printing:
- Screen printing ink is absorb very deeply, giving you vivid, vibrant colors and maximum durability.
- Once set up, you can produce hundreds of t-shirts with the same design at lightning speed.
- It is compatible with most fabrics when you use the right mix of inks and screens for the fabric you will be working
Disadvantages of screen printing:
- If you plan to do it at home, you need to take this into account: screen printing is messy. Keep in mind that you will be working with ink and there will be some spillovers.
- You need a considerable amount of space to set up an adequate screen printing work area.
- The space you need should be dust-free and dark to help preserve screens and ink.
- Steep learning curve.
- Limit location of the model.
DTG (Direct-to-Garment) printing is an inkjet technology capable of printing very high quality, full-color photographic prints directly onto a t-shirt. It is best suit for designs or works of art deem too complex for other printing techniques, such as screen printing, for example, which is best suite for designs with few colors. DTG printing machines have enormous potential for color mixing, which allows them to print even the smallest details.
If you are looking to print only a few (1-5) t-shirts, DTG printing is also the best option, as just load a blank t-shirt into the DTG printing machine and print directly on it, while screen printing requires you to go through a tedious, multi-step process to print your t-shirt.
Benefits of DTG printing
- Print as many colors as you want. No restrictions on colors, woo-hoo!.
- Preparation times are low compare to screen printing. You can have a t-shirt print in less than 30 minutes.
- DTG printing machines are not that big, allowing greater mobility for your business.
- Compare to screen printing inks, ink cartridges should not do any damage to your room.
- You will not feel the “print” on the fabric when you touch it since DTG printing machines inject ink directly into the fabric.
Disadvantages of DTG printing:
- DTG printers are best design to print only on 100% cotton t-shirts (or fabrics containing a large amount of cotton). The more cotton the t-shirt contains, the more vivid the print will be.
- Machines can be insanely expensive.
- Colors tend to fade over time.
- Limit location of the artwork.
- Your DTG printing machine will require maintenance.
Thermal transfer printing
In a nutshell, thermal transfer printing involves putting sheets of transfer material on the clothes and then heat pressing them in order to permanently apply custom graphics to the clothes.
The desire graphic is first digitally print on special thermal transfer paper using solvent ink. This type of ink is use to transfer the design from the paper to the t-shirt when it is press with a heat press.
The beauty of thermal transfer printing is that it works on different materials and fabrics, creates almost no mess, and requires minimal maintenance compared to other methods.
There are different thermal transfer printing techniques out there and it can be a bit confusing, but don’t worry, let me break them down for you:
Sublimation printing is one of the most popular variations of thermal transfer printing. It involves digitally printing graphics and then heating them to transfer the dye to the t-shirts.
Unlike other thermal transfer printing techniques, sublimation printing uses a dye-base ink that turns into a gas when heat. Heat, pressure, and time change dye-base inks from solid to gaseous, and then to solid again. This is completely unmatch because the gas joins with the polyester, thus becoming part of the material and not a superimpose layer. Interesting, isn’t it?
As can be saw in the YouTube video above, sublimation is an especially popular technique for continuous printing. Neither screen printing nor it can create the all-over printing effect that sublimation printing allows. All-over printed t-shirts allow designers to express themselves fully and create unique t-shirts.
The advantages of sublimation printing:
- The ink becomes part of the fabric of the t-shirt, causing the printing to last a long time.
- It is soft to the touch and is breathable.
- Prints will not fade, crack, peel, or deteriorate.
Disadvantages of sublimation printing:
- Wrinkles and wrinkles, for example, the area under the sleeves, will remain undye.
- Only works with polyblend-base t-shirts. The more polyester there is on your t-shirts, the more vivid colors you will get.
- Sublimation printing is not cheap.
You have now discover the 5 main t-shirt printing techniques that you will need to know if you are looking for a particular type of design. Do not hesitate to inquire about the type of printing of the t-shirt that you wish to buy. At Vadormirva, we will be happy to provide you with information;)