When it comes to printing shirts, there are a variety of methods to choose from. However, how do we know which method suits our needs? Are we just going to go with the latest trend? Or have we been going with the wrong method all this while? In fact, do we even understand how t-shirts get printed with those methods?
That’s a lot of questions to answer. But not to worry. To get into the topic, let’s take a look at 5 of the most popular t-shirt printing methods along with their pros and cons to understand them in order to make the best decision.
DTG (Direct-to-Garment) Printing
What it is: One of the fastest growing printing methods and somewhat new, the way DTG printing works is just like a printer but on fabric. It uses inkjet technology to print designs just by loading them into the printer and inserting a shirt. And just like that a design is printed without much hassle.
- Pros: No colour restrictions, quick, DTG printers are not big, not a messy process, great for custom t shirts and complex designs, soft and smooth prints, can print minute details, able to print full photographs of colour, very precise
- Cons: Printer is expensive, only suitable for cotton or fabric that is mostly cotton, colours are not durable, designs will fade after a few washes, printer requires maintenance, placement of design is limited
What it is: Dye sublimation is a printing method that is amazing for big and complex designs. Ever seen colourful Hawaiian shirts? They were probably made using this method which is suitable on light fabrics, best on polyester. Try using it on cotton and you’ll see what a waste of time that is.
How it works is by using a special dye on a transfer paper and then using heat and pressure for the sublimation process after the dye has dried. It is different from screen printing as it is a dye-ing method, not printing. So, the designs cannot be felt, but only seen on the fabric.
- Pros: Long-lasting as the ink becomes part of the fabric, soft, breathable, design will not crack or fade, amazing for large designs, no limit on patterns or colours
- Cons: Does not work on cotton, pricey method, works on light fabrics only, unable to cover full parts of a shirt such as creases, folds, under the sleeves, or side seams
CAD (Computer-aided Design) Cut Vinyl Printing
What it is: A common printing method for small artwork such as logos, numbers, and names, CAD cut vinyl printing uses heat to transfer designs onto fabric. It is a very straightforward method where a machine is used to cut out designs on coloured vinyl sheets and the designs are heat pressed onto clothing like jerseys or t-shirts.
- Pros: Good quality, pretty durable, good for orders of smaller quantity, vinyl can be used on all fabrics, cheap, design will not crack or fade
- Cons: Fabric becomes less flexible after printing, suited only for basic and smaller or text-based designs, can be a slow process to cut out the designs, require a CAD cutter
What it is: Plastisol, also known as indirect screen printing, is a t shirt printing method that uses high-quality heat transfer paper. The artwork is first printed on the paper and the paper is used with a heat press to transfer the design. For a matte finish, go for hot split transfers. If you prefer a glossy finish, cold peel is the way to go.
- Pros: Good quality, not messy, great for testing designs, good for a variety of placements on fabric, affordable in lower quantities
- Cons: Time-consuming for large quantities, require a good heat press machine, require some skill for design transfer or else the designs will not last long
What it is: Screen printing or silk screen printing is probably the most popular t shirt printing method and has a long history that dates back to the 1910s, and the ink used is thicker than those used in other printing methods. To do it, a nylon mesh and stencil is needed where the former will hold the latter in place while a water-proof material is used to block the negative space that you want to design. The next step would be to spread ink over the screen and the negative space will print the design onto the shirt. It is a method that requires skill as there are many factors to consider such as how big the design is and the ink quality.
- Pros: Vibrant colours, durable, great for bulk orders, good quality, fast results for a single design custom t shirt printing, compatible with many fabrics
- Cons: Can get messy, limited artwork placement, can be pricey, not so suitable for complex designs
If you think screen printing is what you’re looking for, then Custom Prints & Apparels might just be who you’re looking for.