Different Types Of T-shirt Printing Methods: With Details

Putting a couple of designs on a T-shirt goes a long way in spicing up a plain, ordinary T-shirt. Cute, adorable, and unique t-shirt designs make these garments more fashionable than ever before.

In case you’re wondering what T-Shirt printing method you can use to start producing your own line of eye-grabbing shirts today, we’ve something in store for you.

Below, you’ll discover all the t-shirt printing methods available today. For each of the techniques below, we'll discuss their unique benefits as well as drawbacks.

After reading this post, you’ll have a bright idea which t-shirt printing method to start using.

Types Of T-Shirt Printing Methods Explained:

1. Screen Printing:

This is one of the most preferred t-shirts printing methods. If you've got a t-shirt that features a printed graphic and has remained vibrant, soft, and smooth for long, there are high chances that it was screen printed. Meaning that you can count in screen printing for all your t-shirt printing needs. However, it’s not the best option for everything.

The technique requires you to create a stencil (or template), which is then held in place by the screen. The screen is usually made from nylon mesh.

Now, you need to flood some ink onto the screen, and then use a squeegee to press down and ensure that the ink spreads all over your screen. Excess ink will be wiped away. And the screen is finally taken off with the design you’re printing- it's cured, dried and that’s it!

Screen printing is a great option if you’re working on a large project. However, don’t count on it as a viable option if you are working on one-offs or smaller quantities.

For instance, if you want to print hen or stag T-shirts, screen printing would require that you create a new screen for each t-shirt plus it will take a lot of time. In other terms, it wouldn’t be cost effective.

Pros

  • ​Gives you supreme quality
  • ​Much faster when working on multiple items with a single design
  • ​Can print in multiple colors
  • ​Great alternative for the mass production
  • ​Soft finish

Cons

  • ​Not a viable option for small quantities
  • ​Bigger learning curve, unlike transfer method (explained later in this post)
  • ​Printing one-off is time-consuming and expensive with this method
  • ​Can be messy if done manually
  • ​A bit pricey

2. Direct To Garment (DTG) Technique:

Next on the line, we have Direct to Garment t-shirt printing method. Abbreviated as DTG, this is a relatively new technique in t-shirt printing industry.

It involves printing onto your garment directly- the T-shirt. If you don’t have a clue how that works, imagine a large flatbed printer where your t-shirt is fed on its conveyer belt, and it gets printed on.

For a complete DTG setup, you’ll require a DTG printer. Because this printer is quite expensive, this is not a good at home option. But if you’re planning to print a lot (and I mean a lot) of t-shirts, and want to do one-offs faster, DTG is the way to go!

The quality of DTG end products is excellent (but not as good as that of screen printing). You’ll obtain a soft print, which you can do in multiple colors. It works best on white garments. It can also work on a darker t-shirt, but the process is pretty challenging and will require some learning curve.

Pros

  • ​Offers you full-color printing
  • Supports one-off designs
  • Low cost per item printing
  • ​Soft, professional finish

Cons

  • A bit slower for mass productions compared to screen printing
  • Consumes a lot of space
  • High initial cost

3. Sublimation Printing:

Have you ever come across a t-shirt with an all over print on it?

-If yes, that could be sublimation printing. Sublimation works best when used for all over and oversize printing. It’s capable of transforming the whole t-shirt into a great piece of art.

With sublimation dye process, you can do a galaxy print, repeat pattern. But you’ll need special shirts- made from 100% polyester.

Pros

  • Produces highly unique, all-over designs
  • Unlimited use of graphics, styles, and colors

Cons

  • Shirts to be printed on should be made from 100% polyester only
  • White patches/parts on your t-shirt not covered (e.g. underarms) will show through your design
  • To make it financially viable all over print option, you need to work on a minimum of 50plus garments

4. CAD Cut Vinyl Printing:

Vinyl printing employs a unique, soft clothing that is professionally cut using CAD cutter and other special software. Then you print this material onto your t-shirt using heat press method.

The method allows you to print one-off designs and even longer runs, making it a great alternative for printing multiple garment types. Furthermore, it lets you layer vinyl, which makes it possible for you to print in different colors (and create vibrant designs).

Vinyl works well for the slogan, small graphics, and words. But it’s not suitable for large printed areas as your t-shirt may lose its flexibility.

Pros

  • Ideal for longer, medium and shorter runs of prints
  • Produces vibrant which can last the life of your t-shirt
  • No fading/cracking of the print
  • Space-efficient

Cons

  • Vinyl is less flexible than screen printing inks
  • You’ll need to learn about the software and hardware before using this machine
  • You’ll need special CAD cutters, heat press, and software

5. Transfer Paper Method:

The idea behind this technique is transferring the image from one surface to the other, permanently. The method was originally used to add decorative details to ceramics.

Today, it enjoys a wide usage in the t-shirt printing business as well as other garments. Unlike all the other methods we’ve discussed above, this technique employs heat and pressure to set the image on your t-shirt.

Pros

  • Fairly straightforward to use
  • ​Produces high-quality, sophisticated designs
  • Supports full-color printing

Cons

  • A bit slower than the other methods
  • Works best on light colored t-shirts
  • Can't be used on fabrics with high heat-sensitivity levels

Final Thoughts:

From what you’ve just learned above, there are many ways of printing your t-shirt. And each method comes with its list of unique benefits and disadvantages.

Whatever your T-Shirt printing needs are, you’ll find a method that suits you from the techniques above- whether you’re looking for a cheap transfer at your home or a more professional setup.

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Jack A. Kevin
 

This is Jake Kevin, the founder of HeatPressGuide.com. HeatPressGuide is the platform to share stuffs on t-shirt printing business.

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