Heat press printing vs. screen print: The actual difference between

Angie Renner
Published by 
Angie Renner
Last updated: 
February 12, 2024

The printing industry has come a long way. Gone are the days when printing a copy of a newspaper or a book would take a day as the operator tried to move each letter to every page.

Technology advancements have led to the introduction of faster and more efficient machines that makes printing simpler and flexible than ever before.

Heat press machines and screen printers are among the recent innovations in the printing field. Of late, we’ve been getting questions from folks all over assign what’re the major differences between these two modern machines.

To clear the air, we decided to come up with this post to spell out the differences and similarities existing between Heat Press vs screen Print. This will help you make a better decision when customizing your apparel…

Heat Press Printing:

A heat press is basically a machine that presses your design into a material- say a t-shirt or paper. The device employs heavy pressure and high temperature settings to effectively embed your design into your material permanently. Heat press printing typically requires around 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit and a pressure setting of 40-80 psi.

In this process, you start by designing your artwork in a specialty paper using a specialty ink. Then you transfer this design to your garment by using the heat supplied by a heat press.

Now the heat applied material features an adhesive that’s highly sensitive to heat on one side. This ensures that when you apply heat to the material with a heat press, it adheres well to the substrate you’re applying it on.

The transfer printing method has gained much popularity in the textile industry. It lets you print high-quality, full-color images on your garments. The recent improvements in the heat press technology have made this machine completely easy to set up and use.

What's more, it’s a fast as you can imagine and will only take around 2-3 minutes to print each item.

It’s also good to note that there are different types and sources of transfers. A typical transfer consists of inks and carrier paper. When you apply heat and pressure to this paper, the inks will be transferred t the substrate you’re printing on.

Some transfers are tropical- you apply the image to the surface of your garment.

There are also sublimation transfers- where the transfer is absorbed into fibers of the material you’re printing on.


  • ​The process is clean and environmentally friendly, making it a great option in today’s safety and health conscious working environments
  • ​High-quality end products guaranteed due to the use of specialty inks as well as advancement in graphical and software packages that offers you greater control and flexibility
  • ​Capable of utilizing multiple colors provided they don’t overlap
  • ​Allows you to press even the photographic material
  • ​Are quite affordable
  • ​No registration marks
  • Completely easy to set up and use


  • Produces better results for light-colored t-shirts
  • ​Time-consuming- if you’re working on a large quality of garments
  • ​Inability to layer colors as your t-shirt will feel bulky
  • ​Cannot iron your print
  • ​It does not last for long

Screen Print:

In the simplest terms, screen printing involves the application of an ink-blocking stencil (your design) to a woven mesh. The stencil will form an open area via which ink or any other substrate you’re suing is transferred and pressed onto the garment.

Screen printing is the most preferred method of printing different materials- from fabrics, t-shirts, wood, pens, bottles, business cards, mugs, bags, hats and so much more.

Did you know that this process was invented thousands of years ago?

The Chinese came up with this invention. They initially used silk screens to get the job done (which explains why silk screening is an alternative word for screen printing).

Unlike heat press, screen printing is a bit complicated process that requires more chemicals and equipment for a successful printing. For instance, you’ll need emulsion to create a screen plus tree other products- emulsion remover, ink thinner, and dehaze. These will be used to clean your screen after use.

What’s more, you’ll need a dark room to store your screens. A screen printing machine will also be required to actually print the design on hand. Then, of course, you’ll need little items such as tape, films, squeegees, scrubbers, and a printer (for burning the film), around 20 screens (different mesh sizes), and Plastisol ink (different colors).

The setup process for the Screen Printing System is the same regardless of whether you’re printing a single or numerous t-shirts.


  • ​Ideal for larger designs that comprise of one or two colors
  • ​Creates a softer feel compared to the transfer method
  • ​Produces a bright print, even on darker fabric
  • ​Garments with screen printing can endure the roughness of a washing machine since the heat is dry
  • Perfect for printing onto cotton or Polycotton clothing items
  • ​Cost effective for larger projects
  • ​No size limitations; it can do all over prints
  • Can iron your print


  • ​Expensive when working on smaller projects
  • ​Not the perfect option if your design has multiple colors
  • ​If you’re suing many colors, the turnaround time will be longer
  • ​Separate screens needed for each color- meaning you’ll need a new screen for every color in your artwork
  • ​Takes a lot of time to setup and clean

Heat Press Vs Screen Print: Which One Should You Use?

A heat press machine employs three top factors- time, temperature and pressure- to apply a decoration on your material. The machine has no minimum, meaning that you can do order up to 10 shirts and each of them will have a different design.

This makes the device ideal for jersey customization as every player has a different name, number. If you’re promoting your own t-shirts, you should also consider heat press as faster and cheaper alternative.

A screen printing machine has been in existence for many, many years. And because of its great printing job, it will be around for millennia to come.

If you’re in t-shirt printing business, you should consider this machine given its high-quality end products that your clients will love.