Which printing techniques should you choose: screen printing, vinyl or digital transfer?
When it comes to printing t-shirts, there are several effective methods you can use. Each of the following processes has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs and the results you’re looking for.
Screen printing is one of the most popular methods for printing t-shirts as the results are long-lasting and stay looking vibrant and smooth. The technique requires a stencil or a template which is held in place by the screen, often made from nylon mesh, and then ink is flooded onto the screen and pulled over the template. The excess ink is wiped away and once the screen is lifted off, the design is left to cure and dry to be ready to wear.
Screen printing is ideal for large projects where you have a massive quantity of t-shirts to print, or where you have a block coloured design that you want to print. But if you have just a few t-shirts to print, it’s not a viable option as it wouldn’t be very cost effective. Any order quantity of less than 10 is probably better suited to one of the other methods, like making your custom clothes at home.
Using a CAD cutter or specialist software, vinyl printing allows you to print directly onto the material using the heat press method. This enables you to print one-off designs and longer runs, so it’s ideal for printing multiple garment types. You can also layer vinyl with this method so it’s ideal for printing in different colours and developing really vibrant designs.
If you have a slogan or small and simple graphic design with lettering, vinyl is a great choice, but it doesn’t work as well for large printed areas as the garment may lose its flexibility. Small businesses often favour this option as there are no set-up costs and it’s quick, so orders can be produced fast. It’s also great for customising high visibility workwear and printing onto nylon fabrics.
Digital printing, also known as direct to garment printing, is a fairly new concept compared to the other two methods. It works in the same way as an inkjet printer but with fabric instead of paper. However, what sets it apart from other processes is that it can be used to product much higher resolution prints, so it’s ideal for duplicating highly detailed images onto clothing. There’s no set up with it and it can also be used for low numbers, so if you have just a few t-shirts you need printing it can still be effective.
Digital printing is a great method if you’re looking to print high resolution, detailed prints that have a lot of gradients and shading to them. It produces prints which are soft to the touch and it lasts well, as well as being suitable for any size of order. For promotional t-shirts or items where you really want the text or logo to stand out, digital transfers offer superb quality and clarity.