What Are the Types of Printing on T-Shirts?
Custom designing your t-shirts might sound very fascinating in your mind. But have you anticipated all the questions you have to answer before you design one for yourself? Every printing technique has a certain norm, not all printers would be best for all the designs. Not all printers are perfect for all fabric types, and there are other complexities. With so many options available you might need a certain compass to navigate through t-shirt printing like a pro!
Types of Printing on a T-shirt
First things first, you need to know the popular types of printing methodologies. There is sublimation and screen printing which are the most popular methods of printing used for garments. If you are looking for something more cost-effective, you can go for vinyl cut-outs, heat transfers, and stenciling. Also, these are direct printing methods. You can also go for indirect printing methods such as screen printing, discharge, and airbrushing. In this article, you will find a lot of types of t-shirt printing methods and you can choose the one that fits your budget and how you can print it.
Direct to Garment printing or DTG is sometimes also referred to as Direct to Fabric printing or DTF. The process involves the usage of a special printer and a thin ink. As the name suggests, it is a direct print on the t-shirt. You can create any design that you would like to print on paper and use as many colors as you want. In general, it is one of the best methods to use for complex graphics unlike indirect printing methods such as sublimation printing. So, go gaga and print photos, logos, graffiti, and an over-the-top design as you feel important.
The best part about this printing process is, that anything that you can design on paper can be printed on the fabric too. You don’t have to restrict yourself or compromise on your idea in any manner. Talking of disadvantages, the method is a bit expensive as a good quality printer from a reliable brand can cost you somewhere around $2,50,000 USD to $5,00,000 USD. If you are not planning to dive into the commercial side of t-shirt printing, cheaper options are available to start at $10,000.
Indirect screen printing / Plastisol
T-shirt printing machines and methods have a lot of diversity. There is an option for everyone. You just have to find the right one for you. Going from a direct method of printing here is an indirect one. Indirect screen printing has gained enormous popularity. These methods combine the use of screen printing and plastisol inks rather than conventional ink.
To print your design, you would be required to apply the ink onto a plastisol transfer sheet instead of directly on the fabric and use it to transfer the design onto the t-shirt through heat pressing. It creates a durable solution. There are various methods available on the internet that can be used as a hack to reduce the cost of printing.
This method is quality driven and durable. It is also a very clean method, doesn’t create any mess, and set-up time is pretty low. But the method is time intensive and you will find much better options to be used for indirect printing for bulk orders.
Printed t-shirts are in fashion and vinyl is a very popular option. The method uses the heat transfer and it has changed how people see printing. There are many popular home artists and professionals that use this method.
HTV is a special type of vinyl that is used for decorating t-shirts. It is coated on one side in a heat-activated adhesive and when you apply heat the print gets transferred to fabric. Vinyl printing offers a range of methods to people for designing such as lettering logos, or even complex images from vinyl and using heat to seal the cut out onto the fabric.
Many artists use vinyl in place of ink. It is durable and also creates an embossed effect that looks very attractive. Large-scale solutions for commercial printing are also available for customized printed t-shirts. It gives you a very professional look given it uses a state-of-the-art cutting method.
Also, they are good for small-scale orders. Home artists use them for custom orders and it is a very flexible solution. All you need is a cutting machine and an iron. Imagine how simple it becomes. If you want to start a vinyl t-shirt printing business you can choose from a variety of cutting machines available. It would be more cost-effective than t-shirt screen printing. However, it is not an option for heat-sensitive fabrics.
Heat Press Printing
Heat press printing is a good option for beginners or at-home artists. It uses an inkjet or laser printer to print a design on heat transfer paper. Then use an iron or heat press to glue the design onto your t-shirt.
It is a great option for small businesses, but not so much recommended for large orders. The method is good for home artists, or a small start-up but on large scale, it is a very time-intensive process as you would have to repeat it every time for every t-shirt. If you would like you can provide a single custom solution and showcase your creativity.
Also, durability is not that great. There are other durable options available on the market such as screen printing or HTV. Furthermore, it doesn’t give you great results on a dark-colored t-shirt. You might want to use screen printing as it has a proven result. Also, the method uses high heat and again you cannot use it on heat-sensitive t-shirt material.
Sublimation is probably the best method so far. It is widely used as it gives you great results on any kind of fabric and you don’t have to worry about burning a t-shirt, however, it may not work so great on cotton and the ink may spread and not give a professional look to the final product. It is also a very costly method. It uses heat like other methods. But once you heat the ink it vaporizes and bond with the fabric. So, it is pretty unlikely that you will face any durability issues.
Also, it creates a soft, permanent design on synthetic material. Which is very popular as you know polyester is used widely in clothes. Also, you would be required to buy a special type of ink. It is a light ink and does not gives a bulky effect on the fabric rather it stays breathable and gives you a thin and soft permanent print on the material.
The cost of the printing is too high and not every small business or startup might be able to afford it while it is not a good option at all for home artists. Also, if you sell cotton t-shirts you need to look for another method.
Heat transfer printing/ inkjet
Heat transfer is one of the most popular printing methods. you will find a variety of solutions and t-shirt printing machines in abundance. It all comes down to fabric, durability, cost, and the order type on what solution you choose.
Using an inkjet printer to put a design on your fabric is very popular. It is the easiest process. You don’t have to purchase any expensive printers or a lot of special supplies. However, it is time-intensive. You can use it for small orders at the time taken setup is pretty intensive. On the other hand, the quality is only decent. So, retailing at a low price while investing so much time may not be a viable option for growing businesses. Usually, you can print complex designs too using this method.
In all the heat transfer processes this is the most time taking and not usually the method used by professional t-shirt businesses. Also, it creates a stiff print which is not very comfortable and the design will only be printed on a light-colored material. Consider all the t-shirt printing machines you can use instead to create a steady business.
Screen printing is a popular method. It gives you great flexibility and you can show your creativity and go all artsy when designing t-shirts. It is also one of the most traditional printing methods, going back decades.
It is a very different method from other methods mentioned now. You need to create a negative of the design on a screen and you then roll a special ink usually plastisol ink over the screen and press the screen onto the t-shirt. This forces the ink to go through the negative space and print the design on the material. It creates great designs, and it is just like stenciling.
If you want a very complex print you might have to take the help of special chemicals to create photo-realistic stencils on the screen. You can also make the basic format using Cricut which makes the stencil for the screen.
Screen printing has a lot of advantages as it gives a very professional solution for a variety of fabric materials. It gives a vibrant and durable print. And first, it may look a bit stiff or bulky but once the fabric is infused with the ink, it looks very subtle. Also, it is a very viable option for meeting the needs of a bulk order. You can reuse the ink again and again and thus, a perfect solution for businesses of all sizes and types.
These were some popular types of t-shirting printing methods. But you should not only focus on the printing method but also on getting more leads for your business. We would take this opportunity to introduce you to the web to print. A software solution that allows your customers to design their own t-shirts through a web-to-printer designer. The format of the software is just like using an ecommerce site. Only, it allows people to make print customizations. It allows them to write, draw, and use a variety of color palettes. Also, it can be used to upload a design they want printing on the t-shirt and more. You can talk to our customer care executive to know more about the web to print and how you can start a t-shirt printing business online.