There are a number of different ways to custom print shirts that you may not have been aware of, each with it’s own benefits. Here is a simple lay-man’s guide to t-shirt printing techniques:
As one of the oldest methods, it is also one of the most trusted and reliable, producing high quality, durable colours. This method is perfect for high quantities as the more you print, the more the cost decreases.
In screen printing, screens are pressed against the fabric, placing paint onto shirts one colour at a time. Therefore, for a shirt with 3 colours, 3 screens are used. The design must be in vector format in order to be usable on a screen.
Direct to Garment Printing:
A very new method of t-shirt printing, Direct to Garment printing is much more cost effective for small orders than screen printing and can print an unlimited amount of colours on a shirt with resulting designs being highly professional. The con of this method is that it is generally not suitable for printing on dark coloured textiles. However, in this technique the ink goes directly into the garment, meaning that you do not feel it on the shirt.
In Transfer Printing an image is basically transferred from one surface to another using heat to set it. This is a great technique for full-colour printing as it can produce very complex designs. The limitations of this method are that it cannot be used on heat sensitive fabrics and takes longer to accomplish than the other methods.
Cad Cut Vinyl:
In this method, a vinyl cutter is used to cut designs out on color sheets of vinyl. A heat press is then used to adhere the design to the shirt. This method is considered good for small orders of simple designs as the cost is effective for both small and large batches. However, as the design becomes harder to the touch, the more colours that are applied this is not the best method for highly coloured and complex images.
A great method for placing images on objects such as mugs, mousepads etc…, it can also be used on fabrics as long as they are polyester, with results varying on mixed fabrics. In this method, a special ink, called dye sublimation ink is used. This ink turns to gas when it is heated, which is then absorbed by the polyester pores which also open in the heat. While the special transfer paper used for this method is less costly than inkjet transfer paper, the sublimation ink is quite pricey.
As you can see, each method has its own uses and pros and cons. Therefore, a method is chosen depending on what your need is, in terms of quantity, garment type and design.