Screen Print Vs. Vinyl T-shirt Printing & Which One and Why?

The debate on the best type of printing shirts will not end if you consider the fact that the most common one is Vinyl and Screen-printing offer quality and durable results. However, for the sake of others who want to know the best between the two, we will have a quick comparison between the two.

Screen Print Vs. Vinyl T-shirt Printing

Vinyl Printing

Vinyl printing utilizes heat transfer and a machine to cut out letters and designs from a vinyl and a heat presser used to stick them on to the shirt passing color from the vinyl to the fabric. Vinyl will work as long as there is a combination of pressure and heat.

This printing method allows the printing of one of the designs and can produce results in large scale, the best to use when printing on different types of garments. The vinyl-cutting machine gives you options to use different layers to print different colors within the design.

The best design for footwear’s, small graphics, and slogans come out well when vinyl printing is the printer of choice. However, vinyl printing may not allow you to print some letter types although prints done through vinyl cutting are durable.

Screen Printing

As the name suggests, you need screens that need cutting to make templates for each design or artwork. The ink is then spread over each of the screens (remember that we use one color for each screen) and passes to the garment below. To get the final output, you need several screens.

Screen-printing is the most common with professionals who also give it the name silkscreen printing. You med a stencil and a nylon mesh. The stencil is set up, and the mesh secures it. You can use a waterproof material to block the negative space that the design will fall on. This negative space should be the only space that allows the dye to pass.

This printing method is ideal for getting high-quality T-shirt designs because there is an option of replicating the design repeatedly. Customers tend to love fabric made from screen-printing because of the uniqueness and impressive look of the prints.

You may not get a custom made print when dealing with companies specializing in screen-printing methods for mass production. Screen-printing works well with one color per screen, therefore, using multiple colors designs adds to its complexity.

This is the time to look at the differences between the two when printing a custom shirt. Do not forget that these two deliver the durable results if you use the garment correctly.

Run Time

For vinyl

Vinyl printing works best for runs going up to 16 T-shirts because the setup is more or less the same as that of screen-printing. This approach is much slower in comparison with screen-printing because each T-shirt has its setup making it take too much time and prove to be cost ineffective after the 16 shirts are finished.

For Screen

The minimum order quality (MOQ) for a typical screen-printing is 25 T-shirts. Setting up a screen-printing device take much longer than vinyl printing but once the setup is ready, printing goes on smoothly.

The speed of printing is because you do not need to change the T-shirt setup as long as the designs remain the same. Screen-printing is the right method for those working on large orders.

Detail and Color

For vinyl

Vinyl printing works best for printing small and simple graphics. It is even better if your goal is to create basic shapes and text-based designs; you need to use this method of printing.

Vinyl is applicable when you want to print your team jersey numbers but will fail you when you need an artwork comprising the blending of colors. Color blending using vinyl will lose the more delicate details of the design.

For screen

If your work involves a lot of blending of colors and backgrounds, screen-printing is the method to use. The level of color detail and printing photographs is now possible using screen-printing. Production of complex artwork becomes effortlessly and beautiful because the full of range of colors that you can mix to whatever shades that is suitable.


With good use of these, two painting approaches, whatever outcome you get should last many years. Here is what you need to do to extend their lifespans.

For vinyl

Vinyl should give results that last for more than five years. Here is what you need to do to extend this lifespan:

  • Do not dry clean the fabric instead use a machine and have the settings to warm washing. Always use a mild detergent during cleaning.
  • Dry the garment in the open or standard settings
  • Avoid chlorine bleach when cleaning or removing stains
  • Let the first wash be after 24 hours of printing

For screen

The graphics produced from screen-printing should last the entire lifespan of the T-shirt when appropriately used. Always wash the garments inside out to guarantee it lasting at least its lifetime. Always use cold water only.

Also read: How to do Screen Printing on T-Shirts at Home

Between the Two, Which One?

At this point, you must be wondering whether to go for Vinyl printing or screen-printing. Most people prefer vinyl printing despite the benefits coming from screen-printing. Maybe these reasons could influence you; however, you are the one to make the final decision.

Screen-printing is not as cost-effective when handling small jobs. You need a new screen for every design. Ideally, screen-printing will only work when you have a minimum of 100 T-Shirts so for a small number try vinyl printing.

Handling small jobs means keeping your customers happy and keeping running costs low when you use vinyl printing.

Screen-printing may at times produce designs that fade or crack all over it. When you do not use the garment appropriately, screen-printing produces such results. The only way to extend, the graphics life is to wash the garment inside out with cold water.

Vinyl printing produces a design that does not fade or crack. There are many advantages of screen-printing one of them being able to complete printing tasks faster with little labor.

Vinyl printing means cutting every design from a vinyl roll and then remove the unwanted parts. Meaning you have to repeat the whole process for every color of the shirt.

If you have to handle more than 100 T-shirts, invest in a good machine with at least two heat presses and at least one laser to help complete the task.

Pros of Screen Printing

  • Screen-printing puts ink on the fabric, which is later on cured using adhesives that stick the ink to the shirt’s fibers. The final output should be soft and durable. You will see such shirts that have undergone several washing cycles, but the graphics still look new.
  • The ink is heat dried making the garment design durable and stick after every wash. Screen-printing is ideal for printing cotton and polyester fabrics.

Cons of Screen Printing

  • Expensive when you have less than twenty-four orders.
  • The size of the printer is limited to the number of colors you can use.
  • Each color should print separately making it costly with every color addition.
  • Pros of Vinyl Printing
  • Vinyl works well for printing of jersey numbers
  • It offers an affordable solution for small prints running less than 24 pieces
  • You can use as many colors as you see fit
  • You can print full-color photographs

Pros of Vinyl Printing

  • Produces durable and long-lasting prints
  • Low costs involved when producing banners that are good for a long-term marketing plan
  • Vinyl printing is modern and appropriate for most print works
  • Vinyls are flexible and easy to shape

Cons of Vinyl Printing

  • The vinyl does not produce a soft feel upon touching
  • Not as durable over time because the prints fade after several washes
  • Prints are more attractive on light colored shirts
  • Ironing over the printed designs ruins them
  • It is costly to set up a vinyl printing system
  • Time-consuming because every image has to be precise in measurements to keep unwanted pieces out of the image


The decision on whether to use Vinyl T-shirt printing or screen-printing may be difficult. However, look at the type of design and fabric you intend to use before making up your mind. Another point of consideration is the number of orders and type of process needed to handle the designs when creating them.

If you want to work on a few orders with straightforward designs, vinyl printing will do the job for you. This will not apply if you have many orders that can go up to 100 or more orders with complex design in artwork including pictures and special fonts, the best choice, in this case, is screen-printing.

Before you think of owning a screen-printing business make sure you know the kind of printing method you are likely to use and the kind of fabric everyone would want to use. You can use the small open space in your backyard and make hundreds of dollars.

Most of your money should come because you are not holding too many inventories and using local distributors (if not yourself) to deliver printed shirts to your customers. Treat any new person who is interested in your business as a potential client by reaching them and convincing them to buy.

You should never be scared by the big companies because everyone always looks for a screen printer – which could be you!

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4 thoughts on “Screen Print Vs. Vinyl T-shirt Printing & Which One and Why?”

  1. Hi.!
    First of all really thankful for such a million dollar info.
    You had covered all necessary and useful information and please keep on sharing the same.

  2. Great Blog! This post gives a better idea. Thanks for the useful information. I hope you will share some more content. Please keep sharing!

  3. As you mentioned, screen printing is good for making multiple shirts with the same design. My brothers’ band is wanting to have some T-shirts made to sell at a small concert they are a part of. I will have to ask him if he is having them screen printed.

  4. Over this article we come to know about the screen print vs vinyl t-shirt printing in detail. This is such a wonderful article. So, anyone searching for same topic may find their shelter over here. Thanks for this wonderful content.


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