To start a t-shirt printing business, you need to research different printing processes and understand the differences between them. This knowledge will help you determine the best printing method for your business.
There are several different types of t-shirt printing methods that can be used, depending on the desired outcome. The most common methods are screen printing, direct to garment printing, and heat transfer printing.
Screen printing is the most traditional form of t-shirt printing and involves creating a stencil of the desired design and using that to apply ink to the garment.
Direct to garment printing is a newer method that involves printing the design directly onto the t-shirt using a special printer. The digital landscape has transformed the way printing t-shirts is done and has given us many options available in printing. However, we still have to grapple with the competition in traditional printing poses.
Heat transfer printing is another popular method that involves transferring a design onto the t-shirt using heat and pressure. Printing methods that involve the use of heat and pressure can be a good choice depending on the needs of output.
There are a few more different types of t-shirt printing methods available that you may not be aware of. In this article, we will brief the rundown of a total of 12 different printing methods for t-shirt printing, so that you can choose the best one for your next t-shirt printing project.
Some of these techniques are suitable for specific fabrics and jobs depending on the number of t-shirts to be printed. The number of colors in the artwork also determines the printing method you should choose.
12 T-shirt Printing Methods
1. Screen Printing
Screen printing is the process of printing images onto t-shirts using a screen and ink. The images are first printed onto a piece of paper and then transferred onto the screen. The screen is then placed over the t-shirt, and ink is applied to the screen. The plastisol ink is then pushed through the screen onto the t-shirt.
The popular T-shirt screening method is screen printing. We have been using screen-printing for many years. It can either be a manual or a machine. This printing process uses thick screen printing ink, they are durable and produce vibrant colors. The use of low-quality ink will fade away and make the fabric look weird.
Screen printing is ideal for high-volume orders. Bulk printing of t-shirt decreases the cost of printing.
Some benefits of screen printing t-shirts include:
- Screen printing is a very versatile printing method that can be used on a variety of materials, including t-shirts.
- It can produce very high-quality prints that are durable and long-lasting.
- Screen printing is a relatively simple and straightforward printing process, making it easy to produce large quantities of prints.
- This printing is a relatively inexpensive printing method, making it a great option for those on a budget.
- Once it is set up, you can produce many T-shirts using the same design at a faster rate.
Some downsides of using screen printing for a t-shirt printing:
- The colors may not be as vibrant as other methods.
- It can be difficult to achieve fine details.
- It can be messy and time-consuming for low quantity printing.
- The screens can be expensive to create.
- Can be difficult to line up the design perfectly on the fabric.
2. DTG Printing for T-shirt
Direct-to-Garment (DTG) uses inkjet technology to print very high quality, full color, and photo prints on T-shirts. This method of printing is suitable for designs that are complex for other printing approaches such as screen-printing. DTG has a vast color variation potential that produces prints in detail.
If you need to print only a few shirts, DTG printing seems to be the best option because of its ease in loading blank shirts into the DTG printer. By printing directly onto it.
Some pros of DTG printing:
- Adobe illustrator design can be printed, which means the best quality.
- Print as many different colors as you want, without any restrictions.
- Set-up time is low when compared to screen-printing. You can print your T-shirt in less than half an hour.
- The printing machines are not big giving more flexibility.
- Ink cartridges do not mess up your working area.
- There is no feeling when you touch the fabric with a DTG print on it because printing takes place by direct injection into the fabric.
Some Cons of DTG printing
- The best output will only come out when you use 100% cotton T-shirts or fabrics with high amounts of cotton.
- DTG Printing machines can be costly.
- Colors may wash out over time.
- Limited in design placement.
- A lot of maintenance is needed to make sure that the machine is running fine in long run.
3. Heat Press Printing
One of the most popular methods for printing t-shirts is heat press printing. This method involves using a heat press machine to transfer a design or image onto the shirt fabric.
Heat press machines use high temperatures and pressure to transfer the design onto the t-shirt, which means that the design will be durable and will not fade over time.
This printing method is often used to create t-shirts with intricate designs that would be difficult to create using other printing methods.
Read this post to calculate the costs for your t-shirt printing can be.
Some pros of using heat press printing for t-shirt printing:
- A quick and easy way to print designs onto t-shirts.
- The prints produced by heat press printing are usually of high quality, and very durable. So your prints will last a long time, even after multiple washes.
- It is very versatile, so you can print on a variety of materials besides t-shirts. like print on the bag, mog, cup so on and forth.
- The heat Press printing machine is very easy to use, so you can get great prints even if you’re not a professional printer.
- Affordable, so you can get great prints without spending a lot of money.
Some cons of using heat press printing for t-shirt printing:
- The ink can sometimes crack or peel.
- It can be difficult to line up the design correctly.
- It can be hard to print on certain fabrics.
- The design can be damaged if the press is not used correctly.
- If you’re not careful, you can easily scorch or ruin your garment.
- Heat press printing can be costly, especially if you’re printing in bulk.
4. Dye Sublimation Printing
It is a variation of heat transfer printing. It works by digitally printing graphics and heating them to transfer the dye to the fabric.
Dye-sublimation works using a dye-based ink that turns into a gas when heated. The heat pressure and time force the dye to change from solid to gas and then back to solid state.
Sublimation is a technique applied in all-printing techniques. T-shirts printed using this approach allow designers to express themselves fully by creating unique designs and artworks on T-shirts.
Pros of Dye Sublimation Printing:
- The ink becomes part of the T-shirt enhancing durability
- The design is soft on the hands
- Prints will not fade, crack, peel, or deteriorate
Cons of Dye Sublimation Printing:
- Areas under folds such as creases and areas undersleeve will remain undyed
- Only works with polyblend based T-shirts, the more polyester your fabric has, the more vibrant your colors are
- This is an expensive undertaking
5. Plastisol Transfers
Printing plastisol printing uses a similar process to screen-printing only differing when the artwork has to be printed using an inkjet on a plastisol transfer paper, then use the paper to heat press the design on fabric.
You can work with people who can send you some of their already printed designs, and all you have to do is heat press them on T-shirts.
Advantages of Plastisol Transfers:
- Good print quality
- Several designs can fit on a single transfer paper and cut to print separately
- Leaves no mess around
- This is a good technique suitable for testing T-shirt designs before hitting the market
- Great for full-color jobs or jobs that require few colors
Disadvantages of Plastisol Transfers:
- Wrong design transfers will lead to design cracking and can wash out very quickly
- It takes time to get the right amount of pressure and temperature needed for the technique to work
- Quantity runs are time-consuming and expensive
6. CAD Cut Vinyl Printing
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Cut printing uses heat transfers design onto T-shirts. This approach is common in the printing of numbers, logos, and names cut onto CAD-Cut vinyl and then heat pressed on team Jerseys.
The entire process involves a machine that cuts the designs and letters on colored vinyl then a presser is used to transfer each vinyl to the fabric.
The advantages of CAD cut vinyl printing:
- The artwork has a long lifespan
- Good for small tasks
- Vinyl can be applied anywhere on a shirt
- Vinyl can be used on all fabrics
The disadvantages of CAD cut vinyl printing:
- Takes longer to design and weed CAD-Cut designs
- Pantone colors cannot be matched with vinyl printing g
- CAD-Cut designs are only suitable for simple text-based graphics and have basic shapes.
7. Belt Printing
Belt printing is a garment printing method where a design is printed onto a t-shirt or any other clothing using a large printing press. This method is often used for printing designs onto large quantities of t-shirts.
The graphic design is first printed onto a transfer metal sheet, which is then placed onto the conveyor belt. The belt then carries the transfer sheet through a heat press, which transfers the image onto the shirt.
Belt printing is a great option for t-shirt printing for several reasons:
- It is a more efficient way to print t-shirts, as the belt system allows for a faster production rate.
- Belt printers can print on both sides of the shirt at the same time.
- Belt printing is also more cost-effective than other methods. Because it requires less ink and less manpower to operate.
- The belt printing method uses less water and produces less waste.
Some potential downsides of belt printing of a t-shirt include:
- The design may be less precise than with other methods.
- It can be difficult to print on certain materials.
- The process is generally slower than other printing methods.
- It can be difficult to achieve consistent results.
- There may be a limit to the number of colors that can be used.
8. Discharge Printing
Discharge printing is a printing process that removes color from a garment and replaces it with a new color. It is often used to print light colors on dark garments or to achieve a vintage look.
Discharge printing is most commonly used for today’s jeans denim parent stylish color making. The discharge process works much more with natural fibers.
This printing method is commonly used on t-shirts too. This method uses a chemical agent to remove the already existing color from the fabric of the shirt and then prints the desired design or image onto the shirt. This printing method is often used to create designs that have a vintage or distressed look as I said.
- Discharge printing leaves a soft, vintage feel on the fabric.
- This printing method is great for highly detailed designs.
- It is perfect for printing on dark shirts.
- The color of the design will become one with the shirt.
- Discharge printing is environmentally friendly.
- The ink can be goopy and difficult to work with.
- It can be difficult to get an even print with discharge printing.
- The print can fade over time.
- Discharge printing can be more expensive than other printing methods.
9. Stencil Printing
This is a printing technique that involves using a stencil to apply ink or paint to a surface. It is often used for creating designs on t-shirts, but can also be used for other garments as well.
The stencil printing process for a t-shirt is a great way to add some personalization to your wardrobe. Stencils can be purchased at most craft stores, or you can make your own.
To make your own stencil, start by finding a design that you like. Once you have your design, trace it onto a piece of cardboard or other thin material. Cut out the design, and then tape the stencil to the t-shirt. Use a sponge or other applicator to apply paint or ink to the stencil. Be sure to use a light hand so that the design doesn’t bleed through.
Stencil printing advantages
- A great way to get high-quality prints on t-shirts.
- Stencil printing is very versatile and can be used to create a variety of designs.
- Very easy to use and can be done by anyone.
- Stencil printing is very affordable and is a great way to save money on t-shirt printing.
- Quick and easy to set up, and you can get started printing t-shirts right away.
Stencil printing Downsides
- If the Stencil is not applied correctly, the design can be smeared or blurred.
- If the Stencil is not removed correctly, it can leave behind a residue that can be difficult to remove.
- Stencil printing can be messy, and it is important to be careful not to get any paint or ink on clothing or other surfaces.
- Stencils can be expensive, especially if you need multiple colors or a complex design.
10. Cut & Sew Use a Printing Method
Cut and sewing a printing for a t-shirt is a great way to add your own personal custom design.
In this custom t-shirts making process, the design is first printed on extra different fabric and then cut and sewn into the garment.
If you’re not sure how to do it, there are plenty of online tutorials that can help you. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll be able to create unique, one-of-a-kind t-shirts that are sure to stand out from the crowd.
- Cut & sew provides high quality and professional-looking finish.
- The printing is more durable and will last longer.
- The Process is better for complex designs.
- It is less likely to crack or fade over time.
- The colors may not be as vibrant as with other printing methods.
- Cut & sew can be more expensive than other methods.
- It can be more time-consuming to set up.
11. Airbrushing on T-shirt (Hand Spray Painting)
Another easy printing method for t-shirt printing and give it a custom personalized look by using a hand sprayer. This can be a quick and easy way to get a design on a t-shirt, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
- First, make sure the hand sprayer is clean and free of any debris.
- 2nd, while printing, make sure to keep the nozzle close to the shirt.
- 3rd, dry completely before printing on it once again.
This process is simple and easy to do. You will need a few things to get started.
- A t-shirt.
- A piece of cardboard.
- Color cans of spray paint.
After laying the t-shirt flat on cardboard. Take the color can or any air-brushing system of spray paint about six inches away from the t-shirt. Be sure to hold the can upright. Then, start spraying the paint onto the t-shirt.
You can use a stencil on a t-shirt. The stencil is placed on the shirt and spray paint is used to fill in the stencil.
Hand Spray Painting Advantages
- Airbrushing painting is a fast and efficient way to print t-shirts.
- It provides a high-quality print.
- A versatile printing method that can be used for a variety of t-shirt designs.
- Hand spray painting is a cost-effective printing method.
- It is an easy and convenient way to print t-shirts.
Hand Spray Painting Downsides
- The ink can be difficult to control and may result in uneven coverage or blotchy printing.
- Hand spray printing can be messy and difficult to clean up.
- It can be difficult to achieve consistent results with hand spray printing, especially if you are printing on multiple layers of fabric.
- The fumes from the ink can be unpleasant and potentially harmful to your health.
- Can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.
12. Resist Dyeing of Shirts
There are many different resist dyeing techniques that can be used on a t-shirt.
The resist dyeing process is a great way to add color to a t-shirt. This process involves applying a resist agent to the fabric, which repels the dye. By carefully using the resist agent, you can create exciting designs and patterns on the fabric.
- You can create unique designs that are not possible with other methods.
- It is a very versatile technique that can be used on various fabrics.
- It is a relatively simple and straightforward process.
- The results can be very striking and eye-catching.
- It is a relatively inexpensive way to print t-shirts.
- The colors may not be as vibrant as you want them to be.
- You may have to use more dye to get the desired color.
- It can be more time-consuming than other methods.
- You may not get an even color distribution.
- The dye may not adhere to the fabric evenly.
Easy Way to Print Cotton T-Shirts at Home
I believe in home stencil printing and hand spray painting combination will be the easy and most cost-effective one to go for. But if you need to print a big amount of shirts regularly then you can go for HTV. I would suggest depending on your capacity select 1/2 methods from these 12 methods and try it yourself. You can try today, do these things:
- Choose your design. You can either create your own design or find one online.
- Choose the right type of paint. You will need to use fabric paint, which can be found at most craft stores.
- Print your design onto the T-shirt. Use a stencil or freehand your design onto the shirt. Make sure to use a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent the paint from bleeding through.
- Let the paint dry. Once it is dry, you can go for further paint.
What Is The Most Durable Type of T-Shirt Printing?
Screen printing, digital printing, and transfer printing are all popular choices, but which one will last the longest?
Screen printing is a popular choice for t-shirt printing because it is very durable. The ink is pressed onto the fabric using a screen, and then it is cured with heat. This makes the ink become a part of the fabric, so it won’t crack, fade, or peel over time.
How Much Should You Charge For My Custom T-shirts?
This is a difficult question to answer without knowing more about your unique circumstances. Some factors that you’ll need to consider include the cost of materials, the time it will take to create the shirts, shipping and handling costs, and any taxes that may be applicable.
In addition, you’ll need to decide whether you want to make a profit or simply cover your costs.
If you want to make an estimation for only an idea read this article to calculate screen printing costs for t-shirts.
Screen Printing Vs Heat Transfer Printing: Which One Is Best?
Heat transfer printing and screen printing are similar, but they have different uses. Heat transfer printing is used for marking, and screen printing is used for decorating. Both heat transfer printing and screen printing use ink and a printing (ink) press.
Heat transfer printing is used when marking or labeling objects mostly in textile factories. For example, sports venues may use it to mark player numbers or players’ names on uniforms. For small businesses, heat transfer printing is used for marking and labeling products.
Heat transfer printing and screen printing are different in the process but have similarities, and they have different uses.
Best Type of T-Shirt Printing Method
The best t-shirt printing method is the one that best suits your needs. When choosing a printing method, you should consider the quality of the image, the durability of the printing, the cost, the time needed to print, the technology used in the method, the complexity of the process, available design options and many more factors.
There are many different t-shirt printing methods available, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Screen printing is the most popular t-shirt printing method, and it is ideal for large orders.
However, it is also the most expensive. Direct to garment printing (DTG) is another popular t-shirt printing method. It is less expensive than screen printing, but it is not as durable.
Regardless of the type of printing approach you choose, if you want a big production, then screen printing is the best way to go. A single production line should take you to the DTG approach. For any printing method that is low cost and has small production costs, the heat transfer approach seems to be the best.
With a quick review of some of the common printing technologies, you should at least be familiar with one or two processes.
However, the best thing is to do an online search on the type of shirt you have and identify the best color, printing methods, and chemicals to use. Remember to be checking the warning labels on ink and other chemicals that may cause you physical harm.
When you go through this article, you will notice that the number of printing techniques shared here cannot be the only ones. New T-shirt printing methods are still emerging, and it is important to stay informed about all the available options.