Starting a T-shirt business means you have to do a lot of research on as many printing processes as possible. Knowing the differences between the various printing methods or techniques.
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 design or artwork also determines the printing technique you will use.
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 competition traditional printing poses.
Some printing methods that involve the use of heat and pressure can be a good choice depending on the needs of your clients. The best ways to decision can only come when you put these technologies and get an opportunity to choose the best.
The T-Shirt Printing Methods
The famous and probably popular T-shirt screening method. We have been using screen-printing for many years. Screen-printing can either be manual or by a machine. Screen-printing uses thick printing inks, and when used in printing T-shirts they are durable and produce vibrant colors. Use of low-quality ink will fade away and make the fabric look weird.
Use screen-printing when you have a high volume of orders. Regardless of the orders made quality ink, the pressure applied by the squeegee, the number of strokes and the mesh count printing anything from 200 to 500 shirts is a possibility. Printing such a volume is highly possible when you have enough ink supply making it cost effective.
Pros of Screen Printing
- The absorption rate of ink from screen-printing goes deep into fabric hence giving vivid and bright colors without compromising the material durability.
- Once it is set up, you can produce many T-shirts using the same design at a faster rate
- Compatibility of screen-printing with various fabrics is not debatable if you use the right mix of inks and screens
Cons of Screen Printing
- Screen-printing is messy and carrying out the activity at home means working with ink and many spillages
- You need some space to have a proper screen-printing working space
- The Work area should be dust free and done in the dark to help preserve screens and ink
- Needs some technical level of training to be good at printing
- May not accommodate most or complex artwork
Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing
Uses inkjet technology to print very high quality, full color, and photo prints on T-shirts. This form 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 details.
If you have an order of few shirts, DTG printing seems to be the best option because of its ease in loading blank shirts into the printing machine. By printing directly onto it. Screen-printing requires that you go through several steps that break the process before printing the T-shirt.
Pros of DTG Printing
- Print as many variations of color possible 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 in the business
- Ink cartridges do not mess up your working area
- There is no feel when you touch the fabric with a DTG print on it because printing takes place by direct injection into the fabric.
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
Heat Transfer Printing
In simple terms, heat transfer printing involves the laying of sheets of transfer material on top of fabric that is to be pressed to apply a permanent custom design on a shirt.
The desired design is digitally printed on a special heat transfer paper using some ink solvent. This particular ink allows the design to be moved from the paper to the T-shirt when passed through a heat press machine.
The good thing about the heat printing method is that it will work on different materials and fabrics leaving no mess. The machine needs minimal maintenance compared to others.
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 allows 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 under sleeve 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
Printing 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.
Pros of Printing Plastisol Transfers
- Good print quality
- Several designs can fit on a single transfer paper and cut them 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
Cons of Printing 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
CAD-Cut Heat Transfer 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, names cut onto CAD-Cut vinyl 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.
Pros of CAD-Cut Heat Transfer 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
Cons of CAD-Cut Heat Transfer 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 graphics that are text-based and have basic shapes.
More Ideas for Your T-Shirt Business
Now that you have already seen the techniques used in printing T-shirts, you may have a temptation to get into the business and start selling. Here are some of the marketing tips you can embrace to boost your business.
Use a T-shirt Mockups
Using beautiful and well-crafted T-shirt mockup at home using several online platforms that allow for such customization’s. All you have to do is choose the design, color, and a template that will resonate with your audience.
Use Mockup Advertisements
Utilize social media ads to promote your business by use of customizable text that can entice and call upon your audience. Let them know if they will be able to get discounts or access your latest line of design.
Create a video at home to avoid the costly requirements at the studio. Go to a website that hosts such videos and edits it to suit their requirements. Using such an edited video to promote your business on social media and other forms of advertisement.
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.
With the quick review on some of the common printing technologies, you should at least be familiar in one or two processes. However, the best thing is to an online search on the type of shirt you have and identify the best color, printing methods, and the chemical to use. Remember to be checking the warning labels on ink and other chemicals that may cause you physical harm.
Regardless of the type of printing approach you choose, if you want big production, then screen-printing is the way to go. A single production line should take you to the DTG approach. Any printing method that is low cost and has small production costs, heat transfer approach seems to be the best.