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Apparel printing techniques

In the apparel industry, besides the artwork to be printed, the most important thing is the printing technique. There are several printing techniques, and each of them is suitable for a certain business strategy. I hope this will answer many questions concerning the perfect printing technique for your t-shirt business. This is quite simple to see which one fits your needsbest, because each printing technique has its pros and cons depending on the number of colors used, on the timing, and not the least, on the costs. I am going to explain each of them and let you decide which method you would prefer.

Printing techniques

printing techniques

Apparel printing techniques

SCREEN PRINTING – It’s the most commonly used method for t-shirt printing.It uses screens pressed up against cloth to place paint onto shirts one color per screen. Each press uses a single color, so that means that for a t-shirt design that has 5 colors, you will need 5 separate screens. Screen printing is high quality, professional looking, durable, and can be very price effective on volume orders. Some cons might be the fact that it’s messy to work with many screens, and if you want to do one t-shirt or two, that’s definitely not the right choice for printing. Also, screen printing has setup fees, depending on the number of the color screens to be burned. Concerning the colors of the t-shirt, if you want to print on dark t-shirts, there is a white under base that needs printed first.

printing techniques

Apparel printing techniques

DIRECT TO GARMENT PRINTING (DTG) – While screen printing technique is considered to be traditional and known by everybody, direct to garment printing is fairly new.Because it is new, the printer is also very expensive, but the quality of the printed t-shirts is excellent.With the direct to garment printers, the design is printed directly on t-shirt or on the desired product (mouse pad, caps etc.).The art process allows unlimited colors and shades to be printed, thing that could not be possible with the screen printing. It is the perfect option for photo t-shirts and very detailed images. Direct to garment printing is considered to be the only professional option for low run orders. That means you can print one t-shirt or 100 without problems. The printing process in the case of DTG takes longer than in the case of screen printing and the big disadvantage is that the artwork can’t be printed on dark t-shirts (with few exceptions). Also, that’s the reason why the printer does not print the white color.The result is professional and designs are not felt on the garment.

printing techniques

Apparel printing techniques

HEAT PRESS TRANSFER PRINTING – is probably the best choice for a small business, and we are not talking here about starting a clothing line. The heat press transfer technique consists on printing a transparent ink with the use of a computer on a special piece of paper ( Inkjet transfer paper). Full color images and of a very high quality can be printed, then applied to the cotton garment and pressed in the heat press. The usual temperature is 180 degrees for 10 – 30 seconds. With the heat transfer, you can print complex designs, with many colors. The advantage is that the colors don’t require to be applied separately. The heat press transfer is ideal for creating fast customized t-shirts.The bad thing is that the colored picture can be applied only on light t-shirts, because the colors in the design might be affected by the t-shirt color. Even that it’s fast and easy to print a t-shirt with the heat press transfer, the feel on transfer is heavy, and it cracks easily.

printing techniques

Apparel printing techniques

HEAT TRANSFER VINYL PRINTING – is the perfect option for t-shirt lettering, for small t-shirt orders, for name of bands, clubs, football player and so on. It requires a machine (vinyl cutter) to cut out designs on special color sheets of vinyl. The cut vinyl is applied onto the garment using a heat press.

Apparel printing techniques

Apparel printing techniques

Heat transfer vinyl is not headed towards mass production, because of the heavy feel of the transfer and also because many colors printing are hard to achieve and need separately heat transfer.There are 50 colors to chose from, including florescent colors. This technique is perfect of you want a t-shirt with a distinct lettering.

Apparel printing techniques

Apparel printing techniques

DYE SUBLIMATION PRINTING– is actually the heat transfer onto polyester garments and polyester coated items (such as mugs). Dye sub process is limited to printing on white or light to medium colored garments that have a 100% polyester surface and allows for full color printing as well as spot color printing on garments. Sublimation ink is a special ink that turns to gas when heat is applied. The heat makes polyester pores to open and permanently absorb the sublimation ink. But this is possible with most of non-textile garments, like mugs, puzzles, key chains, mouse pads etc. This technique can also be applied to polyester t-shirts, but there is a restrained demand on this chapter. Dye sublimation printing also requires a special transfer paper which is cheaper than inkjet transfer paper, but the sublimation ink is very expensive.

printing techniques

Apparel printing techniques

Besides these techniques, there are plenty more. Here are some of them, even that they are not used as often as the above ones, they are required in some businessareas: plastisol printing, waterbased printing, non-pvc printing, discharge printing, metallic inks, glitter inks, foil, gel, 3d printing, cut and sew, embroidery, thermochromic, photocromic (color changing).



  1. Screen Printing 05/02/2010

    Wow! The people who want to start a small t-shirt printing business are scared of mechanism of the printing machine, in fact two types of printing machines like screen printing and digital printing are commonly used for cloth and apparel printing. Now Heat Press are also used to Transfer images that have been printed on usually a regular desktop Color inkjet or Color laser printer. Images are full color and can be of a very high resolution.

  2. Katy Imbert 06/02/2010

    Great site I

  3. Jacinto Elsinger 08/02/2010

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  4. Andrew C. Sailer 08/02/2010

    Hey! Awesome site! I will definatley be coming back in the near future =)

  5. Arleen Lampiasi 10/02/2010

    amazing stuff thanx

  6. Dolly 12/02/2010

    Thank you! I would now go on this blog every day!

  7. Nicolas 15/02/2010

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  8. Elvera Fabbri 15/02/2010

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  9. Drew Medcalf 20/02/2010

    Enjoy your blog…found it via bing. Subscribed!


    Free Printing Samples

  10. Lani Nealey 18/03/2010

    Thank you for this valuable informative information. Quite often, the best content originate from the blog posts you actually may not expect. Lately, I decided not to give much thought to commenting on web log posts and have left feedback even less. Looking through your pleasant piece of writing, is going to inspire me to do so sometimes.

  11. Free PS3 26/03/2010

    Nice read.

  12. parvey 26/03/2010

    Hi to all,
    Anyone Please guide me. I bought a flat heat press machine. But now, I got confused that which method or technique should I use for T-shirt printings. I actually wanted prints like text prints, one color images like clip art, images with transparent in middle and fine, funky images. I actually don’t want to get printed with square look (of paper)after heat press. Please favor me. I want very less expense. Thank a lot.

  13. TheBestSpinner 27/03/2010

    I didn’t think there were any sites with content this good. There sure is a lot of trash out there online. I’ll definitely be back to check out future posts…Thanks

  14. sarahbelll 29/03/2010

    I like the approach you took with this article. It is not often that you discover something so to the point and enlightening.

  15. Does the printer do all of the pressing jobs or do you need to install the necessary parts for each individual jobs?

  16. I never knew there were so many techniques. When I was younger I wanted to make a t-shirt company and buy a screen printer… it never happened.

  17. I never knew so much work went into T-shirt printing. This is a really great article.

  18. How much does a screen printing machine cost?

  19. AppareCandy.com 30/08/2010

    This blog is very useful to those businesses which are related to shirt printing. Methods mentioned above are easier and faster way of printing with a clearer designs.

  20. thanks, for this article. I found it through bing and i found it very helpful. i will look for more interesting articles at this blog. :)

  21. That screen printing machine is really cool. I took graphics in high school and had to screen print using the traditional box and screen and it is so messy and hard. This would have definitely made the job a lot easier.

  22. Gary Roberts Art 04/11/2010

    This is a wonderful blog site. I’ve been back repeatedly over the past few days and wish to sign up for your rss feed implementing Google but can not understand the right way to do it precisly. Would you know of any sort of tutorials?

  23. Shirt Printing 24/11/2010

    Wow these Shirt Printing machines looks amazing and i think the print quality is pretty great, no wonder it is expensive but if you have a big t-shirt printing business having one will be a great help.

  24. Heat Press Machine 07/12/2010

    “This technique is perfect of you want a t-shirt with a distinct lettering” The focus for many promotional campaigns are just that “lettering”. Conveying the most direct way of getting the message across.

  25. Joseph Onwuemeodo 31/03/2011

    Thanks for your explanation.
    We want to open up a printing mini factory ,for printing human images onto a t shirt or vest,also to print human images on posters for political campaigns ,please which of the machine do you advice me to buy ,hence my factory will be in Nigeria.
    Again how can I reach the factory that produces this machine ,so that I can order for it.

    Kingsto Ontario canada

  26. Collett 23/08/2011

    Hey I really liked your article, thanks for all the great info…it helped a lot!

  27. How much cheaper would it be if we provide our own shirts?

  28. blank apparel 07/10/2011

    Wow, I didn’t know there were so many different applications. The DTG process seems the most efficient since you don’t have to switch screens. Do you have to end up with more ink than another like regular printers you would use for documents?

  29. Wow …

    Latest technologies and popular designs .
    large selling t shirts ..

    so here i have also seen a new idea.
    their is a website
    where you can customized design for your t shirt. Lets create your own designs for your t shirts .
    Customised T Shirts printing

  30. Art Brown 05/11/2012

    Cool website! Thanks for sharing. Apparel printing can be so fun.

  31. You have a helpful list of insights here. Producing promotional apparels is really something businesses should invest in. These items play a vital role in better brand recognition as they reach all kinds of people.

  32. custom t-shirts 12/11/2012

    Its really great stuff presented here a it proves useful for all seekers to let understand about the same . Keep it up.

  33. adam 11/03/2013


    This is really blog.
    You described all the methods of printing in this very clearly.
    i have one more method for printing
    I have also one new method to print t-shirts ,shirts etc.
    We can use this online and it is called Web to Print design.

  34. Steven Jarris 13/03/2013

    I have a buddy at my work who does the t shirt printing in Phoenix and it is fun to see the results. He does comical ones though. Thanks for sharing.

  35. adam 20/03/2013

    hi Jarries

    This is good to see it.

    This is also amazing that You can design and print the t-shirt as per your choise.

    We have tools for this purpose by which you can do it.

  36. tshirtloot 02/04/2013

    The Regarding article about Apparel printing techniques were such a wonderful.then,so many techniques available in making T-shirts…?wow…
    Nice article…
    Print Tshirt

  37. tshirtloot 04/04/2013

    I think screen printing is the best and easy method to make whatever design we want in tshirt.because it have a less efficiency for printing designs in more tshirts.

    Customized T shirts

  38. Great word press blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days

  39. Orang Akaun 09/04/2013

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  43. robort 18/01/2014

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