Easy Guide To Apparel Printing Methods and Technologies

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Overview Of Different Printing Methods: Screen Printing, DTG Printing, Transfer Printing

Printing is a process that involves transferring an image onto a medium. Several printing techniques and technologies exist, such as screen printing, DTG printing, and transfer printing. Screen printing is the oldest form of printmaking, which involves using stencils to create images on fabric or other materials. It’s done by pressing ink through a mesh cloth directly onto the surface. DTG (Direct-to-Garment) printing is a method that uses digital technology to print directly from your computer onto garments like t-shirts and hoodies.

All these methods offer unique advantages depending on what kind of design you’re trying to achieve. However, they all have one thing in common: they provide cost-effective and efficient solutions for producing custom prints quickly and easily.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Each Technique: Cost, Production Time, Quality, And Durability

Screen printing is a widespread technique due to its affordability and the ability to print large orders quickly. It produces durable, long-lasting prints that are often higher quality than other methods when using high-quality inks. The downside of screen printing is that it’s not well suited for small runs or intricate designs because each color needs its stencil.

DTG (direct-to-garment) printing has become increasingly common as technology advances, allowing you to produce single items without setup costs. DTG allows full-color images and detailed designs on any fabric, but it can be more expensive per item than bulk orders are done through screen printing. Additionally, DTG may not last as long as silk screening since the ink penetrates the fabric instead of sitting on top like screen printing.

Transfer printing also offers short production times and low cost per unit – plus, there are no minimum order requirements – but it requires special transfer paper, which adds additional expense and complexity. Quality can vary depending on the type of printer used and how carefully instructions are followed during setup and application.

Lastingness usually isn’t an issue since transfers don’t penetrate fabrics as directly into DTG. However, they can crack if exposed to extreme temperatures or too many washing/drying cycles over time.

Overall, all three techniques offer different advantages depending on what kind of project you’re working on, volume size, budget constraints, design complexity, quality expectations, etc., so choose wisely!

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Printing Method: Order Size, Garment Type, And Design Complexity

When deciding on a printing method, it’s essential to consider the size of your order. Screen printing is likely the most cost-effective option if you need just a few shirts or other garments printed. However, digital printing might be best if you require more than 100 items with identical designs and colors due to its speed and lower production costs.

Additionally, different fabric types will require specific inks and techniques that may affect the overall cost of producing your garment. For example, natural fabrics like cotton absorb ink differently than synthetic materials such as polyester, which can result in a higher price per item.

Design complexity is also essential when selecting a printing process for apparel projects. Screen printing requires manually creating stencils for each color used in the design. This setup time adds labor costs that wouldn’t apply to digital printing. Which only needs a computer file containing all artwork elements.

Furthermore, specialty effects such as puff and foil prints offer unique looks. But are usually restricted to specific processes due to their specialized nature. Therefore it’s crucial to understand what options are available. Before committing to any technique get precisely what you want at a reasonable cost.

FactorScreen PrintingDigital PrintingSpecialty Effects
Order SizeBest for 100+ items with identical designs/colorsBest for smaller orders and multiple designsN/A
Fabric TypeDifferent inks/techniques for natural and synthetic fabrics affect the overall cost.100% cotton for vibrant printsN/A
Design ComplexityManual stencil creation for each color, higher labor costsComputer files with artwork, Complex Designs OKN/A
Specialty EffectsUnique Designs like puff and foilNo specialty effects with DTGUnique looks (e.g., puff, foil)
Factors of Screen Printing and Digital Printing


In conclusion, the printing method you choose for your garments depends on various factors. Consider the type of garment, order size, and design complexity to find which technique best suits your needs. Screen printing may be more cost-effective when producing large orders. While DTG printing can quickly make high-quality prints with minimal setup time. Transfer printing also offers excellent quality and works well with complex designs. However, it’s usually not ideal for larger orders due to its production time.

No matter what your project requires, there are plenty of options available that offer great results. Make sure you do your research to understand each process’s advantages and disadvantages before making a decision. With careful consideration, you’ll be able to select the perfect printing method for your project. One that meets all of your requirements in terms of cost, production time, quality, and durability.

Finding the right approach comes down to understanding. What’s needed for your specific project and how do different techniques stack up against each other? With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision and create beautiful apparel!

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Antonio Massey

Production Team: Folder

Antonio Massey recently joined NWCA in June of 2022. His role on the Production Team has greatly improved our processes and productivity. Antonio is always willing to lift heavy boxes or help his co-workers during busy times. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dog and mastering video games.


Alicia Wada

Shipping Clerk

Alicia Wada is passionate about helping her co-workers at Northwest Custom Apparel in any way that she can. She works in our Shipping and Logistics department. Alicia, who goes by Ali, has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. She lived in Japan for ten years and recently brought her family to America in 2019. She is interested in learning crafts and textile art from around the world.


Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



Ruth Nhoung

Production Manager

Ruth Nhoung is our Production Manager and Northwest Custom Apparel is lucky to have her. Thanks to her vast knowledge of machine embroidery and dedication to creating a comfortable and supportive work environment, the production plant runs smoothly and customers are pleased with our work. She is a loving mother and grandmother and enjoys spending quality time with her siblings. She says, “I love everything about Northwest Custom Apparel: the people, the atmosphere, the work, and the customers. I love what I do and I embrace all of NWCA’s core values”.


Steve Deland

Art Director

Steve Deland has been our amazing Artist since 2017. He loves working at Northwest Custom Apparel because he appreciates the goal-oriented, progressive-thinking management style. He is most passionate about his art, which includes scroll saw woodwork, and his five grandchildren.



Taylar Hanson


Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Nika Lao


Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.


Bradley Wright


Bradley Wright has been a vital team member of NWCA since 2017. As our accountant and knower-of-all-things, Bradley is proud to work closely with his wonderful colleagues. He studied at the University of Washington. These days he dedicates his free time to his new house.


Dominic Nguyen

DTG Operator

Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.


Sothea Tann

Production Team: Trimmer

Sothea Tann recently joined the Production Team in 2022. She finds Northwest Custom Apparel to be a good working environment with helpful and friendly staff. In her free time, Sothea spends quality time with her family and, overall, focuses on a peaceful and happy lifestyle.


Brian Beardsley

DTG Supervisor

Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


UT Tri Tran

Embroidery Machine Operator

UT Tri Tran loves Northwest Custom Apparel so much that, although she has already retired after a long career in machine embroidery operations, she is happy to return part time. She says, “I love the family style work environment and how everyone shares food, laughter, and fun on a regular basis.” In her free time she is dedicated to living a healthy and peaceful lifestyle with her friends and family.



Embroidery Machine Operator

BunsereytheavyHoeu, who goes by Theavy, won our Operator of the Year in 2021. She takes on many roles in the production team. She says, “These are not my co-workers, these are my family! I cherish all the memories we make together”. When she goes home to be with her family, she makes the most of her time with them by holding family get-togethers and even karaoke competitions.


Sreynai Meang

Embroidery Machine Operator

SreynaiMeang is a hard-working Machine Operator. She is most passionate about helping people. Sreynai, who goes by Nai, likes to exercise in her free time and talk with her family in Cambodia.


Kanha Chhorn

Embroidery Machine Operator

Kanha Chhorn has been an Embroidery Operator with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. She is delightful and always makes everyone smile and laugh. Kanha takes on additional tasks that allow us to exceed our customers’ expectations. In her free time, she can be found at her local temple or spending quality time with her family and friends.


Savy Som

Embroidery Machine Operator

SavySom is one of our Machine Operators who is passionate about embroidery and sewing. She enjoys working at NWCA because of its flexibility. She has two teenage sons and loves spending time with her family on the weekends.



Embroidery Machine Operator

SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.


Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.

Northwest Custom Apparel
Northwest Custom Apparel
152 Google reviews
Janice Herron
Janice Herron
Love their amazing customer service! From ordering over the phone, through email, or in person at Northwest Custom Apparel, everyone is very helpful, and very nice! Always! We have been ordering our apparel for our local small business through them for many years! Thank you Thank you!
Morgan Pero
Morgan Pero
Excellent people, products and customer service!
Drew Halverson
Drew Halverson
Great product offerings/results, swift communication, and helpful staff. Highly recommend!
Tim s
Tim s
Northwest Custom apparel always does great work! We have been a customer for over 25 years and are always satisfied with the products we get!!
NW Custom Apparel treats us like we’re their only customer! Everyone is always so friendly and helpful. They’re great!
Randy Birch
Randy Birch
We us Northwest Custom Apparel for our work shirts and they are incredible. The staff is super friendly, the quality of workmanship is outstanding and they stand by the work they do. I love this place.
Heidi Christiansen
Heidi Christiansen
The company I work for has been buying custom apparel for the team members for years now. We love working with NW Custom Apparel because the process is easy, delivery is timely, and materials are high quality. Anytime I’ve ever had an issue, they’re quick to resolve it. We’ve purchased both embroidered items and DTG graphic tees. We’ve purchased blankets, shirts, jackets, hoodies, etc. Everything ends up looking super professional, and our team members always have positive things to say. Ally is always there at the warehouse with a smile and a friendly greeting when I pick up materials. She is so helpful and respectful. Taylar is a wonderful customer service rep. I’ve sent her some complicated orders—like 20 different items with all different colorways and styles or 150 items with three different styles—and she is so good at getting everything just right. I plan to continue purchasing from NW Custom for high-quality custom apparel.
Hoa DeBusk
Hoa DeBusk
Have used them for years. Knowledgeable team that is always so helpful in recommending options or creating designs. Great quality too for embroidery or digital prints. Very happy with them as a vendor.
Stacey Perez
Stacey Perez
We use Northwest Custom Apparel for all of our professional embroidery needs for the orthodontic office I work at. They do great work, are quick and have never missed a deadline. Highly recommend if you need any custom apparel needs.