There is a brief explanation of different printing methods with their pros and cons:
Screening Printing – Creating screens pressed up against cloth to place paint onto shirts one color per screen. Pros: cost effective, high quality, professional, durability. Cons: each color requires a separate screen, messy, need to print many shirts at once with the same design to be feasible.
Heat Press/INKJET/LASER Transfers – Print transparent inks using a computer onto a special piece of paper. Use heat to adhere the ink and paper onto the cloth. Pros: easy to print multi colors and complex designs, does not require different colors to be applied separately, great for small orders, easily customize different shirts. Cons: heavy feel of transfer, the cloth is the brightest part of the design: works well on white shirts, but doesn’t work on dark shirts, cracks, fades away easily.
Heat Press/Plastisol Transfers – Where you have plastisol ink printed onto transfer paper so it can easily be added to the garment via a heat press.
Vinyl Graphics – Use a machine to cut out designs on special solid color sheets of vinyl. Use heat to adhere cut vinyl to adhere vinyl to paper. Pros: high quality, durability, easily customize different shirts, great for small orders. Cons: have to separate and cut out each color independently, doesn’t work well for designs with complex patterns or designs that show a lot of background of the shirt inside the design.
Direct to Garment – Print inks directly onto cloth. Pros: reduces steps, patterns doesn’t have heavy feel like screen printing, great for small orders, easily customize different shirts. Cons: the cloth is the brightest part of the design: works well on white shirts. There is more of a challenge to the DTG operator to get dark prints to come out correctly, but it can be done.
Dye Sublimation – Dye sub is great for full color designs on white or light colored garments. It has no feel to the design but is a little trickier to master than inkjet heat transfers. Also, it tends to be a bit more expensive. You can also use this process on non-textile products such as mugs, mouse pads, tile, puzzles, coasters, key chains, etc. Dye sub is used only on manmade fabrics like polyester (with various results on blends and pre-treated fabrics). You cannot print on 100% cotton t-shirts with dye sub.