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Printing Methods and their Pros and Cons


There is a brief explanation of different printing methods with their pros and cons:

Screen Printing Art WorkScreening 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.

d2g-t-shirtVinyl 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.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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