Different Types Of T-Shirt Printing Methods & The One That’s Right For You


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    Printing T-shirts can be a great hobby if you are into graphic design or would like to earn money through a T-shirt printing business.

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      Depending on your needs, you can go for several options. And today, you’ll learn everything you need to know about each T-shirt printing technique.

      What Are The Different T-Shirt Printing Options?

      There are different types of T-shirt printing methods that can be utilized. This includes doing it as a hobby or starting a business.

      Richoh Ri 1000 direct to garment printer in matt black color.
      Direct to garment printing is one of the eight t-shirt printing techniques mentioned in this article.

      Which method you’ll choose is dependent on what kind of designs you plan to make and garment fabric type you plan to print on.

      In this article we have for you 8 various types of t-shirt printing options that can work for you. Best of all, you can choose more than one.

      #1 Screen Printing

      Screen printing is a printing process where the ink is pressed (using a squeegee) into the fabric through a stenciled mesh screen.

      It’s also called silkscreen printing technique or serigraphy. If you’ve heard these terms before, know that they all mean the same thing.

      Automated screen printing machine in factory squeegeeing yellow paint through mesh onto substrate.
      Screen printing can be done manually or be automated using machinery.

      This method is mainly for printing on bigger items like posters, canvases, and general artwork. But it also works well on fabrics and textiles, too!

      First, you make a stencil on a mesh screen. Then you push ink through the stencil. This creates an imprint on the surface that’s under it.

      It’s easier to work with only one color rather than multicolor designs. Each color would need to be done in a different layer, taking up more time.

      This technique is a favorite among people as it’s cost-efficient. You can replicate what you’ve done multiple times. It’s this flexibility that makes it ideal for a t-shirt business.

      Advantages of this technology

      • Cost-efficient for bulk orders
      • The ink is absorbed deeply
      • The silkscreen printing panels are reusable
      • Works with most fabrics
      • Designs durability

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • The process can get a bit messy

      #2 Direct To Garment Printing (DTG)

      Also known by some people as the inkjet printing method. It’s a process used for printing graphics on a variety of textiles.

      For direct-to-garment printing, you have a special inkjet printer for T-shirts. It works the same as a paper printer, just for T-shirts. The information (artwork) is sent from your computer to the printer.

      Brand new Polyprint Echo2 DTG printer fresh out of the box.
      Here is a PolyPrint Eco2 DTG machine where you can print directly onto garment.

      This method gives you many options. This is because you can print whatever you want through your computer directly onto your T-shirt.

      The main reason why this method gets much love is that it can work with almost 16 million colors, and all of that in a single pass. This is a fantastic solution for creating high quality artwork with amazing detail and accuracy.

      However, if you decide to use this method, make sure the printer you buy is of high-quality. Cheaper ones may dispaoint.

      This is a good option for you if your T-shirt printing ideas are more complex.

      Advantages of this technology

      • Great for complicated multicolor designs
      • A fast process that’s good for large orders
      • The printer itself is very compact
      • The ink spill is minimal
      • The prints end up being smooth and soft

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • Works specifically on cotton T-shirts, not other fabrics

      #3 Dye Sublimation Printing

      If you want to do a T-shirt where one design covers the entirety of it, then dye sublimation is the best option for you.

      This is one of the rare T-shirt printing methods that work better with polyester fabric. Even cotton and another kind of natural fabric types can’t compete.

      Dye sublimation print being transferred onto fabric roll in factory.
      Large industrial dye sublimation printer on factory floor

      The process of dye sublimation is more complex on a chemical level. When heat and pressure are applied, the ink turns directly into gas.

      That design is later printed onto transfer paper, and then with a high-pressure roller, the ink from the paper is turned into gas and transferred to the fabric.

      That’s how the whole process is sealed.

      The designs done with this special heat transfer paper are durable and high-quality but also very effective for massive orders.

      Advantages of this technology

      • Designs are smooth and soft
      • The design doesn’t fade with time
      • Great for polyester
      • The print doesn’t crack, peel, or fade

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • Expensive to start

      #4 Heat Press Printing

      When it comes to beginners and printing methods that are on the simple and easy side, then heat press printing can be the right option for you.

      All of the equipment that you will need with the heat press method is a printer and some transfer paper.

      Heat press using heat and pressure to transfer design onto green t-shirt.
      Transferring your design from paper to garment using a combination of heat and pressure.

      Or it can also be done with a vinyl cutting machine, but either way, you will need a heat press.

      Firstly, you start with a digital copy of the image that you want to print, and it can be any kind of design you want.

      You then print that onto the special heat transfer paper that has a wax coat on one side of it, and once it’s printed, you set that paper on top of the garment you want to print on.

      After that, you go to the heat press that activates the adhesive material of the paper and transfers the design to the shirt.

      The other of the paper side will be covered with a glossy kind of a cover that’s removable; however, read up on the instructions as not all heat papers have the same use.

      This process is generally on the more affordable side, but it can get more expensive when you start buying equipment that’s specialized.

      Advantages of this technology

      • Easy to use and set up
      • The prints are very good visually
      • Good for quite complex designs

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • Not good with dark fabrics

      #5 Heat Transfer Vinyl

      When you do the heat transfer vinyl printing method, it differs a lot from other methods where vinyl is used as a medium, mainly in the way that it’s used.

      The way it’s used here is that the vinyl is printed onto the garments using heat and pressure.

      Black heat transfer vinyl being used to create text that is heat pressed onto shirt after weeding.
      Vinyl prints need to be weeded before then applying them onto your garment using a heat press.

      Firstly, you cut the vinyl into shapes that you wish to have as designs on your T-shirt, using a special vinyl cutter, and then these shapes are transferred to the fabric.

      This is done with a heat press, and that heat press can either be just your basic iron, or it can be a more specialized machine.

      If you plan to do a lot of T-shirts with your printing business, then it will always be better to go for the clamshell type of heat press.

      The vinyl printing technique is mainly used when you want to print some slogans on T-shirts or when you want to do tiny graphics.

      This implies that vinyl printing is quite easy to use, and it is, making it a generally good choice for beginners.

      And not only that, but it’s also one of the cheaper methods you can opt for, so even if you, for example, need to make a gift for a special occasion, vinyl printing can be the way to go, too.

      Advantages of this technology

      • Durable results
      • Very easily adjustable designs
      • Simple to be done by people of all ages

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • Can’t work with heat-sensitive materials

      #6 Plastisol Transfer

      Similar to screen printing, the plastisol transfer uses a special kind of screen to have an image imprinted on a T-shirt – a plastisol screen, hence the name.

      It’s essentially another kind of using heat transfer to print designs onto T-shirts and other kinds of garments.

      The dye is first transferred to the plastisol, and only after that is it transferred to the T-shirt.

      The major benefit of this strategy is that you can simply order the transfers in bulk, even 100 at a time.

      Then, as orders come in, you may heat press them on the shirts. This restricts you from pre-printing a specific number and size of t-shirts before selling them.

      The design that you print on the plastisol screen can be cured and then stay unchanged in storage for a long time and then re-used when you need it again.

      Overall, this method is as versatile and convenient as heat transfer, but the designs end up being better for washability than a screen print design.

      Advantages of this technology

      • A great option for bulk printing
      • Very durable designs
      • No minimums for transfers

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • You can’t print photos

      Stencil Printing

      Consider stencil printing to be similar to silkscreen printing.

      In the manufacturing industry that’s automated, stencil printing is a technique that involves printing with some kind of conductive adhesives such as solder paste, silver epoxy, or another epoxy onto writing boards.

      Stencil printing is a favorite for doing at home, as you need only a basic printer, paper, or some kind of a card, and a cutter.

      The way you do this is that firstly, you make your design, then print it in some form of thick paper or card and then cut it out in order to make a stencil from it.

      Then, you will need to fix the stencil on the garment you want to print on with some tape, and after that, you send it off to printing.

      It’s quite easy, and it can be done as a DIY, so if you’re looking for a way to have some fun with crafts and maybe even make some gifts, try this one out!

      Advantages of this technology

      • More affordable when it comes to equipment
      • Doesn’t take up too much of your workspace
      • Works quite efficiently

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • A lot of waste is made while printing like this

      #7 Tie-Dye

      There are various traditional tie-dye variations around the world, each one unique yet all similar.

      Tie-dye is a method where you crumple and tie pieces of clothing and then emerge them into the dye.

      The final design is determined by the pattern of the folds and where the colors are squirted.

      It’s a very creative form of doing different prints on T-shirts, and each one you make will be completely unique.

      To some extent, the eventual outcome may be predicted and controlled with skill, but the surprise is part of what makes tie-dye a fascinating and interesting art form that even a novice can master.

      Anyone can do this method, and tie-dye designs are something that always gets a comeback in fashion, so there’s no bad time to start doing it.

      Advantages of this technology

      • Fairly simple even for beginners
      • The element of surprise
      • Very creative and unique designs

      Disadvantages of this technology

      • It takes time to gain control over the results


      What is the most efficient method of t-shirt printing?

      The direct-to-garment printing methods are the most efficient as you only need a printer, and you can do as many loads as you want.

      You also get a lot of color options, and you can basically print whatever you want on your garments.

      Which type of printing is commonly used in t-shirt making?

      There are many methods that are quite common, but mostly it’s screen printing or direct-to-garment printing methods.

      These are mostly very efficient and not too expensive for a business to start with, so it’s not surprising that a lot of people who work with T-shirt printing choose that.

      What are the different types of shirt transfers?

      Mainly, all T-shirt transfer methods are somehow related to using heat and pressure, so the main type of T-shirt transferring is by using heat press printing.

      You can also use vinyl printing for transferring designs to T-shirts, as well as direct-to-garment printing methods, and even tie dye, and it just depends on what you want to do.

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