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Which print method is best?

i love lockdown t-shirt printed

Which Print Method is Best?

Are you starting your own business or looking to sell custom printed t-shirts? Then you need to know which print method is best suited to your needs. If you are new to t-shirt printing you probably do not realise certain printing techniques can only be printed onto certain materials. Whether you’re looking for 1 or 1000 items printed, the amount of garments or items you want to print will also affect the print methods used. Some are suited to high volume printing and others to lower volume. In today’s blog, we will go over different print methods to help you decide which is best for you and your needs!

Screen Printing

Screen Printing is one of the most well-known methods. You’ve undoubtedly got a t-shirt or hoodie in your wardrobe, that you’ve brought from a concert, event or high-street shop? The reason why so many of us will have a screen printed t-shirt or hoodie is that screen printing is great for high volume mass/printing.

The process of screen printing is applying ink directly onto the garment through a mesh screen with a squeegee. The great thing about screen printing is because it’s ink-based, it is possible to match Pantone colours. Screen-printing has setup costs involved as it’s labour intensive. A screen is set-up per colour of the design, so you will often be asked “How many colours are in the design”, we have to ask because we have to set up a screen per colour. We take your artwork, depending on how many colours are in the design a screen is exposed for each colour.

It is then taken to a carousel manual or automated and the print process begins. Traditionally it’s been done by hand, but with ever-evolving technology, more and more printing is being replaced with automated machines. Within a short space of time, a 100 to 500 plus t-shirt can be produced with only a few litres of ink, which is why it can be such a cost-effective option.

We recommend screen printing for Promotional Event t-shirts – like festivals or sports events, where you would be needing thousands. 

Pros of Screen Printing

  • A large volume of printed t-shirts can be produced quickly.
  • Cost-effective, the more you get the lower the cost. 
  • Compatible with most fabrics.
  • Can produce multiple colour design.

Cons of Screen Printing

  • Requires high volume number to make it cost-effective.
  • High set up costs – charged per colour, per design!
  • Can’t produce photo quality designs.
  • Limited print areas and size print

Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat Transfer Vinyl (also known as HTV) is a thin layer of Vinyl that is cad cut by a machine, using computer software. It’s then heat applied to the garment using a heat press. It comes in a number of colours. It’s very hard-wearing, which means its great for those garments that are worn daily like branded fashion garments or workwear. A major advantage is that there are no set up costs when it comes to HTV printing.

As HTV is so versatile it means that it can be printed onto all types of products like t-shirts, hats, hoodies, sweatshirts, leggings, umbrellas, bags, polo shirts and much more. If you are unsure on whether what you want is printable contact us now and we will be able to let you know.  

Another great thing about Vinyl is it comes in a variety of materials such as glitter, flock (velvet feel), metallics, holographic glitters and many other designs and patterns. We advise a limit of 4 colours (although we can do more) for designs as it can get quite costly per garment.

We suggest for low volume workwear, one-off design clothing, Hen dos or stag do t-shirts HTV is a great choice. Strong text/ vector graphic designs printed work really well.

Pros of HTV Printing

  • No setup costs
  • Can be used on a wide variety of garments/ materials
  • Great for lettering and number – (commonly used for sports kits)
  • Can be applied anywhere on the garment
  • Long lifespan -very durable

Cons of HTV Printing

  • Difficult to match Pantones as it comes in a certain number of colours
  • It can be time-consuming to produce therefore not a good for high volume runs over 100

Digital Transfer Printing

Digital Prints work by taking your artwork and printing onto specialised transfer paper. Once it has been printed onto the transfer paper, it can then be heat applied onto the garment. (There are two different carriers used; one for light coloured garments and one for dark coloured garments.)

The Transfer paper usually has a carrier on it which means that you don’t have to run it through a machine that cuts around the design. It will only print the actual design onto the garment. The quality of the print is directly related to how good quality the image supplied is, we usually like PDF, PNG, PSD or JPEG, you would need to supply us with a high-resolution image or we can create artwork at cost.

The print sits on top of the fabric (unlike sublimation which fuses into the fibres). It creates a bold and vibrant finish, best suited to smaller runs that need full colour and too complex for screen printing. 

We recommend for short print runs where the design and colour are important. Low volume printing ideal for multiple samples and for fashion brands, workwear, print on demand (as you don’t have to hold large amounts of stock)

Pros Of Digital Transfer Printing

  • can print photographic images 
  • fast printing can be printed same-day if needed
  • can print gradients and fine details
  • no setup costs
  • you can print onto almost any material!!!

Cons of Digital Transfer Printing

  • can be expensive for print runs over 150 as the price doesn’t come down when you buy more, as the production price is fixed. Unlike screen print which is the opposite.

Sublimation Printing

It is also known as Dye-sublimation printing, It’s a printing technique that involved inks that once heated to a specific temperature it turns into a vapour and in the cooling process, it permeates into the substrate that you want to be printed.

Sublimation works on many garments, so long as it has a high polyester content. Reason being the polyester fibres open up under the heating process to receive the ink. You have most likely seen sublimation printing on sports t-shirts, hoodies, swimwear and many other fabrics.  

Did you know you can print onto hard media as well as fabrics? Things like flip flops, coasters, mugs floor mats, mousepads.

Pros of Sublimation Printing

  • Great for small batch orders with design variations.
  • designs will never crack, fade or peel.
  • Can print onto hard surfaces, not just fabrics.
  • If you want a distressed look you can print onto a polyester blend with a lower percentage of polyester, after the first washed it will give that amazing distress vintage look.
  • Very soft feel as it becomes a part of the fabric.

Cons Of Sublimation Printing

  • Can’t print dark coloured garments/items.
  • You cant print onto natural fibres such as cotton, you can only print onto polyester and polyester blends.

We recommend Sublimation printing if you want a print to last a really long time – often used for memorial t-shirts, clothing line, full-colour graphics and gradients. A great option if you are producing a line of clothing with different designs. 

If there are any questions you have about different printing methods or still unsure feel free to call us or fill out our contact form.

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