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The perfect fit: What is the best t-shirt printing method to go for?

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Creating unique and interesting custom t-shirt designs is only one of the first few steps in your business before your product makes it to your customers. One of the processes in the t-shirt printing business is figuring out which printing method is perfect for your personal brand.

A t-shirt printing method that works for one business will not necessarily be a perfect fit for yours. So, what are the common types of t-shirt printing methods, and what are the things you need to consider before choosing the right one? Find out below.

Common Types of T-shirt Printing Methods for Your Business

There are various ways to print your designs on fabric, but the four most common are Screen Printing, DTG (direct-to-garment), Dye-Sublimation, and DTF (direct-to-film) Transfers. What is the best t-shirt printing method among these four? When it comes to printing t-shirts, there is no one perfect solution. They all have their pros and cons. Here’s a breakdown of what they are.

Screen Printing

This method applies the ink on the t-shirt through a mesh screen with your design template. Nowadays, screen printing can be done by hand or using automatic screen printing machines. Printing your designs is fast and efficient since you already have a pattern on a screen template.
Inks used in this method are also known for their vibrancy and brightness.

When printing a large number of t-shirts with a design that does not have many colors (usually ten or fewer) or fine details. Screen printing is your best and most inexpensive option.
Screen printing is good for high-quality runs. The fastest automatic screen printing machines can print over a thousand shirts an hour. The ink used in screen printing is either water-based or traditional plastisol ink, a vibrant, durable ink with a long-lasting finish. 

Although it can cut your printing costs when printing a large number of t-shirts. With smaller orders, prices tend to be more expensive. It is not cost-effective for printing small runs. Pricing will also depend on the number of colors used. The more colors, the more expensive the print is per shirt. Screen printing is not advised for designs with many colors or fine details. 

DTG Printing

DTG means Direct to Garment. This method uses DTG machines to print the actual design on the fabric directly. Unlike screen printing, when it comes to DTG, you can have as many colors as you want, and it will print the fine details.
But take note that this method works best on 100% cotton fabrics. You can still use DTG with other fabrics or cotton blends, but the colors and print might not be what you were expecting.

Direct to Garment allows for highly detailed designs to be reproduced with precision. Additionally, it offers versatility in terms of color options, so you can print as many colors as you want, and it doesn’t affect the pricing per print.
DTG is a good printing option for printing on-demand or small-batch orders.
You can print photographs.

DTG can be relatively more expensive than other printing methods, especially in larger quantities.
Since the printing process cannot be speeded up without the option of using multiple machines, you do not get the quantity price breaks that you receive with screen printing.
The other drawback is that it prints on some materials better than others.
While it prints much better on 100% percent cotton than other materials such as polyester, cotton blends, or tri-blends.
It will also print better on a 100% cotton Next Level 3600 t-shirt than a 100% cotton Gildan t-shirt.

Dye-Sublimation Printing

This method uses special sublimation inks that are printed onto paper and applied to a garment, usually polyester or a polyester blend, using heat and pressure.
When heat and pressure are applied to the paper and polyester shirt, the ink on the paper vaporizes, turning into a gas that makes the ink become ingrained with the fabric.
Since the ink becomes part of the fabric, the prints will not fade and will last as long as the shirt does.

Dye-sublimation is a process that involves transferring ink directly into the fabric fibers, resulting in designs that are soft to the touch, with extremely vibrant colors, that do not fade over time.
Just like DTG, Dye-Sublimation enables the reproduction of intricate and detailed designs. It also offers excellent washability, as the ink becomes a permanent part of the fabric.
You can print photographs. 

One of the main limitations is its compatibility with specific fabrics. Dye-sublimation can only print on polyester or polyester blends.
Like DTG, production cannot be speeded up, so there are no quantity price breaks.
The biggest drawback is because the ink becomes part of the fabric, the ink color has to be darker than the material you’re printing on, making it impossible to print on dark-colored shirts.
Another issue is if the paper moves ever so slightly during the process, the image can blur a little, which is called ghosting in the print industry.

DTF printing

Direct-to-film or DTF printing is a process where a design is printed onto a transparent film and is then transferred directly onto the fabric using a heat press. This printing process allows fine lines, gradients, and vibrant colors to be accurately replicated on various fabric types, including light and dark-colored garments.

Like screen printing, DTF can give you price breaks. Since you usually pay for the designs by the sheet, knowing how to manipulate your designs onto a sheet can lower your cost per design.
Transferring the design onto your t-shirt using a heat press usually takes only five to ten seconds, so you can do larger quantities than DTG and Sublimation.
Compared to DTG and Sublimation, DTF is more like screen printing and can be used on a wide range of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, blends, and more. The process is also much quicker, making it suitable for both small and large-scale orders.

DTF printing is unsuitable for intricate designs or fine details because complex designs with extremely small elements may not transfer accurately.
Another con is the printing’s slightly sticky or plastic feel, especially if the image is solid. The print will have a thick rubbery feel on the t-shirt if the design is solid instead of a design with a lot of negative space.

Things to consider when choosing a t-shirt printing method in 2023

After finding out the common methods in t-shirt printing, there are a few factors you’ll have to consider next:

  • Your t-shirt designs: Choose a printing method that highlights your t-shirt designs best. Every detail of your design should be displayed clearly and vibrantly every time.
  • Fabric or t-shirt material: Some printing methods work best with a specific material. Find out which fabrics you want for your t-shirt so you can figure out the method you’ll need to work perfectly with them.

Prevent lengthy trial and error: Get a quote from us!

If you’re unable to decide which t-shirt printing method to go for, reach out to Ready Aim Print and get a quote!
Whether it’s Screen Printing, DTG, Dye-Sublimation, DTF, or Embroidery, we’ll help in guiding you to make the best decision for what your needs are.

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