4 Types Of T-Shirt Printing

There are four different types of t-shirt printing: screen printing, sublimation, direct to garment and direct to film transfers

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Each form of t-shirt printing is special and has its own very unique way of decorating garments especially custom t-shirts. As a consumer you might be confused about which format is good for your project and what you can expect from each type of t-shirt printing technique. We won’t lie, there is no perfect solution and certain techniques like screen printing can be a form of art. Who you hire and how they decorate your custom t-shirts is important and you should use this blog post as a guide on what to expect. 

Screen printing

Screen printing is the original form of t-shirt printing that most people are most familiar with. Through the use of manual and automatic machines, screen printing provides efficiency for larger quantities. Artwork is taken from and then separated by color. The separated color layers are then burned into screens. Each layer then uses ink to independently push through the screen. What this does is pushes ink into the garment one color at a time. Screen printing is labor intensive. You need to prep, clean, and burn screens. Inks need to mixed and screens need to be cleaned after the job is complete. There are some limitations on what can be printed with screen printing such as gradients and detailed photographs. 

Sublimation

Sublimation uses wide format printers and plotters to print artwork on vinyl media that is then pushed into the garment at high heat. While sublimation is efficient, there are a few drawbacks. Long term usage, toxic inks and other items don’t always work out for sublimation. There are also limitations on the sublimation process that limit the types of artwork that can be produced with this technique. 

Direct to Garment Printing

Direct to garment printing is the newer way to do custom t-shirt printing and is most reminiscent of desktop printing. With direct to garment a solution is sprayed onto the garment, cured under high heat (over 300 degrees), and then loaded directly onto the printer so the garment can be printed on directly. By doing the process this way, there are no setup charges, ink mixing, low ink usage and very little waste. DTG printing as it is more commonly known, makes it possible to print just 1 garment. While not efficient for over 100-150 shirts. DTG is a great to get beautiful full color prints and create one off proof of concept.

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Direct to Transfer Films 

The newest kid on the block, direct to film transfers are also know as white backing prints. It’s a simple concept, take printers like the ones you would use in direct to garment printing and instead of using the a garment, you print on a film. The artwork is printed in reverse and then backed with a white ink to increase visibility on dark garment.s Once the printing is done hot melt glue is added to the print and then cured under high heat. During this process water evaporates from the ink and the hot melt glue melts into its place. Then like sublimation the ink is pushed into the garment. Direct to film transfer, is still in its infancy, but produces high quality prints like screen printing, with the efficiency of direct to garment printing. 

If you have any questions regarding the 4 types of t-shirt printing, please feel free to contact us. 

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Whatever your t-shirt printing needs maybe, we are happy to be your local custom t-shirt printing shop. If you have any questions regarding our t shirt printing services or if you have some custom t shirt ideas that you want to run by us, feel free to contact us!

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