When you are looking to get a custom shirt made, there are a few different fabric printing options that you can choose from. Each option has its benefits and properties, so it is crucial to understand what each entails before deciding.
A blank t-shirt in a specific material can look fine but will look completely different with a print. Not all fabrics are made for print, so you have to consider that. Here are the three most common fabric printing methods:
Screen printing is the most common and traditional way of printing fabric. It involves creating a stencil of the image that you want to print and then using a screen to push ink through the stencil and onto the textile.
In this process, a mesh screen transfers ink onto a substrate, usually fabric. A squeegee is used to push colored ink through the screen, and the image is created by using different screens for each color. Screen printing is a popular choice for printing large quantities of shirts, and it produces a durable, high-quality print.
There are four steps to screen printing:
- Pre-treatment of the fabric
- Application of masking film or tape on areas that are not needed
- Screen preparation, which involves exposing the mesh to light
- Printing with different screens for each color step
Two methods can prepare a screen for printing – photo emulsion or direct contact.
Photo emulsion is when the image is created by exposing a light-sensitive coating to a film positive. The layer is then washed away with a developer, leaving the image on the screen. Direct contact involves applying ink to the screen and pressing it onto the fabric. This method is used when a lot of detail is needed in the image.
Screen printing is an excellent choice for printing large quantities of shirts, and it produces a durable, high-quality print.
DTG (direct-to-garment) printing is a digital method that prints directly onto a blank t-shirt using inkjet technology. This method allows for a wide range of colors and tones to be printed, and it is ideal for printing small quantities of shirts.
This process transfers vector artwork, produced using software programs like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, onto the fabric using an inkjet printer. The special inks used with DTG printing are formulated to stay liquid inside the garment until heated. Heat then transforms the ink into a gas, turning it into vapor to bond with the fabric. The heat used for DTG printing is low, so the garment does not need to be unwashed or dry-cleaned to maintain its quality.
The main benefit of DTG printing is that it can produce very high-quality images on various fabrics. Since the ink bonds with the material, wearing and washing will not cause the image to fade or crack. DTG printing is also an excellent option for printing small shirt amounts, and it offers a wide range of color options.
Dye sublimation is a newer printing method that has become increasingly popular. It involves heating dye particles until they vaporize and then depositing them onto the fabric. This method produces vivid colors and prints that won’t fade over time.
This process starts with a roll of specially-treated fabric placed in a steam chamber. The dye is then vaporized, and the vapor is pushed through the printhead of an inkjet printer, transferring it onto the fabric. The heat causes the dye to bond to the material so that it won’t fade over time.
Two methods can be used to prepare the printhead of an inkjet printer for dye sublimation. The first method uses heat-activated transfer paper, which adheres the dye directly to the fabric.
The second method uses a dye cartridge and dye-specific paper. Dye sublimation is an excellent option for high-quality printing that will stand the test of time and produce vibrant colors.
Hot vs. Cold Press Printing
When choosing between hot and cold press printing, keep in mind that hot press yields a higher quality print but is more expensive.
Hotpress printing is where the fabric is sandwiched between two metal plates and then heated. This method causes the ink to penetrate the material, resulting in a high-quality print resistant to fading.
How to Choose Printing Method
When deciding on a printing method, it is essential to consider the number of shirts that need to be printed, the level of detail in the image, and the budget.
Screen printing is a great option for high-quantities of shirts, while DTG is suitable for small amounts.
Dye sublimation is a newer printing method that has become increasingly popular. It involves heating dye particles until they vaporize and then depositing them onto blank t-shirts.