August 30, 2015 Braj Mohan Chaturvedi

How to choose a T-shirt Printing Setup

Starting an Online/Offline T-shirt business? Here are few easy bullets to identify

a. The type of Printing that should be used for your design

b. The Setup to be implemented if building one of your own.



Also called: silk-screen, screen, serigraphy, and serigraph printing
Screen printing is a printing technique whereby a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil. One color is printed at a time, so several screens can be used to produce a multicoloured image or design.

1. Produces long lasting T-shirts
2. Cost effective for large batches, Volume discounts
3. Handmade feel
4. Can be used to print on many types of surfaces.
5. Flexible Printable area when compared to Digital Printing as screen can be made to cover the whole size of the T-shirt.  However different T-shirt sizes will affect the outcome.

1. For designs with more than four to five colors, each extra color introduces cost and time.
2. No gradient possible within the design since each color variation would require an entirely separate screen
3. Can only print simple images and designs.
4. If slight changes need to be made to design, it’s labor intensive as a new screen needs to be prepared.
5. High initial cost to setup the equipment and maintenance.

Direct to Garment printing

Also known as DTG printing, digital direct to garment printing, digital apparel printing, and inkjet to garment printing.
In direct printing, the ink is printed directly onto the t-shirt. It’s as if you customized a normal printer to accept a t-shirt instead of paper.

1. More vibrant, colorful, and detailed prints than on screenprinted products.
2. Unlike screenpriting, unlimited and gradients of colors possible
3. Quantity is not a constraint to print a t-shirt. Can print little or in bulk
4. Quick turnaround time: Design to Print
5. Digital printing technologies are non-contact, meaning that media is printed on without hand contact, allowing for a more precise image and less distortion as compared to screenprinting

1. “The Hand” (of a garment) is a common expression in the industry which refers to how a  final printed t-shirt (or product) feels to the touch, Digital Printing or D2G is not as good as Screen Printing but with technology it’s improving.
2. DTG printing on dark garments requires pre-treating the fabric in order to achieve opacity on dark garments.
3. Generally accepted that digital printing methods, though they hold up quite well, show signs of fatigue sooner than screenprinted t-shirts.
4. Higher Equipment maintenance and ink cost

Dye Sublimation – Dye sub is great for full color designs on white or light colored  garments. It has no feel to the design but is a little trickier to master than inkjet heat transfers. Also, it tends to be a bit more expensive. You can also use this process on non textile products such as mugs, mousepads, tile, puzzles, coasters, key chains, etc.
Dye sub is used only on man made fabrics like polyester (with various results on blends and pre-treated fabrics). You cannot print on 100% cotton t-shirts with dye sub.

Vinyl Cutters – Use a machine to cut out designs on special solid color sheets of vinyl. Use heat to adhere cut vinyl to adhere vinyl to paper.
Pros: high quality, durability, easily customize different shirts, great for small orders.
Cons: have to separate and cut out each color independently, doesn’t work well for designs with complex patterns or designs that show a lot of background of the shirt inside the design.

Heat Press- Print transparent inks using a computer onto a  special piece of paper. Use heat to adhere the ink and paper onto the cloth.
Pros: easy to print multi colors and complex designs, does not require different colors to be applied separately, great for small orders, easily customize different shirts.
Cons: Heavy feel of transfer, the cloth is the brightest part of the design: works well on white shirts, but doesn’t work on dark shirts, cracks, fades away easily.

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