Wearing a t-shirt with an impressive design is really cool. There are lots of different designs out there… from a simple statement shirt to couple shirts, down to extra-large skull designs. So you would ask how are they get printed?

As far as I know, there are 4 different methods: Screen Printing, Transfer Paper / Vinyl Cutout / Heat Press, Direct to Garments (DTG) and Embroidery. Here at PrintBit, we use 2 different types of t-shirt printing methods. We can print using Heat Press and Embroidery machines. We stop screen printing because of lack of space but we’re planning to offer it in the near future. As of now, we still don’t have a Direct to Garments Machine (DTG) but I’m planning to build one because branded DTG printers are very expensive.

Here’s a brief definition of each method:

1. Screen Printing / Silk Screen Printing
Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. A fill blade or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink into the mesh openings for transfer by capillary action during the squeegee stroke. Basically, it is the process of using a stencil to apply ink onto another material.

Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance. Ink is forced into the mesh openings by the fill blade or squeegee and onto the printing surface during the squeegee stroke. It is also known as silkscreen, serigraphy, and serigraph printing. A number of screens can be used to produce a multicolored image.

2. Heat Press Printing
Heat press printing is a technique that uses a machine engineered to imprint a design or graphic using a transfer paper. The design is printed on a transfer paper using an ordinary desktop printer with pigment inks. Heat and pressure are applied for a preset period of time. The advantage of this method is that the number of colors is unlimited. You can print anything from a photo down to images with gradients and shadings. Unlike the screen printing method wherein the number of colors are limited.

3. Direct to Garment Printing (DTG)
This method uses a DTG printer. The printer prints directly to the t-shirt. This allows you to print in full colors including white ink. This printer is just like your desktop printer. Instead of feeding bond papers, you feed t-shirts. As of now, we are not yet offering this method to our customers.

4. Embroidery

Embroidery is the handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with needle and thread or yarn. With the advancement of technology, embroidery can now be done using machines. Contemporary embroidery is stitched with a computerized embroidery machine using patterns digitized with embroidery software.  Different types of “fills” add texture and design to the finished work. Machine embroidery is used to add logos and monograms to business shirts or jackets, gifts, and team apparel as well as to decorate household linens, draperies, and decorator fabrics that mimic the elaborate hand embroidery of the past.

So what method is the best? It depends on many factors like the number of t-shirts to be printed, the complexity of the design, the lead time, your budget and etc… There are advantages and disadvantages on each method. I will not elaborate on them.

Thank you for reading! Have a good one! 😉

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