Types of T-shirt Printing

T-Shirts are one of the most popular clothing items for printing on and provide you with a blank canvas for your art or designs. It is one of the most common garment printing, and you can find shirts in all shapes and sizes from newborn to adult and a huge range from top brand names to budget versions. Shirts offer a huge variety of options, including standard flat printing, direct-to-garment printing, and more. T-shirt printing is something you can do quickly, easily, and relatively cheaply once you have the proper tools and equipment. Understanding what options are available for t-shirt printing is essential for anyone who wants to create their t-shirt designs. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most important aspects of each kind of printing process so you can make sure you get the right types of t-shirt printing for your project or business.

T-Shirts printing is a method of decorating t-shirts with ink, dye, or paint. If you are interested in this field, you should learn about its types because there are various types of T-shirt Printing that you should be aware of before going to the printing process. There are numerous t-shirt printing techniques that you could use to get the job done. Whether you are printing for your local family reunion or your business, picking a shirt printing method will depend on the quality and quantity you need.

What Are the Types of Printing on T-shirts?

The advantage of t-shirt printing is that you can do so in several ways, such as applying ink directly onto the fabric, printing on a transfer or paper that attaches to the fabric, or even cutting out vinyl that fits nicely on a shirt’s fabric.

All methods require some specialized supplies and equipment. For some methods, industrial technologies are necessary, but for others, craft supplies are sufficient. As a result, some types of printing may require a relatively high start-up cost. It is also important to remember that some methods work best on specific fabrics, such as polyester or cotton.

Additionally, you’ll get better results if you can handle large batches of shirts at once, rather than printing just one or two shirts at a time. This article describes the types of t-shirt printing with the process in more detail.

Types of T-shirt Printing

T-shirt printing is an art better experienced than described. So, take a look at the list of types of T-shirt printing and make the most of your custom T-shirts.

1. Screen Printing

Male worker pressing ink on frame

There are several different types of t-shirt printing, but screen printing is the most high-quality. It also allows the most artistic freedom. Additionally, screen printing is the oldest printing method!

The process of screen printing begins with creating a negative of the design. Once the screen is ready, you need to roll plastisol ink over it and press it to the shirt. As a result, the ink passes through the stenciled negative space, creating a printed image on the shirt.

With special chemicals, you can create photorealistic stencils on screens for quite complex screen prints. If you have a Cricut, you can make a stencil for the screen and print it in a very basic format.

Professionals and DIY artists both use screen printing because of its many advantages. Firstly, it creates designs that are very vibrant and durable. Ink soaks into the fabric, making this more durable than HTV designs even though they look raised and slightly stiff.

Second, you can reuse the screen you laboriously set up for the first shirt for bulk orders of the same shirt.

Additionally, screen printing can be done on all fabrics, including silk, cotton, and polyester.

This popular method is not without its drawbacks, however. To align the screen with the shirt, you need much equipment, such as a screen and a press. To make complicated designs, you need to work with special chemicals.

Lastly, screen printing designs tend to work best with one to three colors because each color has to be added one screen at a time.

2. Direct To Garment (DTG) Technique

DTG printer printing on fabric

Our next option is Direct to Garment printing for t-shirts. The t-shirt printing industry is relatively new to DTG, abbreviated as DTG.

DTG is an Inkjet printing technology capable of printing high-quality, full-color photographs directly onto clothing. Design and artwork considered too complex for screen printing, or when only a few colors are needed, DTG Printing is the way to go. Color mixing capabilities of DTG machines enable them to print even the smallest details.

DTG Printing is also suitable when printing just a few t-shirts (1-5) at a time. DTG Printing makes it easy for anyone to print on shirts since they need to place the blank tee into the machine. For example, screen printing is a laborious, time-consuming process for printing t-shirts.

3. Cad Cut Vinyls

printing using vinyls

T-shirts with logos, numbers, and names can look great with this technology due to its sustainability. The printing process is inexpensive and quick.

Using a vinyl cutter, you can create a unique piece of clothing and eventually have T-shirts printed. You can choose matt or glossy vinyl when cutting the design. There are many different types of vinyl patterns and prints available. Equipment required for this method includes a cutter or plotter, vinyl material, and heat press.

This process involves cutting a special vinyl into a shape or design then placing it on a t-shirt using heat. If you want to make the most of this t-shirts printing technique, you should use an iron box.

Printing your designs in different colors is possible by using layers. It’s great for designing t-shirts, slogans, sportswear, and small graphics. Although, cutting out designs one after another takes a considerable amount of time. For this reason, it would make sense to use a printing and design hub to print t-shirts.

4. Heat Transfer Printing

Man Printing On T-Shirt

An easy way to understand how Heat Transfer Printing works is to lay transfer sheets over garments and then heat press them to apply graphics to the fabrics permanently.

The first step in the printing process is to digitally print out the desired graphic using solvent ink on special heat transfer paper. Heat press machines can transfer designs from paper to t-shirts using ink of this type.

Heat transfer printing is an excellent method because it works with different materials and fabrics, is almost mess-free, and requires minimal maintenance. There are several types of heat transfer printing so that it can get a bit confusing, but no worries, we are laying it all out for you here:

With minor differences, dye sublimation and heat press printing work similarly. The process is most suitable for small quantities. You can play around with your designs using this if you want.

A major benefit of it is that it can replicate highly complex designs. Using this method, you will make a nice, soft shirt with a striking design that will last. For the desired result, you have the option to utilize the entire spectrum of colors.

To print on shirts, transfer paper is essential. Using heat and pressure, you can extract the design from the paper and reproduce it on the shirt.

Then you need to peel off the excess dye and remove the transfer paper. This is a fairly straightforward procedure. This replication technique is also useful for decorating ceramics, which is interesting.

This printing method is especially advantageous for home production because it is economical. It has no limitations in design, and the quality stays high for any design.

With this method as well, lighter fabrics work best. Low heat-sensitivity fabrics are also not suitable.

Before decorating your shirt, ensure that you have reviewed the care and specifications.

5. Sublimation Printing

Source: Coastalbusiness.com

Printing on polyester materials with sublimation is the best professional solution. In contrast, cotton and other fabrics with natural fibers do not work with this method. Using heat, this cool method bonds the dye to the fabric by turning it into a gas. However, it is costly.

Synthetic materials such as polyester can be printed with sublimation printing for soft, permanent designs. This unique way of adhering to the fabric allows the cloth to breathe rather than creating a thick coating. Sublimation designs are less likely to crack or peel off the cloth.

This technique has a disadvantage in that it is expensive. A large business can take advantage of this process more cost-effectively than a home or a small enterprise. Sublimation is not possible on cotton t-shirts.

6. Dye-Sublimation Printing

Heat transfer printing is increasingly popular in the form of dye-sublimation printing. This procedure involves the transfer of dye from one t-shirt to another by using digital printing and heat.

With dye-sublimation printing, instead of using heat-transfer ink, dye-based ink melts to form a gas. Dyes-based inks turn from solid to gas to solid to gas again because of heat, pressure, and time. Because the gas is integrated into the polyester, it becomes part of the fabric rather than an addition.

For the printing of all-over designs, sublimation is a particularly popular technique. In contrast to screen and DTG printing, dye-sublimation printing produces an allover print effect. It is possible to create unique t-shirts using an all-over print on t-shirts.

7. Plastisol Transfer Printing

Screenprinting and Plastisol Transfer Printing use the same process, except that first ink-jet prints are made on plastisol transfer paper, which then uses heat press the design onto the t-shirt.

Using this method of custom t-shirt printing, as you may have inferred, t-shirt entrepreneurs can outsource part of their business if they wish. The plastisol transfer paper you need can be ordered by sending your designs to companies who will print them on high-quality paper and ship them to you. After receiving the designs, you can apply the designs to t-shirts yourself using a heat press.

8. Discharge Printing

Source: Sosopoetry.blogspot.com

There aren’t many discharge printing shops, but they produce unique t-shirts. Rather than applying color, discharge printing removes it. By protecting the design portion of the shirt with a stencil, the printer can bleach the rest of the dye from the shirt, allowing the design to remain in color.

Create stylish vintage-looking tees at home with your friends by using this technique. One of the biggest advantages of this technique is its unique appearance.

Although this type of production method does create unique, vintage-style t-shirts, it is time-consuming and costly, so it has not become quite as popular among professionals as it once was.

9. Belt Printing

Source: Pacificsplash.com

It’s a screen printing process that comes out big and bold all over the tee, even on the sides. In this printing method, the t-shirt can be printed on all sides or both sides at once with belt screen printing equipment. Despite the beauty and coverage offered by this process, it is not popular due to the cost of the equipment used.

10. Hand and Spray Painting, Airbrushing

Source: Pinterest.com

In the era of technology, we mainly use machines to print on fabric. But it’s still important to remember the old-fashioned process of T-shirt printing. This is a method hobbyists prefer because it provides a lot of freedom for experimentation and creative expression. However, as with any art, you need to have some skills to achieve a successful result.

This is possibly the simplest method of printing. Suppose you want to color your shirts. You can experiment with different methods. It’s very important to make sure that your shirt is of high quality and go with certain colors in advance. If you choose this option, make sure to use high-quality paint.

There is no real confusion with the process – either the color is directly applied to the shirt, or the spray is sprayed on. To ensure that it’s completely dry, wait a while after you’ve finished painting. Since many of them will fade away after a while, the issue is the durability of the colors.

If you want to have unique clothing, this might be an excellent choice for artists. You have to be patient because sometimes the results might not be as you expected, but it’s also part of the fun. It’s generally considered very relaxing by many people, so you might want to give it a go if that’s what you need.

11. Stenciling

Source: Stencil1.com

You can stencil t-shirts at home with the most basic techniques. You can use hand tools to cut stencils out or more advanced tools like a Cricut to cut out digital designs electronically. After applying dye to the stencil, you can create a design or logo on the shirt!

Professional stencilers often employ more advanced methods in screen printing. If you want to make a few fun shirts for your family, you can do this with really simple tools at home!

The advantage of stenciling is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want. There is no need for fancy equipment or technology. Heat setting fabric designs with a heat press usually result in more permanent results, but you don’t have to use a heat press.

This method is suitable for personal use, but you won’t get the professional look needed if you intend to sell the shirts.

Criteria for Choosing Types of T-shirt Printing

Fortunately, there are many printing options available today. The method you choose will depend on your requirements, and it will ensure the highest possible level of quality.

It would be best if you considered the following factors.

Type of Fabric

Sublimation printing, for example, only works on polyester. Several other printing methods require specific fabric types to function. Additionally, any printing process that involves high heat, such as heat press printing or transfer printing, will only be effective on durable fabrics such as cotton, which can withstand high temperatures.

Additionally, it can apply some methods to fabrics of almost any type. The most common ones are screenprinting and stenciling.

Design Options

DTG, sublimation, and heat press printing are some printing methods you can use to create highly complex designs.

However, there are other methods you can use to design more elaborate or complex designs. The DTG process works by printing the image directly onto the fabric, unlike screen printing, which requires specialized equipment.

Printing techniques like HTV or screen printing, which work one color at a time, are usually limited to 1, 2, or 3 color designs.

Complexity

A high skill level is required to complete sublimation, screen printing, and airbrushing. Nevertheless, you can do airbrushing and screen printing at home using a simpler method. A process such as DTG is also quite simple to operate but requires a lot of complex technology.

Whether you are working on a commercial scale or not, each technique has varying levels of complexity.

Quality

Polyester shirts will look best with a sublimation method, while cotton shirts can be made to look best with screen printing. Designs with a retro look are usually made using an HTV method or discharge printing.

Nevertheless, design quality depends on many factors, such as the artist’s skill and even the shirt’s fabric quality! All of the methods described in this article can help develop a high-quality t-shirt design under the right circumstances.

Durability

Sublimation and screen printing are two printing methods that offer extremely durable prints. Many designers prefer these processes because dyes soak into the fabric or bond with it during screen or sublimation printing.

The raised fabric design usually does not last quite as long as one that is resting on the surface, as it can crack and peel over time. HTV designs made from high-quality materials should last very long, so they are also quite durable!

Technology

DTG and sublimation printing is commercial printing methods that utilize advanced technology. Many methods work well when you can use a graphic design system to create your original designs to use advanced technology with virtually any printing method.

You may also use more advanced techniques with screen printing or HTV designs if you would like to make the design more elaborate and complex. Alternatively, you can use one screen and a Cricut at home if you want to keep things simple. Your choices will depend on how much technology you wish to use.

Time

It usually takes the shortest amount of time to print a design on T-shirts with methods like Direct to Garment (DTG) and Heat Transfer. Often, the longest processes involve screen printing and layering colors one by one.

On the other hand, a method must also create multiple shirts. Setting up screen printing takes all day, but once you’re done, you can easily print duplicates of a design!

Cost

On average, DIY t-shirt printing like stencilers is the cheapest, while commercial t-shirt printing types like discharge and DTG printing are the most expensive.

You should take both the start-up cost and the cost per shirt in selecting a method. This article discusses some methods that require expensive equipment. However, once you have access to that equipment, you can make a shirt for a meager price!

Final Words

Hopefully, this article has helped demystify the different types of printing styles available for you. As we mentioned earlier, there are many different things to consider when working on a print job. These things will affect your price as well.

With that said, there’s more to a print job than just these things. The same type of shirt being printed on will also affect the price and quality of your print job. We hope that this guide has given you the information you need to choose the right types of t-shirt printing for your next project.

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About Tom

Tom is a blogger and artist who also loves technology. He spends his days blogging about the latest developments in the world of art, and he enjoys sharing his thoughts with readers on what it means to be an artist today. Tom has always been interested in technology - but it wasn't until he was 13 years old that he discovered how much fun making websites could be! Tom is a fun-loving, adventure seeking creative type. He enjoys reviewing art products and technology gadgets on his blog and has been doing so for over 5 years now! He spends most of his time in the studio, at the beach, or out exploring new places.

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