There are many different printing methods that are available for those who wish to print T-shirts. Certain techniques are best suited for certain fabrics, while others may be preferable for low or high-volume print jobs.
Even the number of colours in the design will have a significant impact on the T-shirt printing method that you wish to use. Here, we will go over some of the most popular T-shirt printing methods that you should know about.
Screen-printing is the most well known of all of the printing techniques in the industry. Screen-printing has been used for several decades, and can be performed either by hand or machine.
The inks that are used in screen-printing are quite special, as they are thicker than many of the other inks in the industry. Thanks to their additional thickness, they are able to provide colours that really pop with vibrancy.
The thicker ink also means that the colours will last longer, which is something that many T-shirt consumers look for. Low-quality inks can be used, but they tend to fade much faster. As well, have a strange texture that may be off-putting to some.
One of the biggest benefits of the screen-printing method is that it is very cost-efficient. It is possible to print anywhere from 250 to 550 T-shirts with a single gallon of screen-printing ink.
Screen-printing ink gets absorbed quite deeply, so you can enjoy optimal durability and unrivalled brightness and vividness in your colours. Once you have set up everything, you will be able to print vast quantities of T-shirts of the same design in rapid succession. Also, when you use the correct amalgam of fabric screens and inks, it will be compatible with almost all fabrics.
Screen-printing is not perfect, however. It can be quite messy, especially if you are working from home. Spillage is common, so it is something to be aware of. Setting up a print-area to work with may be an issue for smaller establishments, as ample space will be needed.
The space that is used must be very dark and dust-free, as the inks and screens will need to be preserved for a long time. Limited artwork placement is also a downside, and the steep learning curve involved may be too much for newcomers.
Direct-to-garment printing (DTG) is an inkjet-based technology that is considered state-of-the-art in the printing industry. This top-of-the-line technology is able to produce full-colour and high-quality photographic prints with ease.
When a piece of artwork or a design is considered too difficult for other printing techniques, DTG is often employed to solve the problem. For example, screen-printing is best suited for designs that only have 2 or 3 colours. As for DTG printing machines, they can print very tiny details, as their color mixing potential is substantial.
You can print as many colours as you want without any restrictions. Set-up times are also quite low when compared to screen-printing. You can have a T-shirt printed in as little as half an hour with DTG printing.
As well, since ink cartridges are used for DTG printing, you don’t really have to worry about making a mess. The machinery is relatively small, which allows for more mobility for your business. The machines used will also inject the ink directly into the T-shirt fabric. This means that you won’t feel the print when you touch or caress the T-shirt.
DTG printing is not perfect though. For instance, it is best suited for T-shirts that are 100% cotton. The less cotton the shirt has, the less vivid the colours will be. The machines, however, tend to be very expensive, which can be too much for startups. The colours also tend to wash out over time, so DTG printing is not recommended if durability is your top priority.
Similar to screen-printing, limited artwork placement is a drawback. Your costs will also increase over time, as DTG machines will need to be maintained and possibly repaired on a periodic basis.
Dye-sublimation printing is a commonly used variation of heat transfer printing. Graphics are printed digitally before they are heated in order to transfer the dyes onto the shirt. Dye-sublimation printing, as the name implies, uses dye-based inks. The ink is transformed from a solid to a gaseous state when exposed to intense heat. Using time, pressure, and heat, the ink will go from solid to gas, and then back to a solid state.
What is highly interesting about dye-sublimation printing is that the gas becomes one with the material. It is not merely a layer on top, but becomes a part of the material itself.
The biggest pro of dye-sublimation printing is that the prints are designed to last a very long time, as they will not deteriorate, crack, fade, or peel. It is also breathable, and feels quite soft when touched. However, dye-sublimation printing does have some cons. For example, it is not cheap, and it only works with T-shirts that are polyblend-based.
An increased poly-count will lead to more vibrant colours in the end. Creases and folds are also something to be wary of, as the area under the T-shirt sleeves will remain undyed.
As can be seen, there are many different printing techniques to choose from. We have only touched the surface here, so you should consult with a printing expert in order to determine the best printing method for your business.
If you would like to learn more about digital textile printing, then please visit Club Ink at our website. We provide digital textile printing services, and produce custom signs, posters, textiles, banners, displays, and decals. We specialize in large format printing and textiles, and have over three decades of experience as a digital printing company in North America.
To learn more about our leading-edge digital textile printing services, please give us a call at 416-694-1996.