4 Of The Most Popular Printing Method For Clothing

I have been asked more than 100 times this question: What’s the best printing for clothing?

My answer is: There is no “the best” printing method, there is only “the most suitable” printing method for your design.

In the decorated apparel world, there are too many different kinds of printing methods. It makes picking up a solution for your logo or graphic becomes a tough job.

But don’t worry now. After reading this essay, you will surly have a better understanding of printing and select the printing solution easily.

There are 4 of the most common and popular methods for printing:

Silk Screen Printing

What is it?

Silk screen printing, as known screen printing. Silk screen printing is the process of transferring the design onto a flat surface using a mesh screen, ink, and a squeegee.

It has the longest history among the other 3 as well as the most commonly used. Screen printing first appeared in a recognizable form in China during the Song Dynasty.

How does it work?

  1. Make mesh screen for the design
  2. Put fabric or clothing on the flat printing bed
  3. Place the mesh screen above the fabric and then add some ink on the mesh screen. Use a squeegee to scrape back and forth for 2 or 3 times. Ink will seep onto the fabric through holes of the mesh screen.
  4. Wait for dry or oven dry.
silk screen printing

What types of designs work the best with screen printing?

· Simple and solid graphic without tiny details, such as words and symbols.

Because it is very difficult to make sure small details print correctly, clear and neat during printing. Ink may mix up if your design is too complicated or with too tiny details.

· Designs with just a few different colors.

Since each color is printed one after one and the printer needs to make different mesh screens for each color. So the more color of your design, the more time-consuming, the more expensive cost.

Sometimes a complicated and colorful silk screen printing graphic will be an even higher cost than DTG printing.

silk screen printing logos

DTG Printing

What is it?

DTG printing, its full name is director to garment printing. It is a process of using a printing machine to apply your design to clothing or fabric.

DTG printing is a new technique and widely used in recent years.

How does it work?

 DTG printing process is quite similar like you print at home.

  1. Upload the printing design to the DTG printing software on the computer.
  2. Put the t-shirt on the DTG printing board and make sure it is smooth without any wrinkle.
  3. Turn on the printer and then you just need to wait for about 1minute. The graphic comes out.
dtg printing machine

What Type of Designs Work The Best on DTG Printing?

Any type of design can be printed by DTG printer. Not much limited like silk screen printing. But one thing that need to take consider is the cost. DTG printing is much more expensive than silk screen printing.

So normally we only do DTG printing for the very complicated designs and full printing design. If silk screen printing works, we won’t consider doing DTG printing.

DTG printing

Dye Sublimation Printing

What is it?

It is a printing technique that uses heat to transfer dye graphic onto special paper and then heat transfer graphic from paper to fabric.

How does it work?

The Dye-sublimation printing process is just like DTG printing. But one more step since sublimation printing can not apply to fabric directly.

  1. Upload the printing design to the sublimation printing software on the computer.
  2. Use sublimation printer to print out the graphic design on transfer paper.
  3. Put the transfer paper on the surface of the fabric
  4. Send transfer paper and fabric into the heat press machine.
subimation printing machine

What Type of Designs Work The Best on DTG Printing?

Like DTG printer, sublimation printer can print any kind of design.

But sublimation printing has a fatal shortcoming. It can be only applied to polyester fabric. So sublimation printing normally uses for sports clothing like dry-fit t-shirts and fishing shirts and full printing t-shirts.

With such a big limitation, why sublimation printing still so popular? Since it is much cheaper than DTG printing and color is more vivid than DTG printing.

Also, sublimation printing color can last forever no matter how you wash it.

Sublimation printing Sleeveless T-Shirt With Floral

Heat transfer vinyl printing

What is it?

Heat transfer vinyl is a vinyl material that contains a heat-activated adhesive on its backside. You can consider it as a plastic sticker with a very strong adhesive that can be stick on clothing firmly.

heat transfer printing carrier sheet

How does it work?

  1. Set Temperature
  2. Place the fabric on the plate of the heat press machine
  3. Put the plastic carrier sheet (with the vinyl design on it) above the fabric
  4. Press & heat for about 8-12 seconds.
  5. Peel the plastic sheet on the surface of the vinyl print.
heat transfer printing workflow

What Type of Designs Work The Best on DTG Printing?

It is most commonly used for promotional t-shirts and tagless on the back neck of t-shirts.

heat transfer printing on clothing

If you have a complicated graphic design but DTG printing is not affordable for you. Then heat transfer printing is the best choice for you. It is just one-third the price of DTG printing or even less.

If you have a label design need to print on the garment directly. There are 2 solutions, silk screen printing, and heat transfer printing.

Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, silk screen printing is not very suitable for tiny and detailed designs as the ink may mess up a little if the space between elements is too small. Then the printing comes out not clear and neat enough.

Heat transfer printing solves this problem perfectly. Even printing letter is just 3mm big and with just 1mm space between each letter. Heat transfer printing results in high quality. Completely clean and clear just like it is printed by the inkjet printer.

Anyway, every coin has two sides. So does heat transfer printing.

The lifespan of heat transfer printing is the shortest compare with the other 3 printing methods. After wash for about 6-8 times, you will find the printing is wrinkled a bit. Keep washing, printing probably peels off from the clothing. If your printing is just some small words, it will fade even faster. That’s why it is commonly used for promotional t-shirts because you won’t wear it a few times. And tagless is not that important for clothing after wear several times.

I hope you have a better understanding of the 4 mainstream printing techniques now. If you have a design but not sure which method to use or any other problem with printing. Welcome to leave your comment or contact me directly.


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