The T Shirt Screen Printing Process, Part 2: T Shirt Printing Methods


This is a continuation of Part One of The T Shirt Screen Printing Process.

Nowadays, there are a number of ways one can transfer designs onto clothes, such as t shirt screen printing, digital printing, vinyl, and heat transfer. Screen printing is the oldest method of placing designs on cloth though, and people can use this technique to design their own shirts at home. These four shirt printing techniques each have their own advantages and disadvantages, which are discussed below.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is also known as direct-to-garment printing (DTG), and it is the most recent method used to transfer designs onto t-shirts. This is similar to printing images on paper, except that the images (and in some cases, text) are printed on the shirt. This technique is ideal for making t-shirts that have high resolution and/or detailed designs. Although this is arguably the quickest way to print designs onto t-shirts, the quality of the design tends to be poor when transferred onto black or other dark-colored t-shirts. The design is also prone to fading and cracking.

Vinyl Printing

Vinyl printing, on the other hand, is mostly used to print patterns on sports clothes, such as jerseys and varsity shirts. This technique uses special cutters that cut the letters and designs from a sheet of vinyl. The unused vinyl is removed, while a heat press is used to place the vinyl design onto the t-shirts. Vinyl printing is a cheap way to transfer patterns onto cloth, but it is not ideal for prints that have more than two colors. The size of the prints is also limited, and it cannot transfer complicated images or patterns.

Heat Transfer

Heat transfer requires a heat press machine that irons a print directly on a shirt. Many small t shirt printing businesses use this method, which lets one apply colored prints on shirts in five minutes. However, this technique doesn’t provide high quality prints; the design would even wash off after some time. Just like digital printing, t-shirt prints made through heat transfer tend to crack and fade.

T Shirt Screen Printing

This technique has been around since the Song Dynasty in China, and it involves the use of screens and stencils that help transfer the design on the t-shirt. Unlike the other procedures, t shirt screen printing takes longer to finish, but it is ideal for large orders. The design is first printed onto film, which is then used as the basis for the stencils. These stencils are placed on wooden frames, and are set directly on top of the shirt. Ink is then smoothened over the stencil using a fill blade, which helps shape the print.

The t shirt screen printing process is the best way to apply prints on t-shirts. The only disadvantages of this procedure are that it takes a long time to print and can be expensive (depending on the number of stencils that need to be prepared). However, this procedure is able to produce long-lasting and high quality prints, which makes it more cost effective than shirt designs produced using the other methods listed above.


The T Shirt Screen Printing Process, Part 2: T Shirt Printing Methods was written by L. Taylor