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Types of T-Shirt Printing: Best Suggestions by Apparel Manufacturers for Your Business

Updated: Apr 23




Are you starting a new t-shirt business but feeling lost about which t-shirt printing method to choose? Do you wonder which method will work best for your budget? If so, you're not alone. These are common questions that anyone starting a clothing line with t-shirts would ask the apparel manufacturers. 


T-shirts are popular and very common clothing items and there are multiple ways to create the desired t-shirt prints. Each printing method comes with its advantages and drawbacks. 


In this blog post, we'll explore various printing methods perfect for t-shirt printing and help you choose the best one for your clothing line.


Criteria for Selecting T-shirt Printing Method


We're fortunate to have a variety of printing methods available today, offering versatility to meet various needs and ensuring top-notch quality. Here's what you should consider:


Compatibility with T-shirt Fabric


Different printing methods work best with specific fabrics. For instance, dye sublimation may not be suitable for thick cotton shirts. So, before choosing a method, ensure it aligns with the fabric type you're using.


Cost of the Printing Method


Printing costs can vary significantly. There are multiple budget-friendly options available for those with tight financial constraints. If opting for the in-house printing method, make sure to add the additional cost of printing equipment and other supplies. Afterwards, utilize a profit margin calculator to estimate your total revenue.


Speed of Production


Whether you're printing a small batch or thousands of shirts, the production speed significantly matters. Some methods fit well for quick turnaround, while others are better suited for mass production. We as professional apparel manufacturers suggest you check the specifications to match your production needs. Consulting with your clothing suppliers will create strong partnerships with them, streamlining the production process in future.


Apparel Manufacturers’ Choice: T-shirt Printing Methods


There are several t-shirt printing methods available that are being used by clothing manufacturers. Some of them use conventional printing methods, however, with the advancement in technology, some digital methods have also been introduced lately. 


The following are the four common types of t-shirt printing methods used in the clothing industry.


1. Screen Printing



Screen printing, also referred to as silkscreen, stands out as a popular choice for printing on shirts. This method involves using a mesh screen stencil to apply ink onto the fabric, resulting in vibrant and durable designs on various materials.


Special screen printing inks, thicker than those used in other techniques, ensure long-lasting and vivid prints. While screen printing may not be as suitable for intricate designs with numerous colors, it excels in producing high-quality prints with fewer colors.


Advantages


  • Vibrant prints as ink deeply penetrate fibers.

  • Fast printing process for bulk t-shirt orders.

  • Versatile, and suitable for various materials including polyester.

  • Long-lasting prints withstand numerous wash cycles without fading.


Drawbacks


  • Limited printing area for shirt designs.

  • Potential for ink spillage, leading to messiness.


2. Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing



The DTG (Direct-to-Garment) printing method stands out as one of the top choices for printing on cotton shirts. It employs an inkjet printer to directly print artwork onto the fabric, resulting in high-quality, full-color prints, perfect for intricate designs or photos.


While the initial investment in DTG printers can be significant, they prove cost-effective for small batches since there are no setup costs involved. Apparel manufacturers find this method suitable for printing a few shirts at a time, as it prints directly onto the fabric without any intermediary steps.


Advantages


  • Ideal for detailed prints.

  • Quick production turnaround.

  • Seamless integration of ink into the fabric, results in a smooth texture.


Drawbacks


  • Best suited for only 100% cotton shirts or blends.

  • DTG prints may fade over time with washing.

  • Limited printing area.


3. Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing



This technique, widely favored for its versatility, employs specialized software alongside a vinyl cutter to precisely cut designs as needed. The process involves applying stickers onto the garment using a heat press. 


While multiple colors can be layered to achieve vibrant designs, it's worth noting that this method isn't as flexible as screen printing. However, vinyl stickers offer softness on the garment, excellent fade resistance, and prevent cracking through the print.


Advantages


  • Excellent fade resistance.

  • No cracking in the print.

  • High durability.


Drawbacks


  • Requires unique software.

  • Less flexible compared to screen printing.

  • Requires specialized equipment such as Heat Transfer machines and vinyl cutters.


4. Dye Sublimation Printing



Dye sublimation, also known as all-over printing (AOP), is preferred for its ability to cover all areas of a shirt, including seams and other intricate details. Unlike DTG and silkscreen printing, which target specific areas, dye sublimation applies ink uniformly across the entire garment. Many apparel manufacturers prefer the dye sublimation method for synthetic fabrics like polyester because it yields excellent results.


The process involves three steps: The t-shirt design is created in the digital image file and then a reverse image is printed on the transfer paper by using a specialized printer. The transfer paper is then pressed onto the shirt, heating it under pressure to a gaseous state, and then cooling it. This way the design is transferred to the t-shirt.


Advantages


  • Allows for printing all over the t-shirt.

  • The ink blends seamlessly into the fabric, resulting in a smooth finish.

  • Designs are durable, and resistant to fading and peeling.


Drawbacks


  • Not suitable for cotton or dark-colored shirts.

  • Tends to be more expensive compared to other printing methods.

Conclusion


It is essential to choose the right t-shirt printing method for your business, as it can have a significant impact on your operations, profitability, and overall business model. To make the most informed decision, it is crucial to compare all the available printing methods and consider their pros and cons.


If you find it challenging to determine the best option for your business, don't worry. Contact Lydia Design Studio, and our expert apparel manufacturers will help you navigate all the important factors that may affect your business outcomes. With our assistance, you will be able to choose the best printing method for your t-shirt business that will not only impress your customers but yourself as well.


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