The Ultimate Guide to the 5 most common T-Shirt Printing Techniques

What are the Types of T-shirt Printing Techniques?

Today, there is a growing trend for personalized products, such as custom T-shirts. There are various methods for T-shirt printing, including the following five categories: 

  • Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing
  • Screen Printing 
  • Sublimation Printing 
  • DTF (Direct to Film) Printing 
  • Vinyl Transfer Printing

This article will provide an in-depth introduction to the different types of T-shirt printing methods. If you are interested in starting a T-shirt printing business, you can learn more from our article.

 

How do those t-shirt Printing Techniques Work?

  •  Direct-to-garment printing

What is DTG Printing

Direct to garment printing is a modern textile printing technology that uses a digital printer to print images directly on the fabric. This technology makes the printing process faster and more flexible, while also providing more design options.

DTG Printing

DTG Printing Processes

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the DTG printing process:

  • Step 1: Prepare the fabric or material to be printed by pre-treating the necessary areas. The pre-treatment tool can be used manually or automatically. Manual options commonly include an electric air spray gun, or a more automated pre-treatment device.
  • Step 2: Dry the pre-treated material using a heat press or a tunnel dryer.
  • Step 3: Place the fabric on the printer platen, import the design file into the printer software, and the DTG Printer begins printing.
  • Step 4: Transfer the printed material from the printer to a heating device, such as a heat press or tunnel dryer. Apply heat at 160 degrees Celsius for 30 seconds (specific time and temperature settings may vary depending on the material and desired press effect).

             Following these steps will help achieve high-quality DTG printing results.

  • Screen Printing

What Is Screen Printing

Screen printing, also known as screen printing, is a printing technique that uses a mesh as a template to create printed designs. The grid is prepared with photosensitive emulsion to produce a screen with the desired image or text. The principle of screen printing is that ink can pass through the mesh corresponding to the intended pattern, while areas without the pattern block the ink and prevent it from transferring to the substrate. A squeegee is then used to press the ink through the holes onto the material to be printed. This method is commonly used for printing on T-shirts, posters, signs, and a variety of other products.

screen printing

Screen Printing Process

  • Step 1. Making screen plate: Design the desired printing pattern or text according to customer requirements, transfer the design draft onto the screen plate, generally using light-sensitive materials, and expose the design onto the screen plate through an exposure device.
  • Step 2. Plate making: After exposure, perform plate washing and fixing treatment to wash away the unnecessary parts and leave the ink-permeable parts.
  • Step 3. Ink color matching: Prepare the corresponding color ink according to the printing requirements.
  • Step 4. Printing: Install the prepared screen plate onto the printing machine, adjust the printing machine parameters such as pressure, speed, temperature, etc., and start printing the required materials.
  • Step 5. Post-processing: After printing is completed, carry out necessary post-processing procedures such as drying and solidification.

 

  • Dye Sublimation printing

What is Sublimation Printing

Dye sublimation is a printing technique that uses special sublimation dyes printed onto transfer paper. The printed design is then transferred to fabric or ceramic using heat and pressure. During the transfer process, the dye sublimates into a gas that penetrates the surface of the substrate and cures, resulting in high-quality, permanent, and vibrant prints. This method is often used to create colorful and intricate designs for custom apparel, sports team jerseys, and promotional items.

sublimation printing

Processes of Sublimation Printing

  •  Step 1: Create a design using professional graphic design software to produce images or text.
  • Step 2: Load sublimation transfer paper into the sublimation printer. Upload your design to the software and print it directly onto the paper, which has a coating to help the ink adhere to the fabric.
  • Step 3: Prepare the material by ensuring the surface is clean and free of any dirt or lint. For fabric requirements, it is usually necessary to use a high polyester content for the best results.
  • Step 4: Use a heat press or a rotary heat transfer machine (used for roll-to-roll or bulk production of large cut pieces). Load the paper and the fabric (white fabric) into the rotary heat transfer machine. The high temperature can reach up to 200°C through the roller. At the end of the machine, after the transfer process is complete, allow the substrate to cool, then carefully remove the transfer paper, revealing the vibrant and durable design.
  • Step 5: Print the fabric or clothing pieces and trim or sew them into the final products.

 

  • Direct to Film Printing

What is DTF Printing

Direct-to-film printing (DTF) is a digital printing technology that prints designs directly onto a special film, which is then transferred to textiles or other substrates to achieve pattern transfer. This method can achieve high-definition, colorful, and diverse printing effects.

DTF Printing

What Are The Processes Of DTF

  •  step 1. Prepare the DTF Film (which is PET film that has coating layers). you will need a DTF printing machine to proceed.  load the design and print cmyk+w on the film.  the white layer is always on the top layer of the CMYK colors layer. 
  • Step 2. If it’s a roll-to-roll type DTF printer, the film will go through the power shaking machine. which hot melt adhesive powder will be shaken off and stick on the printed ink designs.  power shaker has a heating belt system which is to be cured /dried. 160~170C for 2~3mins depending on the film drying status. 
  • Step 3. Cut off the design from the heated film. 
  • Step 4. The garment is placed on to heat press machine, and print film printed surface contact with garment.  transfer the print by heat pressing.  the press heating time for 15~20 seconds at 160~170C. 
  • Step 5. Peel off the film.  it must cool down to room temperature before one pulls the film off
  • Step 6. Post pressing.    Press again for 10~15 seconds, to achieve high performance in washing and rub fastness.   ( this is an optional step, the customer could consider what to do or not to do)

 

  • Heat transfer vinyl printing

What is Vinyl Transfer Printing

Vinyl transfer printing is a special printing technology that uses vinyl material to transfer patterns from a special carrier to textiles or other materials. This method can produce rich colors and patterns and is often used in the printing and processing of clothing, packaging, and other products.

Vinyl printing

Vinyl transfer Printing Processes 

  • Step 1. Create your design
  • Step 2. Load heat transfer vinyl into inkjet printer and print
  • Step 3. Cutting the design, which can be manually cut off using an HTV cutting machine may be more efficient.  
  • Step 4. Peel the excess vinyl you don’t need to be transferred onto the garment. 
  • Step 5. use a heat transfer machine to heat press and peel off the vinyl after cooling down. 

 

Each Printing techniques Pros and Cons

Different printing methods have their advantages and disadvantages, which can be summarized in the table below based on factors such as minimum order quantity, color limitations, print size, fabric restrictions, etc.

Comparison chart

DTGSCREENSUBLIMATIONSUBLIMATION(cut and sew)DTFVINYL
UnitsNo minimum50-25000+No minimum50-25000+No minimumNo minimum
Colorsfull color1-6colorsfull colorfull colorfull color1-2colors
Print Size40*50cm40*50cmall over printall over print40*50cm40*50cm
FabricCotton(80%cotton or  more)Cotton/PolyesterPolyesterPolyesterNot limitedNot limited
Fabric ColorAnyAnyWhiteWhiteAnyAny
FinishHigh Quality

Soft feel

Vibrant

High Quality

Durable

Vibrant

High Quality

Durable

Vibrant

High Quality

Durable

Vibrant

High Quality

Durable

Vibrant

High Quality

Durable

Vibrant

TurnaroundFASTLONG TIMEFASTLONG TIMEFASTFAST

t-shirt Printing techniques

What is the Best T-shirt Printing Method? 

What’s the best way to print t-shirts? Through the introduction and explanation of the above five printing methods, we believe you have a certain understanding of these printing methods. There is no one-size-fits-all best approach, but find the one that best suits your needs, taking into account factors such as print volume, quality, and budget. 

DTG is great for detailed, colorful designs on cotton, but can be more expensive for larger orders.  Which is more suitable for print-on-demand orders. 

Screen printing is best suited for high-volume, vibrant, long-lasting printing, making it cost-effective for bulk orders. 

Dye-sublimation is ideal for all-over printing on polyester, providing a vivid and durable effect. 

DTF printing works on different fabrics, providing bright, detailed prints.

Vinyl printing is ideal for text-based designs like sweatshirts and offers durability and design flexibility.

What Types of Printing Methods Are Available with UniPrint?

Currently, UniPrint offers solutions for three printing methods:

  •  DTG Printing
  • SUBLIMATION Printing
  • DTF Printing

 If you want to know more, you can also contact us for further consultation.

 

FAQ

What is the Most Suitable Printing Technique for Shirts?

Based on our chart, you can consider selecting the most suitable printing method based on quantity, material, quality, and budget.

if it’s polyester fabric, will suggest going with Sublimation Printing. 

considering large qty and simple designs, screen printing is a good choice.

For print-on-demand orders, DTG/DTF are both good ways. while DTG will be better for cotton fabric. and DTF is not limited to fabrics.

trust with all the above information you will find the most suitable printing method for your business. 

Which Shirt Printing Method Offers the Highest Durability?

Compared to printing color fastness, screen printing, and Sublimation transfer printing are slightly better than DTG printing

What Printing Technique is Effective for Small Businesses?

Direct-to-garment (DTG), direct-to-film (DTF) printing  & Vinyl Printing offer greater flexibility in customizing small orders, while DTG and DTF can print those complex designs with a lot of details.  Vinyl transfer is for more simple and easy graphics.  anyhow all those methods deliver high-quality low-volume products.

What types of Ink are used in Common T-Shirt Printing Techniques?

DTG uses water-based Pigment ink, DTF uses special water-based pigment ink (which is different from DTG inks), Sublimation transfer printing uses Sublimation ink, screen printing uses Plastisol ink, and vinyl printing uses special pigment ink.

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