Knowledge Base Article for 2011 …….. T Shirt Printing

Today’s t shirt printing market uses four main printing techniques to create custom t shirts. Each technique has strengths and weaknesses and we have most of them at our disposal..

Direct2Garments t shirt printing offers the value, quality and speed of service you deserve! With a minimum order of only one (1) priced from $12.00/shirt, D2G t shirt printing provides a full range of printed garments using the latest technology, able to print any possible design.

We offer an online design engine that’s perfect for creating that one-of-a-kind custom t-shirt for your sports team, job related, and more, you name it. Look to D2G t shirt printing for that perfect t-shirt gift of one or many or your order of hundreds to meet most all your needs.

Screen Printed T Shirts

Screen Printed T shirts are probably the most familiar to the t-shirt customer. These are the shirts you would probably buy at a mall outlet. The finish on these shirts is a little rough and feels rubbery because of the plastisol inks and none-contact heat tunnel curing that’s used.

Generally used for single shirt purchases, screen printed shirts don’t work well for larger quantities because each color on the shirt requires it’s own screen thereby requiring many screens for some designs. Screen printing struggles to produce sharp color shades that too often cause unsatisfactory results and unhappy customers. One instance would be a full color photograph – with screen printing, the subject would look overly tan with obvious borders where one shade ends and another begins.

With screen printing, pantone colored inks are applied to shirts (a white under-base is required on dark shirts) contrasting with digital printing where process printed colors are the only option; the pantone colors can only be guessed at.

This is not to say that screen printing isn’t of value. Screen printing excels when there is only a few number of colors to be put on a shirt and there’s high volume. In 2011, the average cost runs $50 per screen set-up add to the cost of printing the shirts, way too costly for small print runs of 50 or less. Screen printing isn’t suitable for full color designs or low volume orders.

Vinyl Transfers

Vinyl transfers are perhaps the second most popular method of t-shirt printing. Using a computer controlled cutter, a design is cut out of special vinyl. The vinyl is removed from its backing sheet and applied to the garment using a heat press.

The vinyl finish is probably the toughest of all t shirt printing methods and it’s very well suited for work wear. Manufactured in a wide variety of colors, it’s fantastic for simple solid color designs. The vinyl is placed on the shirt by hand, thus suffering from the same placement variations as transfer printing. Vinyl is not well suited to complex designs requiring small text or logos. The multicolored designs are too hard to produce usually resulting in a poor finish.

Transfer Printing

Transfer printing

Professionally produced transfers that are printed on a laser or inkjet printer and applied with a high quality heat press ensuring perfect adhesion ending with a durable as a screen printed garment.

With IMAGE CLIP for Laser and Ink Jet Heat Transfer Papers there is no background polymer window. The background polymer is removed before transfer using a laser printed negative image on plain paper.

Transfers themselves come in two flavors:

White shirts that use the white of the shirt as a backdrop (much like your home printer uses the white of the paper it prints on). Full color designs such as photos can be produced with reasonable accuracy, with low production costs. White shirt transfers use a special backing that’s pressed onto the shirt sealing the printer toner to the shirt with a waterproof, durable finish.

Dark shirt transfers aren’t able to use the color of the shirt as a backing. The transfer is applied as a rectangle sheet. As the dark transfer forms the backing of the print, the toner is exposed on the print; usually not a problem regarding durability because the toner is well bonded to the transfer and shirt during the pressing process.
Transfers are printed digitally without setup costs other than labor, meaning they are ideal for small orders –
think stag party or bachelorette shirts for the girls.

Consider transfer t shirt printing for small orders, full color images.

Sublimation T-shirt Printing

Sublimation t-shirt printing works very well in smaller print shops. The equipment is minimal with satisfactory results. There is a limitation however, sublimation printing can only be applied to white polyester t-shirts and because manufacturers have managed to produce double layer shirts having a cotton inner layer for comfort, this method is quite successful.

The shirts are generally thick and bulky, costing double the price of a standard cotton shirt. Sublimation printing reproduces full color images with fairly good color accuracy; these prints have good resistance to fading from washing.

This technique is slowly being replaced by DTG (direct to garment) t-shirt printing because of the increased flexibility of DTG t-shirt printing machinery. Sublimation printing is still a strong and preferred method for printing onto other media forms such as mouse mats, key-rings, coffee mugs, etc.

Direct to Garment

Direct to garment t-shirt printing is the newest technique for creating custom t shirts and has replaced sublimation printing as the preferred method by many companies. T-shirts are loaded onto a platen, similar to screen printing, textile inks are then physically printed onto the shirt using a dedicated ink-jet printer.

The excellence of DTG printing produces complex, full color designs onto white or dark shirts. Its fairly new technology continues to mature while produces reliable printing on white garments reasonably fast and cheap. Designs wander very little and have none of the physical setup costs of screen printing.

Dark shirts cause somewhat of a problem, similar to transfers, a white under-base needs to be created for the design to be printed onto. This is achieved by physically printing a titanium based white pigment onto the dark shirts before the designs are printed. The under-base is applied only where needed allowing for complex design creations.

Because a very tight weave of shirt is needed to accommodate the white under-base, polo shirts and some other t-shirt fabric types aren’t suitable for DTG printing. Additionally, the under-base slows down and significantly increases the cost of the print process; DTG struggles when printing large blocks of solid color, especially lighter colors and on occasion over saturates the colors.

For a fantastic new option for small runs and complex designs, DTG can’t be beat, however, because of the few problems occasionally encountered it’s best to request a test print before ordering a large run for resale.