Types of printing on T-shirts. Which to choose?

Making T-shirts with prints 

 Clothing branding is one of the most important and effective elements of corporate style in the fight to increase brand loyalty. But the stylization of branded items is far from the only scope of its application. After all, it is no less in demand among ordinary consumers, as it allows you to create unique things, form your own wardrobe and stand out.

Thanks to the constant development of technology, today the service of imprinting pictures on T-shirts is really available not only for large customers, but also for everyone. After all, the price of branding often does not exceed the cost of the thing itself. And with large circulations and sufficient terms, the release of personalized clothing is cheaper than buying sleeveless jackets with ready-made styling.

Most often, special printing methods are used to transfer photos and text to any fabric product, most of which were invented with the advent of polymerization of dyes.

Today, the following solutions are available to the consumers at Dallas t shirt printing:

  • direct application (digital printing on T-shirts);
  • with the help of an intermediate carrier (sublimation);
  • thermal application (Flock and Flex films);
  • silkscreen.

Each of these principles has its own advantages and disadvantages, and is applicable to a certain type of material. Therefore, before making a choice, it is advisable to deal with all the features of this issue.

Direct transfer to T-shirt

Direct digital printing on sweatshirts

The most modern and easiest way. The procedure is almost entirely similar to printing on paper. First, the T-shirt is placed in a specialized flatbed machine, which spills it with paint. And then the product is sent to the drying chamber, where the complete polymerization of the dye and its fixation on the plane is achieved. 

The advantages of the process include:

  1. Drawing quality. The print, transferred by direct print, easily “withstands” up to 50 washes (subject to technology) and is practically not amenable to fading under the influence of ultraviolet radiation. It is not subject to mechanical abrasion and does not deform the work surface.
  2. Big size. The dimensions of the print are limited only by the dimension of the printing press.
  3. Uniformity. Dyes are deeply absorbed into the fibers, creating an imperceptible tactile layer of drawing. In view of this, the print does not bulge or peel off, does not “scratch” and does not stick the surface into a uniform “cake”.
  4. Color. The ink mixers of the printer give out the entire palette from red to green, removing restrictions from the color layout.
  5. Ability to print on cotton fabrics of different thicknesses and densities.

  Due to the presence of White (White) ink, it became possible to print on dark materials. To obtain a color image on dark fabrics, a special primer is applied, which increases adhesion, then the image is printed with white ink in the first pass, and CMUK (all other colors) is applied to the white base. As a result, you get a bright and colorful print on black / dark t-shirts. But at the same time, the price of printing on a white T-shirt is almost twice cheaper than printing on dark fabrics. 

  However, with all the advantages, this transfer option also has one significant drawback – the stamping speed. Even the most productive machines cannot provide mass production or release on a commercial scale. Therefore, you often have to wait several days for your order. In addition, the image will have to be qualitatively processed and prepared for application before launch, which makes piece runs unprofitable for the printer.

Interlayer (transfer sublimation)

Sublimation on a two-layer white t-shirt

   The method was developed for synthetic substrates, and created for the projection of images “in the American spirit” (bulging, rough pictures). It uses a layer of polymer material on which the image is printed. After that, the layer is applied to the synthetic fabric using a heat press, fusing it and forming a new layer. To the touch, such prints are convex and rough elements.

   The solution is great for imprinting logos or decorative details of corporate identity. But for catchy, grunge textures in a youth style, it also fits perfectly, allowing you to deliberately create “rough” and “angular” stylizations.

  Since we use special two-layer t-shirts, our customers do not feel discomfort when synthetics come into contact with the body, because the inner layer is made of 100% cotton, which makes contact with the t-shirt pleasant and comfortable. 

The advantages of the process include:

  1. Drawing quality. The print is rich and bright.
  2. Efficiency of production the minimum order from 1 piece.
  3. Rinse resistance for at least 20 washes.
  4. Minimum price

The disadvantages of sublimation on T-shirts include:

– Printing is only possible on white T-shirts.

– The outer layer must be synthetic.

Thermal application. Flex and Flock films

Thermal transfer of the logo on a T-shirt with Flex films

   The fastest and relatively simple of the alternatives (hence the relatively low cost). The pattern is formed using Flex and Flock vinyl films, which are cut and formed by a cutting plotter. 

The positive aspects of the method include:

  • high processing speed;
  • saturation and fullness of colors of films;
  • wear resistance. the manufacturer declares more than 50 washes;
  • low cost relative to direct printing;
  • the possibility of using light-accumulative or reflective films.
  • the ability to print on any fabric (synthetics, cotton, etc.)

  The disadvantages of this type of printing can be attributed 

  1. Limited film colors (white, black, blue, yellow, red, green)
  2. The layout must be in vector form, which affects the cost of prepress 

  Based on the above pros and cons, we can conclude that if your print is one or two-color and these colors are available, then this method is the most optimal in terms of price / quality.  

  However, the products obtained in this way require certain handling and proper care. In addition, for some types of fabrics, thermal transfer is not possible, due to their deformation under the influence of high temperatures. Transfer of films to the material occurs at a temperature of 180 degrees C.


Silkscreen and logo embroidery on T-shirts

   One of the oldest methods of forming images on a fabric web. In order to make a stamp, use a press plate and stencils (templates) + paints. Moreover, the staining is done manually, from which the possibility of error, rejection and a relatively high price “emerges”.

   Screen printing is limited in color, and most often allows you to include up to 6 components in one drawing. Moreover, the more flowers, the higher the budget of the project. Such a methodology also requires lengthy technical training. But at the same time, the cost of production, the quality of work and a large selection of materials often lead to an advantage in favor of this method.

   Often, manufacturers of the “old school” are inclined to convince the client to the last of the advantages of this technique, and its prospects. However, such a conviction rarely has a real background. Indeed, with each passing day, printer technologies are confidently replacing silk-screen printing.

   The minimum print run for this Aida print is at least 100 pieces. Smaller print runs are not economically viable due to the technological features of this type of T-shirt printing.

Which t-shirt print to choose?

   In an effort to create the best for himself, a person who is poorly knowledgeable in printing technologies often experiences difficulties in making decisions. As a result, one has to be guided only by the recommendations of printers and often give up one’s own wishes. But having studied the features of each type of application, you can prepare a project with high quality and achieve 100% implementation of the plan.

   So, in order to create brand attributes or elements of a personal wardrobe, first of all, you need to decide on the criteria for this product:

  1. Lifetime. If reusable dressing is meant, while the image consists of individual colors, then a film application with heat shrink will be optimal. However, to implement the plan, you need a vector logo layout. Favorable price and fast implementation will help save money. For promotions and thematic gatherings, sublimation on a two-layer white T-shirt is suitable . If, on the contrary, durability and durability are in favor, then printers with direct printing on T-shirts should be preferred.
  2. The size of circulation and terms of production. For small urgent batches, sublimation and thermal application are suitable. For large batches and orders that take time, you should choose a printer, thermal application or silk screen.
  3. Type of fabric. If a good natural canvas is used, then the print is exactly what you need, or thermal transfer with Flock or Flex films. If the sleeveless jacket is made of polymer woven or knitted cuts, then it is worth stopping at transfer sublimation.

   However, the conditions for the implementation of each individual project can be selected individually, taking into account personal discounts, bonuses, and the workload of production capacities of one type or another. Therefore, before choosing, you should contact the printing house that provides the relevant services and ask for details.

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