When it comes to printing your t-shirts, there are really only two options that are going to give you a professional result – screen printing or digital direct to garment printing. When it comes to picking which method is going to be best for you and your brand, there are a few factors you need to consider. This article will go through the pros and cons of both printing methods to help you work out what’s best for you.
Screen printing is the method of applying ink directly onto t-shirts. Using a photo sensitive emulsion, a digital image is transferred onto a screen and the ink is then passed through the empty spaces in the emulsion to print onto the fabric.
- Screen printing is king when it comes to durability, quality and colour
- This is the most cost effective option for larger runs (20 +)
- Inks are mixed by the printer to match the colour in the designs – there’s a huge range of colour possibilities
- Speciailty inks can be used such as puff (a little retro, but still possible), foils and glow in the dark
- The print can barely be felt on the garment (especially when using discharge and waterbased inks)
- Longevity and durability are key – the ink will often outlive the t-shirt
- This process is quick for longer runs – as you can print multiple shirts at once
- Be prepared to be hit up with expensive set-up fees
- The process is expensive for short runs and virtually impossible for one offs (although you can find printers who will do a one-offs, it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg)
- Charges are based on a per colour basis so multi-coloured designs can become expensive
- If you’re planning on printing yourself, a decent set-up will set you back a minimum of $10,000 and a pretty big skill set is needed
DIRECT TO GARMENT PRINTING (DTG)
DTG is a relatively new technology that basically uses inkjet printers with specialty formulated inks to print directly from the computer to your t-shirt.
- Cheap set-up fees
- This method is perfect for one offs or small runs
- Great for high-colour or photographic designs
- Prints straight from the computer, no need for separate screen set-ups
- The printer automatically matches the colours with those in the design – there won’t be any colour mistakes
- The quality can be a little shady – especially with fine lines
- The ink tends to fade over time
- Designs can look very digitalised and pixelated up close
- Printing onto black requires a white underbase, and the colour doesn’t “pop” compared to screen printing ink
As you can see, there are plenty of good and bad things about both methods. Basically it all comes down to the needs of your brand. If you are planning on printing small runs of highly detailed images – then I would definitely be leaning towards DTG. However, nothing can beat screen printing and if you have the need for larger runs, you should definitely head down this path. Although digital printing has come a long way in a relatively short time, the technology is still far from perfect. Although I am a screen printer, and therefore a little bias, screen printing has been around for thousands of years and is hands down the king for quality and affordability for larger runs.
I hope this article helps clear up your mind a little and will help you make a decision!
Peace + Love