How do I choose the right printing method for my designs?
While planning the launch of your own merch, only knowing about the different printing techniques and their specifications is not going to be the end. Choosing the right technique for the right design is where the real test lies. This is because a lot of techniques may have many functions in common however, understanding and applying what makes them different from each other is key. The answer for how to choose the right printing method for your designs will be based on the choice of fabrics available, the order quantity, the design; its colors and placement requested and the time period available to complete the order.
Let’s take a look at each printing technique and these variables.
Direct to Garment
In terms of fabric, DTG is only compatible with cotton based t-shirts or t-shirts with a high percentage of cotton. The more cotton a t-shirt has, the more realistic and vibrant the result would be.
With its fairly simple and quick application, DTG has no volume limitation which means it is ideal for both one-off printing and bulk orders. The color output for DTG is very high as it is able to produce full color photographic prints. DTG is great for printing complex artwork or designs however, DTG has limitations in terms of the design placement. Lastly, all of the inks used in DTG are water-based which makes it a very environmentally-friendly printing technique.
Heat Transfers on Paper and Vinyl are both compatible with polyester and cotton blends however, Heat Transfer Paper is great for bulk orders but Heat Transfer on Vinyl is not ideal for mass printing due to its long time-taking process. Heat transfers deliver a high quality result in terms of colors as it is possible to achieve multi-colored vibrant designs. Another difference between the two types of Heat Transfers (Paper and Vinyl) arises with the design element. Heat transfer on Paper allows for flexibility in the designs however, Heat Transfer on Vinyl is only ideal for simple text-based designs or shapes.
Lastly, Heat transfer printing is an eco-friendly form of printing because of a number of reasons such as water based adhesives are used, it is a relatively dry process and has quick turnarounds hence, making it a sustainable option.
Embroidery is also a very versatile technique allowing prints on fabrics such as cotton, linen, silk and wool and allowing both small batch and large-scale orders. Multiple color threads can be used with no additional cost. Embroidery printing is an eco-friendly printing technique which is most ideal for small intricate artwork.
In terms of fabrics, Sublimation only works best with poly blend t-shirts where in the more percentage of polyester a t-shirt consists, the more vibrant the result would be. With its all-over seam to seam printing feature, sublimation printing is great for both small batch orders and bulk orders. Its all-over printing leverages minimal wastage which makes it an environmentally-friendly technique. However, the only drawback of the seam to seam printing is the possibility of white-creasing.
Being compatible with most fabrics, Screen printing is also a very common printing technique when it comes to bulk orders producing very vibrant true-to-life colors. It has a lengthy set-up process however, once the multi-step process is completed, the actual printing is then very time-friendly.
Screen printing also happens to be an environmentally-friendly technique as a result of using water-based inks only. In terms of the design placement, Screen printing has limited design placement options.