T-Shirt Printing Methods and Which One to Choose

Garment printing has gone a long way over the last two decades, just as digital printing has evolved into its own era. Today we’re certain that digital printing is revolutionizing the fashion and textile industry – which is reflected through innovative features such as printing on demand, fully customized material printing, 3D printing and even printing inspection.

However, if you’re looking to produce basic t-shirts with a certain print design, you won’t need to go as far into your research as looking into the digital printing innovations in the fashion industry. Your goal is to find the best option for getting your t-shirts printed, not to launch a designer outfit which requires advanced textile printing solutions.

Obviously, before deciding which printing company you will choose, the first question is which material are your shirts made of? If you don’t have t-shirts, your best bet is to go for a company which provides the t-shirts and the printing – and there are a plethora of them on the web.

Another thing you’ll need to consider is what and how your t-shirts will be used for. Then the quantity and the amount of color you will be using.

So, let’s take a look at the most common t-shirt printing methods out there.

DTG (Direct to Garment) Digital Printing

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DTG digitally applies ink onto the cloth. It’s great for colorful prints and provides lots of space for creative customization and photo prints. It’s also the quickest printing solution.

Direct to garment is advisable for smaller printing quantities as it’s a more expensive solution and most printing companies have a minimum print quantity requirement.

Screen Printing

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Screen printing can be divided into 2 different methods – CMYK and Pantones. CMYK for a smaller number of colors and pantones for more color. The way it works is that the image is transferred in ink, with a stencil, through a screen. This method can also produce durable prints for complex images and photographs.

Screen printing is used for larger quantities and is not feasible for small amounts. But the good thing is, there is a DIY method for Screen Printing you can try yourself.

Vinyl Cut Printing

Vinyl Cut, also known as plot printing, works by plotting or making a cut out from a piece of vinyl – based on the digital file of the design. The cutout is then applied to the t-shirt with heat.

This method should only be used for simple designs such as silhouettes and basic illustrations with a maximum of 3 colors and it cannot transfer detailed images.

Although it leaves a nice looking, glossy finish – this is not the most durable printing option. It’s advised for smaller quantities and very basic print jobs.


There are a few variations of transfers which can produce basic to complex prints on t-shirts. Although colorful images and photographs can be produced with transfers, this not a very durable solution as it cracks and fades away easily.

Transfers aren’t very feasible for large quantities either, they’re used for smaller quantities and for garments which aren’t supposed to last long.


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An interesting fact about embroidery – it is the oldest garment decorating method out there. Obviously, it’s not really a printing method, although it is used in applying designs to tee’s and garments. Just like printing, embroidery has also evolved with technology advancements.

Although handmade embroidery will never die out, as it’s a unique craft – today there are a number of versatile machines used for garment embroidery.

This is definitely the most durable, thus expensive solution. The cost is usually calculated by the number of stitches required for a design. Because of this, embroidery is used for transferring logos to uniforms and for unique textile designs by fashion designers and for custom clothing.

Dye Sublimation

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Dye sublimation is good if you want to print all over the t-shirt, as it uses ink and heat to print directly onto the garment. It offers versatility in the use of color and detail, so it’s great if you’re designing a real clothing brand.

Sublimation is also used for printing on non textile products such as mugs and puzzles. However, when it comes to t-shirts – sublimation won’t work with cotton fabrics and dark colors.

Sublimation is also more expensive, so it’s not advisable for large quantities.

Key takeaways on t-shirt printing methods

If you’re looking for a one time solution for t-shirt printing, your best bet is to find a t-shirt printing company – as mentioned at the beginning, there’s a plethora of them on the web, you just have to do your research and check their online reviews.

If in the other hand you’re looking to find an ongoing solution, answer the key questions on your printing requirements and match the best solution accordingly.

Key questions to consider:

  • Which quantities do we need?
  • How often will we be printing?
  • How many colors do we require, photographs or basic images?
  • Will there be a lot of text to proofread and print?
  • Which materials will we be using?
  • Which garment colors will we be using?

Once you have your answer set, the best solution will reveal itself. Have you tried any of the printing solutions yourself? Got any questions? Feel free to comment below.

~Source: Post provided by Alis Mia.  Alis Mia is a freelance marketer with a passion for creating marketing strategies and content which inspire and engage targeted audiences. She’s driven by the idea of helping companies find their competitive edge through unique ideas which make brands stand out and win customer loyalty. Alis has successfully helped companies build websites which reflect brand originality and are aligned with company goals.

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