What is it and how is it done?
Screen printing is one of the earlier ways to print designs on garments and cloth. It doesn’t need machinery and needs a lot more time for preparation, unlike DTG printing.
The materials needed to perform this type of t-shirt printing method are emulsion, transparency with your design, mesh screen on a frame, squeegee, and ink.
The emulsion and transparency are needed for the preparation of the design’s stencil on the mesh screen. The rest, squeegee and ink, and the stencil-bearing mesh screen are then needed for the actual printing.
To prepare the stencil, the emulsion is spread throughout the mesh screen using the squeegee and left in the dark room to dry. After that, the transparency is placed upside down on the mesh screen to be exposed to UV light. The mesh screen is then washed off of the removable emulsion which will create the stencil.
After the stencil preparation, the actual screen printing can be done. With shirts smoothed down, the mesh screen is put on top with the front facing the garment.
Paint is then poured on the screen and spread using the squeegee. Lastly, the printed shirt is then dried and packed.
When to choose this t-shirt printing method?
- When you’re ordering in bulk
Screen printing is a very cost effective type of custom t-shirt printing when it comes to bulk orders. Most of this printing method’s cost is due to the preparation needed and done for it. This means that the more t-shirts you order for this t-shirt printing method, the cheaper it costs per shirt. If you’re a musician and don’t know how many shirts to print, here are some tips to know just how many.
- When you’re not in a hurry
As mentioned, screen printing needs time for stencil preparation. This means that screen printing is really not the method to choose for a quick on-demand t-shirt printing. You have to at least have 3 weeks time before you need the shirts.
- When you have a shirt design with distinct colors and design details
This t-shirt printing method is very particular with the types of design it prints on the shirt. If there are 2 colors for the design, there will be two different stencils for them.
Moreover, it cannot accomplish a gradient of colors or fading look, simply because one prepared mesh screen is allotted for one color.
- When ordered shirts are to be frequently used
Designs printed through screen printing are known to be very durable. It is by far the most durable, coming in second to embroidered ones. So if you’re planning to have your custom printed t-shirts used frequently, you can order screen printed ones. DTG printing is durable too though its durability is half of screen printing.
Tips when having screen printing
- Take advantage of the different ways to design screen printed designs
Screen printing is not only durable and high quality, they can be even cooler if you wish them to be. You can try having a puff screen printing, where the design is puffed and looks embossed.
You can even have glitters or metallic paint added to give the design some sparkle, or have glow in the dark or UV glow on them which makes them glow in the dark or when UV rays shine on them.
- Be sure that your designs don’t pass over seams, pockets or zippers
When brainstorming for your design or deciding on how big or where to put your design, this is something you need to remember.
You should never print over seams, pockets, or zippers because screen printing requires a flat surface to print a good shirt. Seams, pockets, and zippers, are elevated areas on a shirt and printing over them results in a gapped design.
What is it and how is it done?
DTG printing means direct to garment printing. This means that the designs are directly printed onto the shirt without cutting or printing on special paper to iron afterwards onto a shirt.
To perform DTG printing a DTG printer is needed, which prints designs to a shirt much like how a home printer prints on a paper.
The first thing done by your printer, after you place your order and send your design’s file, is to prepare your design and make another file that can be read by the printer. Side by side with the preparation of the artwork is the preparation of the garments to be printed on.
A light colored t-shirt can directly go to the printer. Linen ones need to be ironed to smoothen the surface, while dark colored garments need pre-treating, which can last for 30 minutes at most, to help white ink bind with the garment.
After those quick preparations, printing can now begin. During the printing, controlled print heads spray ink onto the garment surface. The actual printing of this method is a tad bit slower when compared to the actual printing of screen printing. The last steps are the drying and packing of the finished shirts.
When to choose this t-shirt printing method?
- When you’re ordering only a few pieces
Unlike screen printing that is suitable for bulk orders, DTG printing is not. Though the cost per shirt may lower per addition of more shirts, it does not lower as much as in screen printing. It’s best to have DTG printing when you have below a hundred shirts printed.
- When you need your shirts ASAP
DTG printing doesn’t need much time for preparation, so it’s great for on-demand t-shirt printing orders. If you have your shirts printed in this method, they would surely be sent to you in a day or two.
- When your shirt design/s is/are too colorful or realistic
With this t-shirt printing method, shirt designs are not limited. You can have any design you want, whether there may be fading or gradient effects, colors of the rainbow, or you simply want a photograph of you printed on them.
- When you don’t want to spend money on set-up costs
If you’re not up for paying set-up costs, then DTG printing is the custom t-shirt printing method to choose. As mentioned many times, there’s no big preparation needed for DTG printing and no need for set-ups to start the printing.
Tips when having DTG printing
- Choose a good garment to print on
In DTG printing, 100% cotton shirts are still the best pick compared to those synthetic or blended ones. What makes it great for this printing method is that it absorbs DTG ink better than any other shirt material.
You should choose ring spun cotton shirts for even better printing results as well as higher durability. These shirts are more tightly woven and even have a softer and smoother feeling.
- Don’t print on ribbed garments
This tip is just not for DTG printing, but also for screen printing. Ribbed garments, when printed with designs on the surface look great. It’s the opposite though when you wear them and have them stretched.
It leaves a crack-like look on the stretched part of the design. This is due to not having the ink seep through the lower or deeper parts of the ribbed garment.
DTG Printing VS Screen Printing
Here! I present to you a table summarizing the difference between the two t-shirt printing methods.
|Minimum order||1 units||100 units|
|Set-up||No set-up needed||Set-up needed|
|Cost-effectiveness||For shirts less than 100 units.||For 100 or more shirt units|
|Turnaround times||1-2 days||2 weeks|
|Colors||No color count limit||3 colors at most|
|Design||Photorealistic and colorful designs||Simple graphic designs|
|Durability||25 – 50%||100%|
And now, we’ve reached the end. You’ve seen both t-shirt printing methods’ pros and cons. Now, it’s all up to you to choose the one you see is the best choice. The one that is fit for your needs and limits, like time, money, and more.
If you’re a musician, try having your custom shirts bundled up with other merchandise you have, like CDs, vinyl records, tote bags, and more. Here are some great merchandise bundles with shirts in the mix.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.