3 Printing Options for Your Next T-Shirt Design

Got a unique t-shirt design in mind, and want to use it to promote your business or fundraiser event? Then first you need consider which printing option is best for you.

Although the 3 printing methods listed below offer top quality that is adept at standing up to wear and tear and washing, the one that will suit your t-shirt design best will depend on your budget, the size of your order, the number of colors in your design, and production time.

Let’s run down your options…

  1. Screen Printing

Screen printing is one of the oldest, not to mention most reliable, options for your t-shirt design. Got a t-shirt design made up of solid colors, and need more than 20 units? If so, screen printing might be the option for you!

Screen printing first involves cutting templates known as stencils for your t-shirt design. After spreading the ink over each screen (only one ink color per screen), these woven mesh stencils—which contain an opening that creates the space necessary for the ink to go through—is then pushed onto the t-shirt using a fill blade or squeegee. As the blade is pulled, the ink pushes through the stencil and onto the garment.

This results in a t-shirt design that’s both rich in color and built to last the life of the shirt under normal use (washing the t-shirt inside out doesn’t hurt either).

The thing about screen printing however, is that colors can only be applied one at a time. This means that with every new color (or design revision), there’s a need for another screen, another stencil, more time, and ultimately more of your money. Therefore, the process may not be ideal if you got a t-shirt design that’s bursting in colors.

That being said, once the screen is set up, screen printing shirt-to-shirt will be a smooth sailing process for your next solid color t-shirt design.

  1. Vinyl

Ideal for small runs of under 20 t-shirts, vinyl requires less set-up time than screen printing and is best suited for simple graphics. The process involves using a machine that cuts out letters and designs from durable, colored vinyl and then using a heat-press to transfer each piece of vinyl onto the t-shirt.

Unfortunately for vinyl printing, there’s no way to blend colors so designs containing fine details will be easily lost. Thus, if you have a t-shirt design made up of basic shapes or text, such as the name and logo of say your fundraiser, then this might be the method to use.

However, unlike screen printed designs which can last the life of the shirt, vinyl t-shirts have a limited window of 5 years or less under normal use.

  1. Direct-to-Garment (DTG)

Also known as print-on-demand, DTG printing is just that: it uses a special inkjet printer to print not on a piece of paper, but a t-shirt.

Utilizing special water-based inks that are absorbable by the fibers of garments, this process involves using the inkjet printer to spray the specialized ink directly onto the t-shirt to make your design a reality.

Due to the printer using a number of ink cartridges, what distinguished DTG from the other two methods is that it allows for highly customizable designs that feature extensive detail, color, and shade.

Furthermore, DTG is great for those on a tight budget who only want a small batch of t-shirts, or are looking for one-off designs or a variety of different designs, thanks in large part to its short setup time (no time spent cutting stencils) and low cost.

The only downside with DTG is that the printer inks were designed to be printed on cotton and other untreated natural fibers, so they may take to fabrics like polyester differently.

Choosing a printing option for your next t-shirt design will take some time and research, but with the right team of experts, the process can be fun and fast! Call us today at (519) 969-0712 to book your free consultation!