When shopping around for a custom print t-shirts or any other garment with custom graphics, you will be faced a variety of printing options, among them, being screen printing and heat transfer printing. For many, without the intricate knowledge of the garment printing industry, these two terms mean very little. The reality is that the understanding of these two printing options makes it easy for you to choose the best one for you. This is especially important when you realize that each option has its pros and cons.
Herein we are going to explore in intricate details what screen printing and heat transfer printing is. Furthermore, we will look at the pros of each printing process with the aim of determining which process is better.
#1. Screen-Printing Method
This is the traditional method of printing graphic designs and logos onto fabric. The method makes use of mesh screens which is first cut to produce the design stencil. The printing ink is applied on the screen, which is transferred to the garment using a squeegee. For graphics with multiple colors, a single color is used to print every single color. Thus for multi-color graphic design, multiple screens need to be used to produce the final item. After the application of ink(s), the garment is heat treated.
The main advantage of this printing method is the high quality of print achieved. Screen printed graphics tend to last longer and feel softer and more natural. It is also highly cost effective when printing a large number of garments. On the other hand, this printing process of quite costly when printing a limited number of garments and when the color combination is less than 10.
#2. Heat Transfer/ Digital Printing Method
This method makes use of heat and pressure to print the graphic designs on the garment. For starters, the graphics are printed on a special paper using solvent ink. The combination of the special heat transfer paper and the solvent inks allow the design to be transferred to the garment when printed paper is pressed onto the garment and heat is applied.
One prominent benefit for this type of printing is its inexpensive nature. It is quite cost effective especially when printing low volumes of garment or even single garments. However, the print tends to be of low quality – feel rubbery and does not last long (although newer heat transfer techniques and media is changing this). It is also expensive for large volumes of garments.
Which Printing Process Is Better?
There is no outright winner with regards to being the best printing process. Each printing process yields unique pros, which makes it better than the other in certain circumstances. To understand this assertion, consider this: for screen printing, the color screens can be used multiple times. Thus, the overall cost of screens remains constant regardless of whether you use the screen once or a thousand times. With this in mind, the screen tends to be the best option when producing a high number of customized items bearing the same design.
Conversely, the when you are seeking a limited number of products, the heat transfer printing method suffices as the best solution. Since the printing process for every item is the same, the process is barely cost effective when printing a large number of items. On the other, when printing a small number of items, the cost tends to be quite similar. However, with the heat transfer printing process, you get the added benefit of expedited production.
To a large extent, the better printing option depends on the number of items you intend to buy. However, matters of quality of print may also be at play. When you are looking for high-quality prints that will endure the test of time and last a long time, the best option is screen printing.