Printing Methods

Custom T-shirt Printing Methods


A piece of awesome information to help you choose the perfect T-shirt printing methods/technique to fit your requirements, eliminating the stress that often goes with it!

There are four decoration methods that are commonly used on t-shirts: screen printing, iron-on transfers, DTG printing, and embroidery. Each method has advantages and disadvantages:

Silk screening produces designs by depositing ink on the surface of the fabric through a synthetic fabric screen. The result is a logo that you can feel on top of the fabric and that over time will crack and peel as the garment wears out. The process has a practical limit to the number of colors that can be reproduced in the logo.

Pros: cost effective, high quality, professional, durability.
Cons: each color requires a separate screen, messy, need to print many shirts at once with the same design to be feasible.

Iron on transfers is a thin plastic film that has the desired logo printed on it. The film is attached to the fabric by heating it at application time. As with silk screened logo’s, it can be felt on top of the fabric and will crack, peel, and pucker as the fabric wears. This process has no limits on the number of colors that can be used in the logo.
Pros: easy to print multi colors and complex designs, does not require different colors to be applied separately, great for small orders, easily customize different shirts.
Cons: the heavy feel of transfer, the cloth is the brightest part of the design: works well on white shirts, but doesn’t work on dark shirts, cracks, fades away easily.

DTG printing also called “digital printing” or “direct to garment printing” is a recent addition to the decorator’s toolbox. It digitally deposits ink on the t-shirt fabric the same way your inkjet printer prints on paper. It can reproduce stunning full-color images on light colored fabrics. The ink it uses actually dye’s the fabric so it cannot be felt by the wearer. Since it uses digital technology there is no machine setup required which allows a single item to be produced cost-effectively. The downside to DTG technology is that inks are expensive and they are slow compared to silk screening or iron on transfers. DTG excels on light garments, dark garments are problematic with high ink costs and a special fabric treatment that must be used (although it is constantly improving).
Pros: reduces steps, patterns don’t have heavy feel like screen printing, great for small orders, easily customize different shirts.
Cons: the cloth is the brightest part of the design: works well on white shirts. There is more of a challenge to the DTG operator to get dark prints to come out correctly, but it can be done.

Embroidery is an excellent decoration process that provides a great looking finished product. It wears well and looks very professional when compared with any of the available printing methods. The design options can be limiting since the design must be reproduced with threads rather than ink. Small details such as lettering can be difficult to reproduce and you are limited to between 9 and 15 colors in the design. Even with the limitations, the results are so outstanding many customers prefer embroidery to any of the other printing methods.


• It offers a professional, high-quality finish
• It is perfect for customizing polo shirts and corporate clothing
• Using certain advanced machines, embroidered items can be produced quickly and in large numbers


• It tends to be more expensive than other methods of customizing clothing
• Recreating complex logos and images in embroidery is difficult, and may not achieve the best result (i.e. shading is difficult with embroidery)