Top 12 Methods for Printing T-shirts

Have you ever thought about printing t-shirts? T-shirts are one of the most popular clothing items in the world, and we all buy our favorite T-shirts in the summer heat. There's little difference in style, but the unique patterns on the T-shirts attract us to buy them.
This way, you can design your unique T-shirts to suit your taste!
With the advent of technology, we can now print t-shirts at home, so I will give you a list of 12 ways to print T-shirts. You can also use the following methods to design school bags, shopping bags, and other textiles.
After reading this article, I hope you can choose one of the many methods and try it out for yourself.

In this article

Design options Durability Cost Time
DTG Medium Medium High High
DTF High Low Low Low
Heat transfer vinyl High Medium Low Low
Screen printing Low High Low Low
AOP High High High Medium
Plastisol transfer Medium High High Low
Belt printing High Medium High Medium
Spray gun printing High Low Low High
Spray gun printing High Medium Medium High
Drawn and dyed print Low Low Low Low
Tie-dye Medium Medium Low High
Embroidery High High High High

DTG

Direct To Garment Technique, or DTG for short, is a fast garment technique. You can put a blank shirt directly into an inkjet printer and get a vividly printed T-shirt in just a few minutes. It soaks the ink into the fabric so that the print texture is not touched and the garment's breathability is unaffected.
We need to preheat the garment before printing so that the ink is better fixed to the garment. In particular, cotton or cotton blend fabrics are more suitable for DTG printing.
You can buy an inkjet printer for your T-shirt business if you are a small business. However, after all, the ink penetrates the fabric and may fade with constant washing later.
Inkjet printers are not a good choice for larger factories. DTG printing is also relatively slow for large orders and may affect production efficiency.
Inkjet printers are expensive, with an average inkjet printer costing over $10,000. If you want to make a few T-shirts to experience the process, there is no need to buy one separately.

DTF

In contrast to DTG, direct-to-Film Printing is the Printing of ink on film, which is then printed and pressed onto the garment. This is the most common production method in many garment factories with high order volumes.
Compared to DTG, DTF printing is a more involved process, but it supports more complex, detailed patterns. The printed patterns are colorful and glossy. And you can print on a wide range of fabrics, requiring less dye and lower input costs.
The disadvantage of DTF printing is that it is best to seal the printed area if you want to sell it after Printing, as this will ensure the durability of the print. If the sealing layer is not treated properly, the pattern will fall off later on as the number of washes increases. Secondly, the printed areas are plastic and do not breathe well.

DTF VS DTG

Heat transfer vinyl

Heat transfer vinyl is one of the most cost-effective printing methods for hobbyists. Heat transfer vinyl makes it easy to create many unique designs without spending much money.
The vinyl sheet is coated with a heat-activated adhesive on the bottom, and the design can be attached directly to the garment by peeling off the bottom sealing paper. If you want to sell your vinyl, try to buy a heat press to hold the pattern in place. If you wear it yourself, you can use an iron to fix it.
The disadvantage of heat transfer vinyl is that it can be a long process if you need a professional cutting tool, but the Gweike G1 makes it easy to cut vinyl and is simple to use.

Gweike G1 diode laser cutter

 Gweike G1 diode laser cutter

Price:
$399.00
$599.00

Screen printing

Screen printing is one of the most traditional printing methods and is still chosen by many textile manufacturers who require simple patterns for rapid production. You fix the T-shirt underneath the stencil, squeeze the desired color onto it, and then scrape it firmly with a rubber scraper. A clear print is then created. You can also use different colors on the stencil to get a design in different colors.
Unlike DTG, you can wash screen-printed T-shirts many times without fading. Again, they are both suitable for designing clothing in cotton and cotton blends.
The disadvantage is that only one template can produce one pattern. And the process can spill ink all over the place if done at home.

Screen printing 

 Screen printing

AOP - Dye sublimation printing

All-over-printing, or AOP for short, is the most common method of printing floral shirts. While the above methods are suitable for printing small areas on T-shirts, AOP is suitable for printing all over the entire T-shirt, and the main purpose of AOP printing is to sublimate the dye at high pressure and temperature and then penetrate the garment so that the seams of the garment can also be dyed. The garment becomes smoother after dyeing.
AOP printing has the longest retention time of any printing method.
Its disadvantage is that it is only suitable for use on highly polyester materials. If used on cotton or cotton blends, color bleeding will occur, blurting the entire pattern.
It is only suitable for printing on light-colored clothing and does not show color if dark pigments penetrate.

Plastisol transfer

Plastisol transfer is a type of screen printing where the pigments are printed directly onto the T-shirt. With plastisol transfer, the design is printed on plastic, and then the pigments are transferred to the T-shirt using high temperature and pressure. This type of printing is much cheaper for the company.
The disadvantage of the plastisol transfer is that it requires one plastic sheet for every T-shirt printed.

Belt printing

I know very little about this printing technique.
I know it is an expensive printing technique that has been widely used.
The great thing about it is that you can print it on both sides of the T-shirt in one go, and it is a seamless print.

Spray gun printing

A spray gun is a common tool used in graffiti art. If you have a basic knowledge of painting, you can design your favorite pattern directly on your clothes without even using a stencil.
The great thing about it is that it's cheap, and you can easily create amazing designs by buying a spray gun and dye. And each piece is full of unknowns and challenges.
The downside is that it needs to be washable. The paint will blur if the design is washed and will cause the whole garment to become very dirty.
Finally, the smell of the paint is very offensive, and it is recommended that it is used in a well-ventilated environment.

Water Transfer Printing

This is one of the traditional T-shirt printing processes. The water transfer film is mainly placed flat on the water's surface and left for a while before being sprayed with an activator. The garment is then slowly placed on top and pressed into the water. When you take it out, you get a T-shirt with a customised design. However, this type of printing is more commonly used for hard products such as shoes and helmets.

Drawn and dyed print

This print technique is suitable for cotton T-shirts only, which uses plucking ink to remove the original color from the T-shirt and create a contrast in color. The main difference with other printing methods is that the design uses the principle that the ink can bleach natural fabrics.
Most of the colors will have a vintage feel to them.

Tie-dye

This is the easiest way for us to use for crafting. We buy cold water dyes from Amazon or other shopping platforms and gather them together in any way you like, twisting, folding, etc. Afterward, you tie them in place with a leather cord, drip them with cold water dyes and wait for the paint to dry.
This way, you get a unique t-shirt. It is no exaggeration to say that it may be difficult to make an identical print in the future.

 Tie-dye

 Tie-dye

Embroidery

Embroidery is a very time-consuming method of printing t-shirts. It takes longer to produce, especially with hand embroidery. Many sewing machines have now greatly improved the speed of embroidery, although it still needs to be at the same level of sophistication as traditional hand embroidery.

Many high-end dresses use embroidery to add texture to the garment and give the whole garment a more upmarket look. This is why embroidery is expensive.
But this is perfect for do-it-yourself stitching, and if you master the art of embroidery, your dress will easily catch everyone's eye.

How to print a T-shirt at home?

After reading the various ways to print a t-shirt above, do you want to make one immediately?
The best ones for making your own at home are vinyl cutting and tie dye printing. This is the fastest and easiest way to print a t-shirt at home.
Here are a few steps to show you how to print a t-shirt using vinyl cutting.

Material preparation

  1. Vinyl Plate Cutter: We recommend the Gweike G1 ($439) and Gweike Cloud Basic II ($3099). You can choose wisely according to your budget.
    The G1 is a diode laser engraver, and because the vinyl sheet is thin, you can easily cut it too. If designing printed clothing is your hobby, or if you also like to engrave various non-metallic materials, the G1 is a perfect choice.
    Cloud Basic II is a professional CO2 laser cutter for vinyl sheets and various non-metallic cutting machines. You can choose this machine if you want to start a small business.
  2. Heat press or iron: As with the vinyl board cutter, a professional heat press is recommended to start your own business. If T-shirt printing is just a hobby for you, you can use an iron to apply pressure and heat.
  3. Vinyl Plates: You can go for vinyl plates from Amazon in various colors or patterns.
  4. T-shirts: cotton or cotton blend t-shirts are recommended

Steps

  1. Import your preferred image, text, etc., on the cutter and cut the vinyl sheet.
  2. Place the cut vinyl sheet on the T-shirt correctly.
  3. Press firmly with an iron for 15s to ensure every part is hot, then peel off the backing paper while it is hot.

And there you have it, a custom printed T-shirt!

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