Different Types of T-shirt Printing Methods (2020): In Details

Hello there,

Placing various designs on a t-shirt, spices up its plain, ordinary looks and transforms it into a unique, fashionable garment. This is something those t-shirt lovers are increasingly looking for these days, and it’s what makes t-shirt printing more lucrative than ever before.

Therefore, if you’re planning on starting a t-shirt printing business, don’t let any doubts hold you back. However, there are so many methods of printing t-shirts.

Therefore, when getting into the business, you might get confused regarding what method to use. You don’t want to use a method that doesn’t fit your or your customers’ needs.

That is why I have composed this guide. In a few moments, you will discover the most common t-shirt printing methods. I will break things down for you so you can easily understand these methods. I will include their pros and cons and help you figure out what method suits you.

By the time you’re done reading this post, you will have a vivid idea of what different t-shirt printing methods entail and know which one to use for your business.

Guide to Various T-Shirt Printing Methods

1. Screen Printing

I thought we should start with the oldest and most common method.

Though invented in the ancient times, screen printing is still one of the most preferred methods, as it helps create vibrant, smooth and soft designs that last long. Of course, it has advanced over the years.

As a matter of fact, you can count on this method for all your needs, including placing text and graphic designs, and working on huge orders.

With this method, you normally have to create a template (also known as a stencil), which is held in place by a nylon mesh screen.

You then have to spread the ink all over the screen using a squeegee. In the final steps, you need to take the screen off the design, then cure and dry the design.

Looking to go large scale? Screen printing is an ideal option. But, if you’re looking to do small-scale printing, this method will not be very viable.

That’s because it needs you to create a different screen for each color, and that’s not very fast or cost-efficient for small orders.


  • Delivers superior quality
  • Fast when working on large orders with the same design
  • Supports printing multiple colors
  • Soft, smooth finish


  • Every color needs a different screen
  • Can get quite messy if carried out manually
  • Not cost-effective for small orders

2. Sublimation Printing

Ever seen a t-shirt with printings all over it? They most probably used the sublimation method to place those printings.

Sublimation is best suited for doing over sized printings. If you’re looking to transform the entire t-shirt into a piece of art, sublimation is the way to go.

With this method, you can do a galaxy print or place repeated patterns on the t-shirt.

However, sublimation works properly on 100% polyester t-shirts only.


  • Able to produce highly unique designs
  • Can place designs all over the t-shirt easily
  • Supports unlimited use of colors and styles


  • The shirt has to be 100% polyester
  • Does not cover white patches, such as the underarms
  • Only cost-effective for orders going above 50 t-shirts

3. Direct to Garment (DTG)

DTG is a relatively new t-shirt printing technique. It entails printing on the t-shirt directly rather than creating a template and then transferring the design to the t-shirt.

Got no clue as to how it works? Picture a huge flatbed printer where you can feed a t-shirt on a conveyer belt and get it printed.

To do DTG printing, you’ll need to get a DTG printer. The printer is quite costly, and thus the method is not very viable for small-scale printing.

However, if you’re planning to print lots of t-shirts quickly, DTG makes the perfect method for you.

DTG’s printings are of excellent quality (but of lesser quality than those of screen printing). With DTG, you’ll have a soft printing, and you can do many colors.

The method works best when printing on white apparels. It works on dark ones too but in a pretty challenging process that requires mastering.


  • Supports full-color printing
  • Gives a soft, professional-looking finish
  • Printing cost per t-shirt is low


  • High investment cost
  • Needs lots of space

4. CAD Cut Vinyl Printing

With this method, you cutspecial, soft vinyl professionally with the CAD cutter and a software program. Then, you print the vinyl onto the t-shirts through heat pressing.

Looking to do large orders with different types of fabric? CAD cut vinyl printing will definitely come in handy.

The method allows you to layer the vinyl and thus makes printing different colors possible.

The best thing about this method is that it delivers vibrant designs.

It’s well suited for slogans, text, and small graphics. However, unlike sublimation printing, CAD cut vinyl printing is not suitable for over sized printings.


  • Perfect for short, medium, and long runs
  • Delivers vibrant designs that can last the t-shirt’s life
  • No cracking or fading
  • Doesn’t take up much space


  • Uses vinyl, which is less flexible than inks
  • You will have to learn about the relevant hardware and software before using the machine

5. Transfer Paper Method

The transfer paper method entails permanent transfer of an image from one surface to another.

First, you print an image on a transfer paper. Then, you use a good heat press machine to transfer that image to the t-shirt.

Originally, it was employed in decorating ceramics but today, the transfer paper method is used in printing on t-shirts and other apparels.

Unlike most other methods, the technique utilizes pressure and heat to set the design on the shirt.


  • Fairly easy
  • Produces designs of excellent quality
  • Supports full-color printing


  • A little slower than other printing methods
  • Great for light-colored garments but not very effective on dark-colored ones
  • Not suitable for sensitive fabrics

Final Word

As you have discovered, there are many techniques you can use to print t-shirts. Also, as illustrated above, each of these techniques comes with its unique advantages and drawbacks.

Here’s what you need to do: assess your t-shirt printing needs. Do you want to go into small-scale or large-scale printing? Do you have the time to learn a complicated method that might turn out pretty rewarding? Do you have the cash to invest in an expensive printing machine?

Those are some of the questions you need to answer.

For instance, with a huge capital and the intention of going into large-scale printing, I would go for DTG. However, with limited capital and the intention of going into small-scale printing, I would go for the transfer paper method, which uses heat pressing.

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