Custom apparel has become more popular and more accessible over the years. With new technologies and online manufacturers, consumers have been able to consume more personally decorated garments. Companies are offering aesthetically pleasing designs with almost zero limits that offer garments coveted by those who want to stay trendy and unique.
Whether you need a small order of annual vacation shirts or a large order of employee uniforms, it will serve you well to know what you best options are for decorating the garments you want! Deciding upon the right print method and getting it done in the most cost-effective and timely way remains a challenge. We’re here to break them all down for you to see which fits for your order!
Screen printing is perhaps the oldest and most widely popular apparel printing technique that is still prevalent in the printing industry. The designs are durable, but the process requires a lot of labor and equipment. We would recommend this method for established companies who order in bulk with designs that are simplistic and have few colours. Screen printing can be done on almost any fabric, which makes it a great option for having designs printed across multiple kinds of garments.
This method is cost-effective as costs decrease the more you order. It’s also extremely efficient in terms of the time it takes to print large numbers of garments. Screen printing is not recommended for small orders as costs can become very high due to the labor required and its associated costs being spread across a small number of units. Screen is not appropriate in cases where intricate designs, images, or many colours are required for an artwork.
Direct to Garment Printing (a.k.a. DTG) is a popular apparel printing technique that allows photo realistic artworks to be printed in a matter of minutes. It is widely popular among those want to design their own graphic tees. Artwork is sent directly from the computer to the printer with almost no physical set ups needed. Essentially, you can slap a shirt on the board, load an artwork, and press a button to get printing started.
DTG opens up a lot of creative options for those who love to explore and experiment with different colors, patterns, and textures that have great detail and many colours. DTG requires powerful printers with several loaded inks ready for use whenever you are. These machines and inks are quite costly, which can make DTG printed garments more costly than others. DTG also requires the use of garments with a high % of cotton, so not to scorch and damage garments during the drying process. This rule can be broken by some garments, like light coloured polyesters.
Dye Sublimation Printing
Dye Sublimation is a method that, though slightly expensive, can yield really great results if done properly. The technique done on white fabric which is printed onto and then cut and sewn together. This allows graphics to be printed seam to seam for an entirely customized garment. Dye Sublimation uses a special liquid dye that dries quickly to prevent dye bleeding. However, this cannot be done on all fabrics and can be quite time consuming to cut and assemble the garments. Sublimation is often practiced in larger factories and is done by few printers. This results in costly garments and longer timelines for production.
Heat Seal Applications
Heat seal applications are an effective print method for small orders or orders needing unusually placed decorations. The process involves substrates being cut into or printed onto and then cut into to produce the final design. When the artwork is finished cutting, the excess material is then stripped – revealing only the final design. The design is then applied onto virtually any area of the garment using extreme heat and pressure under a large iron. This activates its adhesive layer and melds it to the garment.
Heat seal application can be used on most all garments, which makes them a great alternative for printing onto fabrics that DTG cannot or decorating garments similarly to screen printing in smaller quantities. Not all fabrics are suitable for this print method. Many fabrics can melt and become damaged under the extreme heat and pressure, especially multi-layer garments like jackets whose layers can stick together.
Intricate designs are not suggested. The more intricate the design, the more laborious. This print method can already be very time consuming. It CAN be done for larger orders but is only recommended when necessary.
PRO TIP: Ensure that you are requesting the use of polyurethane based heat application substrates as this will ensure no cracking or peeling will happen (which is what most people are afraid of when they are presented with this option).
Embroidery is a timeless and polished form of printing. Embroidery is highly regarded for its durability and can be perceived simply as: endurance = quality = upscale. Some may call embroidery a deluxe printing method, but we call it practical and pretty! Quality isn’t just perceived – it’s tangible as well! Embroidery offers many colour options and has become highly automated over the years.
Some things to note about embroidery are its costs and time needed for production. Embroidery does have a decent amount of set up and, like screen printing, is usually more cost effective for larger orders. It’s not as quick as other print methods, but it sure does look great! Embroidery also has size limitations based on embroiderer and location limitations based on garments and their layers.
The Bottom Line
Each of these custom apparel printing techniques come with their own set of pros and cons. When deciding on your apparel order, consider the desired fabric, timeline, design, and targeted budget of production when narrowing down to a method that is best suited to you. Here at Rogue Star, we have a team of experts who can help walk you through your order to determine what printing method is most appropriate for your vision. Give us a call today to start your order! We’re happy to help clients in the Edmonton area or Canada wide!