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T-shirt making methods.

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T-shirt making methods.


We love educating our customers about the process of t-shirt making, because our goal is to make it a collaborative process. This is also why we offer free assistance with graphic design, because we know that many of our customers can not do it themselves. Still, we do hope that our customers do some research before coming to us, so that we do not spend all of our time educating. If they are knowledgeable then we can have more of a constructive conversation and figure out what we need to do quicker. The goal of this post is to show you some of the pros and cons of the most popular methods of t-shirt making!


Pros: Best used with small orders and can be used on a wide variety of surfaces.

Cons: Designs can not be complex and can be expensive on larger orders.

Vinyl is basically a sticker that gets applied to shirts by heat. Vinyl comes in a wide variety of colors and textures. For example, some popular trends right now in vinyl apparel decoration is to have neon, glow in the dark, and gold put on shirts. In addition to the other printing methods that I will cover, vinyl can be used in tandem with them. This gives the shirt a truly unique look. We have tons of different styles of vinyl in stock and we can meet with you to show you. Just contact us if that is something that you would like to do.

In order to get your design cut out of the vinyl we use our Graphtec CE-5000 plotter. This machine utilizes Photoshop’s Illustrator to tell it how to cut the vectorized designs. Once the vinyl is cut we take it and our apparel to our heat transfer machine. Then we carefully align where we want the final design to be on the apparel, push down on the hot heat press and then stand back to admire the results!

Sample of Hollywood Screen Printing’s vinyl rolls:

DTG (Direct to Garment): 

Pros: Extremely detailed shirt prints, best for small orders, and the ink is the biggest expense.

Cons: Very slow process and dark apparel can be tough to get opaque.

Direct to garment printing is seriously nothing more then utilizing an inkjet printer to print directly onto apparel. As easy as this sounds it has taken a long time for this technology to come into existence. These inkjet printers have special configurations that allow them to print on t-shirts. For example, it has a special loading dock, continuous ink system, and printing heads that are all designed to specifically print on apparel. This type of printing is great for customers that are looking for a small order of shirts and are not in a hurry, because this process is slow. Furthermore, the ink that is used to dye the shirts is expensive and if you had to print 24+ shirts your better off screen printing it. Yet, an advantage with DTG is that your prints will be very detailed. You can print shadows, small text, and you will be able to use a large range of colors.

Hollywood Screen Printing’s DTG Printer:

Screen printing: 

Pros: Cost effective for large orders (24+), multiple printing options like discharge, water based, and plastisol, and various ink effects are available.

Cons: Expensive for small orders, setup costs, and time consuming if using a manual machine.

Screen printing aka silk screening was invented in China many centuries ago. Back then they used very simple machinery and were unable to move at a fast production rate. If you were to take one of the screen printers back then and show them what we have today then I will be willing to bet they would probably have a heart attack. The technology that we have now is absolutely amazing. From super fine meshed screens, to various inks, to ultra quick dryers, to sixteen station automatic machines the capabilities that current screen printers utilize is mind blowing.

To sum it up, screen printing is the art of t shirt making with paint. For every color that is used a screen must be made in order to apply that color to the garment. Many people think that the actual printing part is the most difficult, but it is not. Far more time is invested into an order before a drop of paint actual touches the garment. For instance, screens must be burned, films must be made, graphics must be prepared, apparel must be ordered, and machine must be aligned. You see, the time involved in preparing an order of one shirt or one hundred thousand shirts is the same. This is why screen printers offer a steep discount the larger your order gets.

Here is a great video on how to screen print a one color design on an automatic machine presented by Cat Spit Productions.

Heat transfer:

Pros: Can replicate full color images easily and quickly and best for small orders.

Cons: Lackluster quality and washes away after several washes.

This process is literally just as the name implies, because in order to get the design onto the garment you use high heat. This process is similar to DTG except that you are not making the inkjet printer print directly on the t-shirt. Instead, you purchase special transfer paper that is designed for this purpose. Several kinds exist on the market and are available in a wide range of prices. That old saying “you get what you pay for” applies here, because the cheaper papers will not last as long as the more expensive types. This printing is utilized by shops that do not have the capital needed to invest in the DTG printers. Since we have the DTG printer we really do not use this method at all since it is such poor quality.

Picture of heat transfer paper.

All in all, each method has it’s advantages and disadvantages. We have been in the industry for ten years now, so we understand that you still may be unsure of which method to use. Although, the beautiful thing about t shirt making is that we do not have to stick to just one method. For instance, we could combine vinyl and screen printing to get a t-shirt that is completely unique. We just did this for a customer wanting to combine glow in the dark vinyl with water-based screen printing and the final result was stunning!

Again, we must remind you that these are the four most popular methods of t shirt making. Many more options are available such as sublimation and embroidery, but for now we have specialized in just the four listed above. If you would like to stop by our shop to see us in action then feel free to contact us and we will be more then happy to let you see for yourselves. Thank you for reading and we hope you learned something new!

By |2013-04-19T04:24:24+00:00March 10th, 2013|Blog, Heat Press, Screen Printing|0 Comments

About the Author:

I literally am either talking or day dreaming about custom apparel. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me to hear about our pricing, printing options, and apparel selection. Hope to print for you soon!

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