Need a fun way to promote your brand? Try printing up some apparel for your organization’s next event. When you print your apparel, you’ll have a choice: screen printing or heat transfer? Let’s examine what these two printing options involve and how they stack up against each other.
Breaking Down the Heat Transfer and Screen Printing Processes
Both printing processes involve transferring from a machine to apparel fabric. However, they do it in different ways. Here’s how the two processes work:
In the heat transfer process, a combination of heat and pressure applies images to custom T-shirts and other apparel. This process has two subtypes: vinyl and digital heat transfer printing.
The heat transfer vinyl process requires a heat press machine to cut out vinyl lettering and images to create the full design. Once the design has a vinyl template, the machine presses the template against the fabric to print the design on it.
The digital subtype works more like typical computer printing. A digital heat transfer machine uses solvent inks to print the apparel design onto high-quality paper. The machine then presses the paper with the design on it onto the apparel fabric to complete the transfer process.
The screen printing process starts with a mesh screen of silk. That’s why screen printing is often called silk screen printing. First, the machine operator cuts the mesh screen into the shape of the apparel’s design to make a stencil for it. After this, the screen printing machine uses a squeegee to spread the ink over the silk screen, which it places on top of the apparel. The machine then applies the stencil and ink to the apparel to transfer the design. Each screen can only handle one ink color at a time, so a design that requires multiple colors needs multiple screens set up on the machine for the design transfer to work.
Heat Transfer Pros and Cons
The heat transfer process offers many advantages, but it also has some disadvantages. Heat transfer printing works well for small batches of printed apparel, typically under 500 pieces. It prints high-resolution images in multiple colors extremely well, and it adjusts easily to complex designs. It’s also environmentally friendly and has a cost-effective setup.
However, this printing method doesn’t work well for large orders and it can make the fabric beneath the design feel stiff. It also doesn’t work well on dark-colored fabrics, and the designs can crack over time.
Pros and Cons of Screen Printing
Like the heat press technique, screen printing has its benefits and drawbacks. Screen printing suits larger orders of apparel, over 500 pieces, and it works well with dark and light fabrics. This printing technique produces brightly colored designs that last longer than most heat press designs do. It also creates a softer, more flexible fabric than heat press printing does.
However, the screen printing process only handles a maximum of two to three colors at a time. It’s also more expensive than heat transfer printing because it requires more equipment and chemicals, and the process can be time consuming and messy to start out.
Reach out to us to design your organization’s new pieces of heat transfer or screen printed apparel.
How Do You Choose Between Screen Printing vs Heat Press?
The truth about silk screen printing and heat transfer is that neither method is truly better than the other. Each one works better for certain order sizes and numbers of colors and image types. Ultimately, choosing the right printing method comes down to which printing technique fits your design’s needs. To choose the best method for your design, ask yourself questions like:
- How many items do you want to print with this design on them? If the answer is under 500, go with heat transfer. If it’s over 500, choose screen printing.
- How many colors does your design require? Screen printing works best with three or fewer colors. If your design requires multiple colors, choose heat transfer.
- How complex is your design? Heat transfer suits complex designs, while screen printing works best with simple designs.
Ask yourself these questions about your design and pay attention to your answers. The answers help you determine which printing method to use.
Choose Your Printing Style With Marathon Sportswear
If your Chicago-area business needs apparel with customized designs, reach out to us today. We help you choose between silk screen printing and heat transfer printing according to your needs.