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Your Guide to Garment Print Technologies

Finding a garment printing process that’s ideal for your business can be a challenge. Whether you wish to start a new venture, replace current technology or simply expand the offering to your customers – the choice available today is probably bigger than ever before.

The cost is no longer your main purchase criteria, as print buyers or/and consumers are more demanding than ever before in terms of print quality, minimum order quantities, speed of delivery and mass personalisation. So what is right for you?

The truth is that most likely you won’t be able to fulfil all your customer demands with just one garment decoration technology. Therefore it is crucial for you to understand what the differences are between them and which one/ones are suitable for your business. Here is a quick summary guide to help you choose the right technology:

Direct to Garment Dye Sublimation Thermal Transfer Screen Printing
Basic technology Inkjet, printer prints direct onto garment Print images on a release paper, then transfer image to garment by heat press Transfer preprinted images to garment by heat press Analoque process. Screen printing directly on garment
Graphics Full digital color Full digital color Color separations Color separations. 4 -color simulated process approximates digital
Technology History 10 years 50+ years 50+ years 50+ years
Supported substrates 100% cotton, high cotton blends, polyester belnds, canvas, hemp and linen 100% white polyester or pastels Synthetic, poly blends Any fabric type
White ink supported (for impressions on dark or black shirts) Yes No No Yes
Ink and Environmental Concerns Water-based pigment ink is environmentally friendly and non-toxic. No fumes. Typically solvent-based ink. VOC and environmental concerns. Ink is already on transfer paper. Ink is already on transfer paper. Commonly plastisol ink with environmental concerns. Produces VOC and waste water problems. Water-based inks available but cost more.
Printed Garment’s Tactile Feel Soft and natural cotton feeling. It depends on ink quality. Natural feeling Depends on the character of transfer paper used. Mostly stiff to touch. Thick hardened plastisol. “Tarp” feeling
Wash ability (durability of print) High Low Medium High
Profitability of short runs High High High Not feasible, especially for multiple colors. Runs below 25 prints are cost prohibitive
Supports personalisation Yes – digital process supports
Yes – digital process supports
Yes – digital process supports
No – analogue print process does not
support personalisation
Suitable for large production volumes Yes provided that machines recommended daily/monthly print volume supports it Not suitable for larger production
Not suitable for larger production
Yes – industrialised print process supports large production volumes
Ideal Owner Profile Professional commercial system, small scale commercial, hobbyist Hobbyist or small scale commercial Hobbyist or small scale commercial Professional Commercial System
Set-up Time 2-5 minutes 2.5 minutes zero 2-4 hours, depending on many variables