T-shirt Printing Methods

What is T-shirt Printing?

T- shirt printing is one of the best means of embellishing a shirt. There are many means in which t shirt can be printed. Following are some such ways. 

Screen printing

This method is used to bulk print t-shirts. This is used widely when there is a single design, not too many colours and when a large number of shirts need to be printed. 

The method involves passing ink using a mesh with a stenciled design on it.


  1. Used for bulk orders
  2. Vibrant colours
  3. Economies of scale


  1. Expensive to set up
  2. The process is complex 
  3. Not ideal for complex designs with different colours

Sublimation printing

Sublimation is a chemical process. When solid changes to a gaseous matter without turning liquid it is called sublimation. 

The Wikipedia definition of sublimation printing or Dye-sublimation printing is “a computer printing technique which uses heat to transfer dye onto materials such as a plastic, card, paper, or fabric.” 

Sublimation printing is a popular method of printing on t-shirts. However, the sublimation print can be done only on polyester based clothes. But there are various techniques available which help print on other cloth type as well such as cotton.


  1. Can pull off any kind of design and colour
  2. More suitable for boutique designs, one off designs
  3. It is a popular choice for print on demand businesses


  1. Expensive to set up
  2. Not ideal for bulk orders
  3. Can not print on materials other than polyester; although workarounds are available

Direct-to-garment (DTG)

Diect-to-garment (DTG) printing is probably the most technologically advanced method to print on t-shirts. It literally means printing directly on a t-shirt using an inkjet DTG printer.

DTG printing can be used on both light and dark coloured garments. It is capable of printing full colour images on to a wide range of t-shirts, hoodies, embroidered polo shirts and other materials.


  1. Can print any design on any kind of cloth and any colour of cloth
  2. Print output is extremely good 
  3. Hassle free and simpler process than sublimation or screen printing


  1. DTG printing is all about the quality of printer and they can be very expensive
  2. It can not handle bulk volume like screen printing does

What is the best t-shirt printing method?

As we can see all the methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. Which one will be the best depends on factors like

  • Budget
  • Business size 
  • Type of design, material, colour etc.

A combination of DTG and either sublimation or screen printing can be quite comprehensive but it requires good amount of investment up front. If one is just starting a t-shirt printing business with a tight budget then sublimation printing can be a good option. As the business increases, further investment can be made to add screen printing and/or DTG printer added to the repertoire.

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