Heat Transfer vs. Screen Printing for T-Shirts

There are a variety of directions you can go when customizing a t-shirt. Screen printing is likely the most popular option, but you can also choose to do heat transfer. This article will discuss what’s involved for each.


What Is Heat Transfer Printing?

Heat transfer is a modern way of printing that has become more popular in the last 20 years. It uses a combination of heat and pressure to print images on t-shirts and other items. It requires a heat press machine that will allow you to do vinyl or digital printing.


Vinyl Printing: Vinyl printing involves using the machine to cut designs out of colored vinyl. The pieces are then put together onto the t-shirt to create your design and pressed on with the machine.


Digital Printing: Digital printing works similarly to a home printer. The image is designed with a computer and digitally printed onto a high-quality paper with a special solvent ink. The paper is then pressed onto the shirt with the heat of the machine allowing the graphic image to transfer onto the item.


This method requires a special printer and is ideal for complex designs. It provides high resolution images and works well for small print jobs that involve a lot of color.


Overall heat transferring is:

  • Affordable for smaller orders
  • Great for complex designs and multiple colors
  • Offers affordable set up
  • Produces high quality images
  • Ideal for complex designs with multiple colors
  • Allows for easy customization
  • Environmentally friendly


On the downside, the process is:

  • Not ideal for darker shirts
  • Stiffens fabrics
  • Produces designs that don’t last as long as screen printed shirts
  • Produces designs that aren’t as vibrant as screen printed shirts


Screen Printing

Screen printing is a t-shirt customization method that’s been around for years. It involves cutting a design into a screen.


After the design is cut, the t-shirt is laid down on the screen-printing machine. The screen is placed over it and paint is applied over the top. The screen’s porous quality allows the paint to seep through to produce the image on the shirt.


Screen printing is ideal because it:

  • Is cost effective for large quantities
  • Produces a softer feel than heat transfer
  • Produces designs that last longer
  • Produces vibrant colors


On the downside, screen printing is:

  • Not ideal for more detailed, colorful designs
  • Messy and time consuming
  • Expensive to set up meaning it’s not a great option for smaller orders
  • Uses more chemicals and equipment than heat transfer


Which is Right for Me?

Whether you choose heat transfer or screen printing for your shirts depends on the desired outcome and the type of job you’re doing. But screen printing is the best choice if you are printing professionally as it produces more vibrant colors and will last longer. However, heat transfer could work well if you are doing smaller jobs to produce items meant for personal use.


If you are looking to customize your merchandise, look no further than Artrageous Apparel. We offer heat transfer, screen printing and more. We will provide the best method for getting the job done and guarantee you’ll be happy with the finished product.