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What Printing Method Should You Use for Your T-Shirt Business?


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Before you can start selling your custom t-shirts, you need to choose which printing method you’re going to use.

For many creatives, thinking up fun or stunning designs is the easy part. The hardest part is translating these ideas into cloth. It isn’t always clear which way is the best way to get your designs onto t-shirts and other clothing.

Once you design your own custom tee, you have the option of vinyl cutting, dye sublimation, and silk screen printing your shirts. Keep scrolling to find out how they differ, so you know which one works best for your business.

Vinyl Cutting

First up is vinyl cutting, which, true to its name, involves cutting pieces of vinyl to adhere to your t-shirt. You’ll have to break down your design into individual letters and elements, assigning a separate piece of vinyl for each color. Then, you’ll transfer the vinyl to your t-shirt by applying heat.

This arts-and-crafts approach to your business works if you’re doing small batch designs, but it may be too labor-intensive for bulk t-shirt orders. After all, you’ll have to cut multiple pieces of vinyl for each shirt.

Dye Sublimation

This next process also uses heat to bring your t-shirt design to life. It requires applying a specialty dye to your clothing and waiting for it to dry. Once it’s set, you’ll apply heat and pressure to transform the solidified dye into a gas that works its way into the very fiber of your t-shirt.

Dye sublimation is an excellent option if your t-shirt design involves a lot of colors and patterns, as it dyes the fabric without overlaying like vinyl cutting would. However, because it relies on a sophisticated chemical change, it’s limited to polyester t-shirts — cotton doesn’t do well under the pressure.

Silk Screen Printing

You also have the option of silk screen printing your latest t-shirt design. Plenty of professional clothing designers rely on this method because it’s affordable, flexible, and long-lasting.

This method involves pressing ink through a mesh screen and transferring your image or lettering to a t-shirt below. Before you apply the ink, you’ll process the mesh in a way that waterproofs everything but the stencil of your design. That allows the ink to pass through the untreated mesh, and the negative space around your design on the t-shirt remains untouched.

Silk screen printing is an ideal method if you have a huge bulk order of t-shirts to get through. It guarantees a vibrant, clear, and (perhaps most importantly) identical print with every run. However, you can only print one color at a time, so it may involve more time to switch out meshes and layer colors.

What Should You Choose?

While every method has pros and cons, most t-shirt businesses choose the silk screen printing method. It creates precise replicas of your original design, and it doesn’t involve complicated equipment requiring heat.

Of course, you’ll still need to invest in inks, mesh, and other equipment to get your business off the ground. But if you don’t have the startup costs to cover these purchases, you can outsource your printing to a silk screen company. You can tap into their equipment, clothing inventory, and storage space for a small fee, not to mention their experience silk screen printing bulk orders.

So, what will you choose? Happy printing, no matter what!

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