Custom T-shirts are a great way to let the world know of your sports fandom, musical preference, or even just a favorite TV quote. Custom prints vary from plain old company logos, personal statements, to snapshots of pop culture icons.
How a chosen design goes from a computer to the shirt is an equally interesting process, as well. In fact, the method of printing your personalized shirt matters as much as picking the design you wish to print.
The two most common custom printing methods are screen printing and digital printing. Their approaches to bringing your design to life differs quite a bit, and it pays to know which one should serve your needs best.
Screen printing, est. 1907
That’s right, screen printing or silkscreen printing goes way back to 1907, and has been the de facto solution for printing designs onto a cloth and other materials.
Tee Vision Printing, a company that prints customized T-shirts in Philadelphia, illustrates the process as starting with burning the artwork into mesh screens. The screens are then loaded into the printing machine, adding the ink afterward. Every color is printed separately on individual mesh screens after which, the ink on the shirt is left to dry.
Screen printing is most advisable when ordering T-shirts in bulk, as orders of 10 or more shirts reduce the cost of printing service. Simpler block designs like logos and words look best when screen-printed, and the print quality survives even after many laundry cycles.
Regarding strictly the printing process, it’s often considered much easier to print designs digitally. Much like how a regular printer works, digital printing adheres the ink directly onto the surface of the shirt. Since the process does not make use of multiple silk screens, digital works best for designs with multiple colors and high level of detail.
Digital printing is also favorable for smaller orders, with fairly consistent pricing for each customized shirt. Fabric choices, however, are pretty limited with digital printing.
Your choice of printing process banks on how many shirts you need to have printed, and the nature of the design you wish to print. Digital printing and screen printing both have their specific advantages, each working best for particular self-expression needs.