Screen Printing vs. DTG vs. Sublimation

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    At some point in time, most businesses have a need to print images, logos, text, or photos on t-shirts, towels, and other garments. In some cases, it can be profitable simply from just selling their products, but it can also be a great promotional strategy when giving away these branded products to your employees and/or customers. So when the time comes to do this custom printing, it is important to identify the right method for your needs.

    There are several types of printing that are commonly used today. Three of the most popular are screen printing, DTG, and sublimation. Let’s explore each of these printing techniques so you can better decide which one is right for you.

    Screen Printing

    Screen printing, also known as silkscreen printing or simply silk screening, is an analog or pre-digital technique that’s been used for decades. People who grew up in the 1970s and 80s still have classic silk-screened t-shirts displaying their favorite rock bands, destinations (not to mention, thousands of other images and slogans). Even in the digital age, screen printing remains the most widely used type of printing for t-shirts and other garments.

    With this process, plastisol-based inks are pressed through a screen onto a garment such as a polo shirt, sweatshirt, baseball cap, or another item. Different screens are used for different colors. The screens are attached to a press, which rotates and allows the designs to be imprinted on the garments. Even though screen printing is an analog process, when you place an order for printing, you’ll generally send files that contain the design in a format such as EPS to the printing company.

    One of the benefits of screen printing is that it’s ideal for handling high-volume orders. If you want to get hundreds or even thousands of t-shirts printed quickly, silk screening is the most efficient and economical method. Screen printing requires a certain amount of setup, as only one color is applied at a time.

    DTG Printing

    Direct to Garment or DTG printing is another option. As the name suggests, DTG involves laying ink directly on a garment without using screens. Whereas screen printing uses thick ink, DTG uses thinner, water-based inks. With the DTF process, the design is truly embedded in the fabric. This creates the impression that the design is part of the garment and can be quite impressive. If you want the printed item to look like a customized work of art, DTG is a good choice.

    However, DTG printing is generally more suitable for one-offs or small quantities of printing. This makes it a popular choice for print-on-demand (POD) services. Under this business model, there is no upfront investment as the printing company doesn’t print until there’s an order. DTG printing is great for detailed designs and many colors. It is also a good way to render photographs onto any garment. That said, it is not ideal for images that are dark or opaque.

    Sublimation Printing

    With sublimation printing, also called dye sublimation, pressure and heat are used to transfer heat to specially treated surfaces. This is done using a special heat-press, though people at home can use an oven.

    Sublimation is very effective for creating permanent designs that don’t easily fade. In order to print in this manner, you need a special printer that prints out sublimation paper that transfers onto the fabric or other surface. Sublimation printing works best on synthetic fabrics such as polyester. It isn’t as suitable for cotton or other natural fabrics. In addition to garments, it can be used to print on items such as mugs and phone cases.

    What is the Best Type of Printing For You?

    There are pros and cons to screen printing, DTG printing, and sublimation printing. The right choice depends on your purposes and what you want to print. The following are some questions to consider, which should help you identify the most appropriate printing technique.

    Are you printing t-shirts, polos, and other similar garments? Or will you be printing on non-clothing products such as coffee mugs? If you’re printing on fabrics, what type of fabric is it? If you’re working with 100% cotton t-shirts, for example, screen printing or DTG is more appropriate than sublimation. For objects such as phone cases or mugs, sublimation printing is probably going to be the best option.

    What Quantity of Items are You Printing?

    Screen printing is great when doing larger volume orders. Granted, you can also print in volume using other methods, but it will be more costly. If you’re looking to print a small number of items, or a one-off, you may want to consider DTG. At the same time, you can print larger quantities with DTG if you are creating a premium product and want the colors and details to look perfect.

    What is Your Budget?

    Screen printing is often the most economical way to print quantities of items. At the same time, DTF or sublimation is more appropriate for certain projects. If you’re selling products, you have to consider printing costs when pricing items.

    What Type of Image Are You Printing?

    Screen printing is effective for rendering a wide variety of images, including logos, typographic designs, and many types of illustrations. This method, however, is best for simpler images. For extremely detailed images or ones that contain many colors, you can get a better result with DTG or sublimation.

    Choose the Printing Method That’s Right For You

    When you’re printing items for your business, it’s important to choose the right method. The type of printing you arrange will have a big impact on your cost as well as the quality of the products. Screen printing, DTG, and sublimation printing are all good for many types of printing jobs. The ideal method depends on factors such as what you are printing, the material and the quantity. If you’re not sure about the optimal method, you can always consult with a printing company for advice.


    Ella Starr on Jun 23, 2021 - 01:06

    How helpful that you talk about how screen printing is great for large orders. I am thinking of getting t-shirts for our family reunion this summer. I will find a great screen printing company in my area.