T-Shirt Printing Processes

May 23, 2008

When it comes to getting your designs printed on your shirts, you always want to make sure that the quality of your designs on your t-shirts turn out the way you wanted. Do you want a print quality where you can feel the ink on the shirt or do you want the print smooth and soaked deep into the shirt fabric? Are you printing bright colors or dull colors? When thinking about this, you gotta have an understanding of the different t-shirt printing processes to see which one suits the feel that you’re going for. Know the technical aspects of printing. Here’s some of the most common t-shirt printing processes available to you.

Screen Printing

A screen is made of a piece of finely woven fabric (or in other words a t-shirt) stretched over a frame of aluminum or wood. Some areas of the screen are covered with a non-permeable material to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be operator meaning that the open spaces are where the ink will actually show up. The operator begins with the fill bar at the end of the screen and behind a reservoir of ink. The printer then lifts the screen to prevent contact with the shirt and then using a slight amount of downward force pulls the fill bar to the front of the screen. This effectively fills the mesh openings with ink and moves the ink reservoir to the front of the screen. The operator then uses a squeegee to move the mesh down to the t-shirt and pushes the squeegee to the rear of the screen. The ink that is in the mesh opening is transferred by capillary action to the t-shirt in a controlled way. As the squeegee moves toward the rear of the screen the tension of the mesh pulls the mesh up away from the t-shirt leaving the ink upon the t-shirt’s surface.

Screen Printing

Direct to Garment Printing (DTG)

DTG is a fabric printing method that prints an image directly onto the t-shirt through a modified version of a traditional inkjet printer. Basically,instead of using a screen and a stencil to apply ink to the shirt, the ink is printed directly onto the garment. DTG offeres more flexibility than screen printing in terms of color variation and turn around time.

Direct to Garment

Heat Transfer Printing

With the heat transfer process, ink is transferred on a carrier paper to the t-shirt. When heat and pressure is applied to the carrier paper, the ink is transferred onto the t-shirt. A common way that this is done is by applying an iron to the carrier paper for a period of time until the ink appears on the shirt.