Techniques of printing on T-shirts – which is the best?

Techniques of printing on T-shirts are the answer to many questions. This is an opportunity to transfer your ideas to T-shirts, as well as a chance to advertise your brand. Once you have created the right graphic design, it’s time to choose the printing method. Unfortunately, there is no one obvious answer, because there are many ways. In this text, I will try to present all the most popular ways, so that the choice is simpler.

The most popular printing methods

The most popular types of printing are: screen printing, DTG digital printing, sublimation, flex/flock foil, computer embroidery and thermal transfer. What are the differences in performance, what characterizes each of the technologies, as well as their strengths and weaknesses? Answers below. Before you start printing, specify for what purpose you are creating your print and on what material you intend to apply it. It is worth remembering not to make decisions hastily. If you print one T-shirt with the print, the losses will not be great, but in the case of larger quantities, you can pay dearly for it.


In other words, screen printing is one of the most popular types for a reason. It’s a fairly versatile method for covering large flat surfaces, so it’s a good option when creating a project with quite extensive graphics. The process of creating this type of print is based on pressing the paint through a special sieve with an appropriate template, then it is fixed on the material using high temperature (160 degrees C).

The advantages are large color possibilities and durability during use. Screen printing is primarily the quality and precision of workmanship, with the possibility of applying it to many different materials. Such a print is usually water-resistant, which means that it will not be damaged in the wash and will not fade for a long time. It is also resistant to high temperatures, so no iron is afraid of it.

One of the main disadvantages is the high cost for smaller orders. This method becomes profitable with wholesale quantities of ordered T-shirts (min. 50-100 pcs). This is the result of exceptional, compared to other methods, time-consuming printing.

DTG digital printing

DGT (Direct To Garment) is a fairly modern method consisting in literally printing a pattern on the material using a specialized, industrial printer. The paint ultimately penetrates deep into the fabric, which means that we cannot feel the print under our fingers. Digital printing is characterized by perfect reproduction with an impressive range of colors. Another advantage is high efficiency, and thus low production costs. Hence, printing even one piece will not be an economic problem.

Unfortunately, there are also limitations in the form of materials. In fact, the only possible prints are natural fabrics (with a max. 20% admixture of artificial fibers). The print cannot be placed on the sleeves, only the front or back of the shirt. These are the main disadvantages of this solution, and the good points seem to be more numerous. It’s a safe way out when you need to print one or more T-shirts for your own use. It will also work for a small business, when we do not want such shirts to be left on the shelves later.


This technique consists in printing the design with special inks on sublimation paper and “heating” it onto the target material. Sublimation is often used to mark clothing (t-shirts with logos). If we care about durability and the most accurate reproduction of the image, then sublimation works well. It is also a good choice when you want to print a photo of your choice on clothing.

The advantage of this method is the quality and durability of the print, and at the same time very accurate reproduction. A T-shirt made in this way will be resistant to abrasion, even in the wash. Not very high production costs make it worth ordering a small amount.

One of the main disadvantages is the type of materials that can be used. The minimum content of polyester in the fabric we want to use is 50-60%. That is why it is a popular way to print sportswear, which is largely polyester itself. On other materials, such a print can fade quickly, because natural fabrics do not absorb paint properly.

Flex/ flock foil

Flex and flock are types of foil that are cut with a plotter in a specific shape. Then it is glued and “welded” into the material using a press. Flex is a thin film that finally gives a smooth and rigid effect. Flock is thicker, and eventually you can feel the characteristic “fuzz” under your fingers. The pressure force and temperature are selected specifically for the thickness and type of foil.

This is a type of prints that will work well with less complicated patterns, e.g. company logos. The advantages of this method are durability and abrasion resistance. Low costs are also an advantage, which makes it a suitable method for ordering small quantities. However, it is in vain to look for advantages further.We will not use this method for graphics that are too complex in color or with small elements, because the effects will not be satisfactory. In short, it is a way to get a durable, uncomplicated and cheap T-shirt printing.

 computer embroidery

Compared to previous methods, computer embroidery on T-shirts has more specific areas of effective operation. As the name suggests, it is about embroidering patterns by the machine, using thread. In addition to the color, you can choose the types of threads, there are also those that guarantee fire resistance or metallicity. Embroidery is a permanent type of print, but it is best used on thicker materials.

It is also not cheap because, understandably, the larger the print, the more expensive the end result will be. It’s a natural choice for short lettering and logos. This method seems to be a good way to mark garments. The price depends on many factors, so it is difficult to say whether it is a cheap or expensive method.

Thermal transfer

It is a relatively cheap and durable method of printing. The graphics are first printed on paper or thermal transfer foil. Then, using a thermal press, the print is heated to 130-160 degrees and then transferred to the fabric, where the transfer glue melts and penetrates into the fabric fibers.

Thermal printing gives the possibility of using a wide range of colors and can be used on many different fabrics, which is not obvious in the case of other methods . It is also cost-effective with less effort. The durability of the print on clothing is a contentious issue. A lot depends on the manufacturing company, but unlike other types of prints, this one may deteriorate faster. It is also not suitable for more complex compositions and does not guarantee photographic quality.

Which printing technology to choose?

Unfortunately, you can only repeat the sentence from the introduction. It is impossible to choose one, definitely better than the other methods. However, you can decide which method is best and/or safest to choose depending on your needs.

  • When you need a T-shirt with a print noticeably larger than the classic logo, or with good quality graphics, it is worth choosing screen printing. But it will be a better choice for more T-shirts. If only a small logo is important on a T-shirt, computer embroidery will be a good and elegant solution. These are solutions primarily for printed company T-shirts.
  • In the case of T-shirts with an individual print, when you want to order one or several with different designs for your own use, DTG digital printing can be helpful. Unless we are talking about more polyester T-shirts, then sublimation will be more optimal. This method will also work if you want to supply your team or sports club with sportswear.

As you can see, there are several printing techniques on T-shirts. If we want to spend money wisely, whether for private or professional purposes, it is worth making a decision calmly. It is worth planning how many shirts we need. Then what we need and then you can look around the market in search of contractors. Many companies offer many ways and it is with them that we will determine the final price of the product. It is also up to the contractor how you will have to prepare the graphics, so communication before placing an order will be essential.