Digital Printing on T-Shirts

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Digital Printing on T-Shirts refers to the method of printing from a digital based image directly onto a T-Shirt or media with the help of a machine. There are primarily 3 high quality methods of Digital Printing on T-Shirts. The digital printing method chosen to print the t-shirt depends on the fabric(natural or polyester), design and quantity. These three Digital Printing Techniques on T-Shirts with their pros and cons are:

Direct to Garment(DTG) Printing

Next on the line is the Direct to Garment(DTG) method. This is a relatively new method of t-shirt printing and was introduced only in 2005. It involves printing directly on the t-shirt. It is printed using a DTG Printer. This works exactly the same way printing is done by an inkjet printer on paper.

Being able to print directly on the t-shirt with a machine has the following advantages:

  1. Detailed Printing - As this prints directly on the t-shirt, complex designs and colours can be printed.
  2. One offs - As there is no set up required, it is ideally suitable for one off prints.
  3. Quick delivery - As it can be printed directly on the t-shirt, this can be printed at short notice.

Considering DTG printing is an emerging technology, it has some inherent disadvantages:

  1. Price - The DTG printer and the ink used is relatively expensive. And as the cost increases linearly with volume, it is not cost effective for larger runs.
  2. Consistency - The prints are not consistent and depends a lot on variables like temperature, material of the t-shirt and pretreatment liquid.
  3. Placement - As the print is done with machine on a flat bed, the print cannot be done at unconventional design positions
  4. Colour - Colour matching of the print cannot be done, as the software and machine interprets the colours by converting RGB to CMYK.
  5. Quality - The print quality is not as good as Screen Prints. The print may fade after a few washes

Vinyl Cut Printing

Vinyl cut printing is the technique where vinyl sheets are cut as per the design using a CAD plotter and cutter. This cut design is then printed onto the t-shirt using a heat press machine. It is widely used add names and numbers onto sports t-shirts. It can be done on both dry-fit sports jerseys and cotton t-shirts. Vinyl cut Printing allows for different types of prints like reflective prints, neon prints, glitter prints, metallic foil prints as well as prints in an colour. Vinyl cut print works well for slogans, small graphics and words.

The advantages of Vinyl Cut Printing are:

  1. Durability - No fading cracking of print
  2. Quick Turnaround - As there is no set up involved, they can pretty quickly.
  3. Ideal for low quantities - As there is no set up cost, they are suitable for one-off prints.
  4. Print colour and material options - As the types and colours of vinyl(colours, giltter, metallic foil,reflective) are innumerable.

There are a few disadvantages of CAD Vinyl Cut Printing:

  1. Print Size - The bigger the print, the heavier the garment gets.
  2. Print Quality - Print is not as soft as screen prints.
  3. Not Cost Effective for Large orders - It is not cost effective for large order as the cost increase linearly with quantity unlike Screen printing.

Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is what is used to get an all over print on a t-shirt. However, this can only be done on polyester t-shirts. It is capable of transforming the whole t-shirt into a piece of art. Sublimation print can only be done on lighter colours. In sublimation printing, the design is first printed onto a heat transfer paper. This paper is then placed on the t-shirt to be printed and high temperature and pressure through a fusing machine then applied. With the application of heat, the t-shirt pores expand and the sublimation dye on the paper turns into liquid and gas and passes onto the pores of the t-shirt fabric. On cooling, the pores again contract and the t-shirt is now printed with the design.

The advantages of Sublimation Printing are:

  1. Print size - Can do all over prints.
  2. Design range - can print any design, colour and range of colours.
  3. Durable - Prints are extremely long lasting.
  4. Great Print quality - The print is within the fabric itself and cannot be felt

The disadvantages of Sublimation Printing are:

  1. Fabric - Sublimation printing can only be done on polyester fabric.
  2. T-Shirt Colour - Sublimation printing can only be done white and light colours.