A Comprehensive Guide to Different T-Shirt Printing Methods

In the world of custom apparel, there are numerous printing methods to choose from, each suited to different needs and design preferences. Navigating the realm of custom apparel printing can be overwhelming, with numerous printing methods and techniques at your disposal. In order to make the best decision for your unique project, it’s crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the available techniques and their respective benefits and limitations.

In this detailed guide, we’ll explore various t-shirt printing methods, empowering you with the knowledge to make an informed choice that aligns seamlessly with your requirements and design preferences.

1. Screen Printing

Screen printing, also known as silk-screen or serigraphy, is a traditional printing method that has been widely used for decades. Known for producing vibrant, long-lasting designs, screen printing is often the go-to choice for many custom apparel projects. Let’s examine the process, benefits, and limitations of this classic method.

Process: Screen printing involves using a stencil (also known as a screen) to apply ink directly onto the fabric. Each colour in the design requires a separate screen, making the process more time-consuming and labour-intensive for multi-colour designs.

Benefits: Screen printing excels in delivering crisp, vibrant colours and durable prints, making it ideal for bold and simple designs. Furthermore, screen printing offers cost efficiency for bulk orders, as the cost per unit decreases with larger order quantities.

Limitations: Due to the complex setup process, screen printing may be less suitable for small order quantities and intricate designs. Additionally, the method struggles in accurately reproducing colour gradients and photographic imagery.

Ideal Scenarios: Screen printing is recommended for large order quantities with simple designs or when colour vibrancy is a top priority.

2. Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing

Direct-to-garment printing, commonly referred to as DTG printing, is a modern digital printing method that offers flexibility and precision. With its capacity for intricate designs and no minimum order requirements, DTG is a popular choice for various custom t-shirt projects.

Process: DTG printing utilises a specialised printer to apply ink directly onto the fabric, similar to a conventional paper printer. The design is printed in a single pass, without the need for stencils or screens, allowing for fast turnaround times and detailed designs.

Benefits: DTG printing is particularly adept at reproducing intricate designs, full-colour images, and colour gradients with high accuracy. Additionally, there are no minimum order requirements or complex setup processes, making it ideal for small batches and one-off custom apparel pieces.

Limitations: DTG printers may struggle with colour vibrancy on dark garments and, in some cases, may have reduced print durability compared to other methods. Furthermore, per-unit costs do not decrease significantly with increasing order quantities, reducing cost efficiency for bulk orders.

Ideal Scenarios: DTG printing is well-suited for small orders, one-off pieces, and designs that demand intricate detailing or photographic reproduction.

3. Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) Printing

Heat transfer vinyl, or HTV printing, offers versatility, ease of customisation, and a smooth finish. With a variety of unique design possibilities, HTV can be an excellent choice for many custom t-shirt projects.

Process: HTV printing involves cutting the design from sheets of vinyl, which are then applied to the garment using a heat press machine. The high heat permanently adheres the vinyl to the fabric, resulting in a smooth and durable finish.

Benefits: HTV printing allows for precise placement of designs and provides a wide range of special effects, such as metallic, glitter, or holographic finishes. Additionally, HTV excels in creating sharp, detailed designs that withstand extensive wear and tear.

Limitations: HTV printing tends to be more suitable for small-scale projects, as the process is labour-intensive for larger batches. Additionally, it may not be ideal for designs with multiple colours or complex gradients, as each colour requires separate cutting and layering.

Ideal Scenarios: HTV printing is recommended for small orders, customisation of individual garments, and projects that require special effect finishes.

4. Sublimation Printing

Dye-sublimation printing, or simply sublimation, is a technique that infuses ink directly into the fabric, resulting in seamless and high-quality designs. Let’s discover the benefits and drawbacks of sublimation printing.

Process: Sublimation printing involves printing a design onto special sublimation paper and transferring it onto the fabric using a heat press. The high heat turns the ink into a gas that permeates the fabric, creating a permanent and vivid design once it cools down.

Benefits: Sublimation produces high-quality, continuous-tone prints without visible dots or streaks. Moreover, the design becomes part of the fabric, resulting in a smooth feel and increased durability. Since there is no additional layer added to the garment, the design will not crack or peel over time.

Limitations: Sublimation printing is limited to polyester or polyester blend fabrics, and works best on white or light-coloured garments. Additionally, like DTG printing, it may not be cost-efficient for large order quantities.

Ideal Scenarios: Sublimation printing is ideal for all-over prints and projects that require a smooth, lightweight feel on the fabric.


Choosing the right t-shirt printing method for your custom apparel project greatly depends on your design preferences, order quantity, and desired outcome. By understanding the various printing techniques and their respective merits and limitations, you can make informed decisions that elevate your custom t-shirt production and exceed your expectations.

At Direct Style Printing, a reliable t-shirt printing company in London, our mission is to empower our clients with the knowledge and guidance to make an informed decision that aligns seamlessly with their unique requirements. Trust us as your knowledgeable guide in navigating the world of t-shirt printing, offering unparalleled expertise and unwavering commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Contact us today to request a sample!