Your Guide to Garment Print Technologies

Finding a garment printing process that’s ideal for your business can be a challenge. Whether you wish to start a new venture, replace current technology or simply expand the offering to your customers – the choice available today is probably bigger than ever before.

The cost is no longer your main purchase criteria, as print buyers or/and consumers are more demanding than ever before in terms of print quality, minimum order quantities, speed of delivery and mass personalisation. So what is right for you?

The truth is that most likely you won’t be able to fulfil all your customer demands with just one garment decoration technology. Therefore it is crucial for you to understand what the differences are between them and which one/ones are suitable for your business. Here is a quick summary guide to help you choose the right technology:

Direct to GarmentDye SublimationThermal TransferScreen Printing
Basic technologyInkjet, printer prints direct onto garmentPrint images on a release paper, then transfer image to garment by heat pressTransfer preprinted images to garment by heat pressAnaloque process. Screen printing directly on garment
GraphicsFull digital colorFull digital colorColor separationsColor separations. 4 -color simulated process approximates digital
Technology History10 years50+ years50+ years50+ years
Supported substrates100% cotton, high cotton blends, polyester belnds, canvas, hemp and linen100% white polyester or pastelsSynthetic, poly blendsAny fabric type
White ink supported (for impressions on dark or black shirts)YesNoNoYes
Ink and Environmental ConcernsWater-based pigment ink is environmentally friendly and non-toxic. No fumes.Typically solvent-based ink. VOC and environmental concerns.Ink is already on transfer paper.Ink is already on transfer paper. Commonly plastisol ink with environmental concerns. Produces VOC and waste water problems. Water-based inks available but cost more.
Printed Garment’s Tactile FeelSoft and natural cotton feeling. It depends on ink quality.Natural feelingDepends on the character of transfer paper used. Mostly stiff to touch.Thick hardened plastisol. “Tarp” feeling
Wash ability (durability of print)HighLowMediumHigh
Profitability of short runsHighHighHighNot feasible, especially for multiple colors. Runs below 25 prints are cost prohibitive
Supports personalisationYes – digital process supports
Yes – digital process supports
Yes – digital process supports
No – analogue print process does not
support personalisation
Suitable for large production volumesYes provided that machines recommended daily/monthly print volume supports itNot suitable for larger production
Not suitable for larger production
Yes – industrialised print process supports large production volumes
Ideal Owner ProfileProfessional commercial system, small scale commercial, hobbyistHobbyist or small scale commercialHobbyist or small scale commercialProfessional Commercial System
Set-up Time2-5 minutes2.5 minuteszero2-4 hours, depending on many variables

Find out more about our direct-to-garment printers