Best Guide to Dye Sublimation Printing, Screen Printing, Heat Transfer Printing, & 3 More

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Dye Sublimation, Heat Transfer Printing, Screen Printing, DTG Printing

The best guide to learn about Dye Sublimation Printing, Heat Transfer Printing, Screen Printing, DTG Printing, Pigment Printing, and Reactive Printing. We’ve not only explained all these types of textile printing techniques in simple words but also written their pros and cons so you can make an informed comparison.

T-shirt printing Techniques - Heat Transfer Printing
T-shirt Printing Techniques

With the boom in the printed T-shirt industry, several support industries have also emerged, whether it is fabric mills, garment manufacturing, textile printing, or print-on-demand. There are multiple types of printing techniques available for textiles nowadays. But the challenge is to find what method will suit your need. Also, if you are looking for print-on-demand websites in India, read this analysis and comparison of the best print-on-demand in India.

The criteria for the selection of print depends on the following factors –

  1. Cost of printing
  2. Quality
  3. Minimum order quantity
  4. Economy of scale

No technique is good or bad; it all depends on the requirement of your business or might be a personal need.

Table of Content:

  1. Screen Printing
  2. Digital Printing (DTG Printing)
  3. Heat Transfer Printing
  4. Pigment Printing
  5. Reactive Printing
  6. Dye Sublimation Printing

Screen Printing

T-shirts Screen Printing
T-shirt printing Technique – Screen Printing

Probably the most used technique in the business is screen printing. Although it was not a well-known process, it bridged the gap between manual art and automated printing setups, which was way more expensive. It soon transitioned from handcraft to mass production, making the apparel industry as we know it now.

Today it has become a very advanced process, using different fabrics and inks combined with computer technology. Often screen printing has been used as a substitute for other methods. It can print an image onto a wide range of surfaces such as paper, card, wood, glass, plastic, leather, or any fabric. It can be used on fabric or directly on the garment.

Although it is preferred that the design should not be more than 60% of are while doing directly on the garment as the frame setup can cause a problem. Quality is one of the best in the business, and when you have a reasonable quantity, it is the technique one should go for. All the major Printed T-Shirt businesses use this technique.

It is a technique that uses a woven mesh screen to support an ink-blocking stencil to receive a desired image.

The screen stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials by passing through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate (the item that will receive the image).

A squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing ink through the mesh openings to wet the substrate during the squeegee stroke. As the screen rebounds away from the substrate, the ink remains. It is the process of using a mesh-based stencil to apply ink onto a substrate, whether it is t-shirts, posters, stickers, vinyl, wood, or other materials.

Pros of Screen Printing

  • Superior quality
  • Highly durable
  • Ideal for sharp borders and contrast color pallete
  • Economical in large orders

Cons of Screen Printing

  • One-color per screen – multi-color design can be cumbersome
  • Very labor-intensive, not feasible for small runs
  • Not suitable for gradation effects
  • Creates waste

Digital Printing (DTG Printing)

T-shirt DTG Printing - Digital Printing
Digital Printing – Direct to Garment Printing

One of the most significant innovations that happened in the textile industry is digital printing. It has opened the doors for the whole customized printed garment segment. It has made printing even a single unit cost-effective. Anything can be printed very quickly and with perfection on fabric using digital printing technology.

In layman’s terms, when an image is reproduced digitally on a physical surface, we call it digital printing. The material’s surface can be in different forms like paper, cloth, plastic, film, etc. Once the design is created in digital printing, it can be directly printed on the fabric from the computer, exactly like we use a printer at home.

This process does not require any extra steps. Just like an image is printed on paper quickly, one can print designs on fabric. This is a significant advantage of this process, the lack of expertise required to handle the equipment.

The printer used is called a dye sublimation printer, which carries out the printing process by using heat to transfer the design to the fabric. In digital printing, it is crucial to pre-treat the fabric. This process will guarantee that the material holds the ink well, and a variety of colors can be attained through the pre-treatment process.

Pros of DTG Printing (Direct Printing)

  • Cost-effective for small quantity
  • Easy to operate
  • A wide range of colors is available
  • Gradation can be easily obtained

Cons of DTG Printing (Direct Printing)

  • Not very long-lasting 
  • The initial setup cost is high
  • Large scale production not feasible

Heat Transfer Printing

T-shirt Heat Transfer Printing
Heat Transfer Printing

Another very famous technique for smaller order quantities is Transfer Printing. It is as simple as the name suggests. It needs a specialist paper that can be easily purchased from stationers, craft shops, and supermarkets. You can use a printer at home to print the design onto the transfer paper, printed onto your chosen fabric using a standard household steam iron.

This process can be upscaled and done on a professional setup for larger-scale production; however, it may leave a shiny layer or surface texture on your fabric. It is not a method used for manufacturing daily use fabric printing as it faces quality issues like it can crack and peel after multiple washes and often fades. But it is best for some custom merchandise for a specific event that is not required for daily use.

If you are looking for “heat transfer printing near me”, then head on to Google Maps and search for that term at your location. If you are living in tier-1 or tier-2 cities, then you’d probably find a heat transfer printing on fabric shop near you. If not, you can sign up on Blinkstore, design your t-shirt online, and place an order. Blinkstore will print and ship your t-shirt to you within 7 days.

Pros of Heat Transfer Printing Process

  • Can print with a standard printer
  • No specialist equipment needed
  • Great for small runs
  • Easy to print and transfer
  • heat transfer printing t-shirt is fast
  • heat transfer printing paper is affordable

Cons of Heat Transfer Printing

  • Leaves a surface texture/film
  • Transfers are single-use
  • Peels, cracks, and fades
  • Can suffer from low resolutions

Pigment Printing

Pigment Printing - Textile Printing Technique
Pigment Printing

Pigment printing is one of the most commonly used and practical techniques for cellulose fibers or natural fibers. This method is also suitable to be used on synthetic materials as well, which makes it pretty versatile. It is a method for applying color to textiles that does not requires dyes. Pigment printing requires insoluble color particles are held on the surface of a fabric by an adhesive, resin, or binding agent.

This style might be sounding more like a painting technique. These fabrics, mainly when the designs are applied by hand, are often called painted fabrics. Pigment prints are the least expensive type of print to produce because they require the least amount of processing, the usual steaming and soaping not being required. Unlike dyeing, any color can be pigment printed on any fiber since the pigments are held on mechanically. Dyes produce bright, rich colors that have good lightfastness.

Pros of Pigment Printing

  • Permanent print with bright colors
  • It doesn’t require a lot of expertise
  • no high-end machinery hence cost-effective
  • Quick process

Cons of Pigment Printing

  • Requires pre-treatment of fabric
  • Requires binders that might leave a coating on the fabric
  • Colour lessens when repeatedly used over the same material
  • Dye stays on top of the fibers rather than embedded

Reactive Printing

Reactive Printing - Textile Printing
Reactive Printing

Reactive printing is a heat-activated fabric printing method. It is done by pre-treating the fabrics and then using a binding agent (similar to pigment printing) and a printing additive. Firstly, it prints a dye onto the fabric, and then, using heat reaction, it permanently bonds the image to the material. In simple words, it is similar to putting a coating on the fabric of the design and then steaming it to start a reaction that bonds the design to the material.

It allows printers to reach vibrant and accurate colors that remain durable following usage and outdoor exposure. The reaction of the reactive ink to the heat creates the high-quality results of this printing process, one reason that reactive printing has become a popular method for printing on cotton garments. 

This printing process requires a pre-treatment of fabric that involves expensive chemicals and requires quite a bit of time.

Pros of Reactive Printing

  • Highly durable
  • Works amazingly well on natural fabrics
  • Has good color fastness
  • Vibrant colors can be achieved

Cons of Reactive Printing

  • pre-treatment and post-treatment required
  • time-consuming process
  • skilled operator required
  • not very cost-effective

Dye Sublimation Printing

Dye Sublimation Printing - T-shirt printing technique
Dye Sublimation Printing

Dye-sublimation printing is used for its high-quality results. The printing process uses thermal transfer to transport varying amounts of colored dye pigments from a carrier ribbon or film to the PVC printing surface to which the dyes bond chemically.

This technique requires the following two-part process:

  1. Using dye sublimation printing and inks print graphics onto special transfer paper
  2. Transfer the ink-on-paper to the substrate using a heat press

Different sublimation dyes are transferred to “transfer” paper via liquid gel ink in the first step. The ink deposited on these high-release inkjet papers is used for the next step of the sublimation printing process.

In the second step, Using heat, the printed transfer sheets are transferred, converting the solid dye into the gaseous state without going through a liquid state. The heat combined with pressure initiates the dye penetration process to the substrate’s interior, creating a permanent color bond. As the heat is removed, the dye returns to a solid form, and the process is termed complete.

Pros of Dye Sublimation Printing:

  • Images are permanent and of superior quality
  • Dye does not affect the texture of the fabric
  • Colors are very vibrant on synthetic fabrics
  • A photographic level of detailing can be achieved

Cons of Dye Sublimation Printing:

  • Slow process 
  • Fabric handling is critical

Conclusion – Which Textile Printing You Should Go With

If you are looking to start your own print-on-demand business online for t-shirts and other Print-on-demand products, then you’ll most likely use DTG or Heat Transfer printing technique. You can read our ultimate guide on how to design and sell t shirts online in India and get started with your profitable online t-shirt business in India.

In conclusion, we’d say that there’s no one technique that beats all. If you need individual PoD orders then DTG and Heat Transfer are good. If you need large-scale printing, then Screen Printing is good. So on and so forth. So your choice of textile printing method will depend on your needs. For that, we’d recommend that you read the pros and cons of each method and map them to your specific requirements.

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All in all, learning about different textile printing techniques like Dye Sublimation Printing, Heat Transfer Printing, Screen Printing, DTG Printing, Pigment Printing, and Reactive Printing is educational and informative in itself. We hope that this guide has answered your questions and cleared your doubts on the textile printing methods.

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