Do I want screen-printing or digital printing?
As far as budget goes, screen-printing is most affordable when you’re planning on ordering thousands of shirts with very few colors. If your ordering anywhere from one to a couple hundred shirts with many colors, then digital printing is the way to go.
Consider the ink feeling. Screen-printing uses very thick layers of ink that sit on top of the shirt, leaving a rough, plastic-y texture. Digital printing on the other hand, prints a very fine spray of ink, which soaks into the shirt so you don’t feel it at all.
Another thing to consider is the resolution of your graphic. If you just have text or a very simple illustration, screen-printing will be fine. If your graphic has lots of different colors with shading and gradients then you’ll have to go digital.
But then what kind of digital printing do you need? There are two types: DTG (Direct to Garment) and dye-sublimation, or just sublimation for short. The later is used when you need 100% white polyester, since that is the only fabric and color that it can print on. DTG is perfect for cotton and blends of at least 50% cotton. It can also do 100% polyester, but the ink won’t be quite as bright as it would be if it had cotton in it, since cotton absorbs the water-based inks the best.
What do they look like? Think of DTG machines as industrial-sized inkjet printers, made just for apparel. You load the shirt into the machine and it prints directly on it, just like a piece of paper. You take it out and then heat press it. The only difference between that and your desktop printer, is that you have to load the shirts one by one, it doesn’t print them from a stack.
What kind of fabric do I want?
There are so many types of fabrics – Cotton, polyester, rayon, lycra, spandex, and more. Not to mention blends of all of these. The most common of course, is cotton. But be specific in what you ask for when you place your order, since most printers will automatically print on the cheapest cotton, which is usually thick and scratchy. If you want softer, lighter fabric, ask for ringspun cotton. Read more on that here: http://www.theadairgroup.com/resources/regular-vs-ring-spun-cotton-whats-the-difference/
Are there setup fees?
If you decide on screen-printing, you will surely have to pay a setup fee, since it costs them money to cut out a screen for every color your graphic needs. But some digital and sublimation printers charge setup fees as well, even though there’s not really a setup. Make sure you ask before you order, as sometimes this can be added to your invoice without you knowing.
Are there minimum orders?
Due to the extensive setup process of cutting and preparing screens for screen-printing, they have to charge a minimum order. For some stores this is 30 shirts, others it’s 50. So if you want to order fewer shirts than that, you’re simply out of luck. Digital printing however, can easily print just one shirt, or a hundred shirts back to back, all with different designs.
Are there fees for extra colors?
Not for digital printing! Since digital printing imports the image directly from the computer, and the ink heads print directly on the shirts you get all the colors of the rainbow for no extra charge. Even colorful, high resolution photos turn out perfectly. Screen-printing however, needs to cut out a screen for every color in your graphic, including one for the white ink base layer, if needed. So they do have to charge more per color.
Here at Splash the Ink, we have a Brother DTG printer, the best industrial printer on the market. To learn more about our printer, click here: Brother-usa.com