Heat Press vs. Screen Printing

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When you decide to get into T-shirt printing, you will be given many choices and chief among them is the method you choose to transfer your designs to the fabric or material of your choice. Will you use a screen-printing method or a method that uses a heat press? What is the difference and what is each method good for? 

In this article, we will break done each method and hopefully help you decide whether the heat press vs screen printing method is the right one for your business or project. 

Heat Press – Pros and Cons

A heat press is a method where you use a machine with a heated plate and a graphic transfer of some form (usually either heat transfer or sublimation paper). There are many great advantages to this process. You have a lot of control and the ability to use versatile materials. Depending on the transfer method you use you can have access to using multiple fabrics like cotton, polyester, and blends. You even can transfer to things like mugs and puzzles if you use your heat press with the sublimation method. You have a wide color selection and you can easily transfer photographs to your material This is a budget-friendly option; the equipment is easy to set up and use; and it is also eco-friendly. 

Now it does have some drawbacks. This method works better with lighter color fabrics and is not as durable as other methods. Because this method adds a layer onto the cloth instead of fusing the graphic into the fabric it can not be ironed or washed in a washer. Over time this method will crack and fade after extended wear.

The best reasons to use heat press are for:

  • Limited run of products to create
  • Material is a weird shape or has crevasses and rolls
  • Easy-to-use method for an on-the-go creation
  • Individualized T's or products
  • Have one-of-a-kind art to use as a graphic

Screen Printing – Pros and Cons

This process has been around for centuries. Originally developed in China, the method started by using silk screens to create beautiful artwork. That is why this method is sometimes also known as silk screening. Nowadays screen printing is a technique where a stencil is used to embed ink into a woven fabric. This process is more complicated and requires special considerations. The screens will need to be stored in a room that is dark and you will need specialized machinery. It is not as eco-friendly as a heat press, but it does have some great advantages. It is a great method for large batch production and allows the fabric to keep its hand after printing. The richness and vibrancy of the color also tend to be better and can be transferred to darker fabrics easier. This method also produces durability in the fact that you can easily wash your shirt without the worry of the image fading or cracking like many that have been done by a heat press.

The biggest drawback of this technique is the expense of the whole process. The fact that each color of the graphic will needs its own stencil and the cost of the equipment itself, this method has a high-cost of entry. You may have problems with imagery that has too many colors and this process takes longer the more colors you use. Because of the process, you will need to create a stencil for every color used in the design and it is not easy to set up, nor is it easy to clean up after.

This technique is good for:

  • Large batch prints
  • Prints that require special effects
  • Super vibrant or dark colors
  • Keeping the fabric’s hand (feel)

Final Verdict

So what should you decide when it comes to heat press vs screen printing? Each of these methods has its own uses and depends on where you want to take your business and the budget you have. These two considerations will play a role in the final verdict on which technique you feel will work for you. A heat press is good for a lower budget and a startup business. It has fewer equipment needs and offers hands-on feel to each product.

On the other hand, screen printing is good if you have a little larger budget and want to create large batches of a certain print. This method is not as eco-friendly due to the chemicals but produces a product that has a rich, vibrant color and a nice feel with incredible durability.

So there is no clear winner when looking at heat press vs. screen printing. It really is all about where you envision your T-shirt business going. Hopefully, the breakdown above has helped you with your choice and given you a better understanding of the pros and cons of each method.

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