T-shirt Heat Press vs Screen Printing Methods


You have a decision to make in outfitting your t-shirt printing business for greater efficiency. The choice between heat press and screen printing can be made after careful review of the differences between them.

Whatever your reason for deciding on the print technology you use in your business, you would do well to check out both printing techniques and what they have to offer your business.

In this article, we briefly run through the main differences and similarities between the heat press and the screen printing systems.

Heat Press vs Screen Printing

Heat Press

Heat press machines are popular choices among t-shirt business owners. It is designed to press designs onto fabric using heat transfer techniques.

Along with the heat, there is the pressure which ranges from 40 to 80psl used to produce awesome designed t-shirts. An effective heat press machine works with temperature up to around 400 degrees Fahrenheit and produces designs that are properly sealed into the fabric. Before using the heat press, users must first produce their graphic designs or illustrations. The design is transferred to fabrics using the heat press machine.

You can get started relatively quickly after you have purchased your heat press machine. Heat presses are quite versatile and can be used for many different projects. Not only can you print digital or vinyl transfers on t-shirts, you can do so on jerseys, bags, and other materials.

You will, of course, need a few items to outfit your heat press t-shirt business. These include an exposure unit, a flash, a printer (inkjet or laser), and a conveyor dryer, a screen dryer, and a washout booth.

You may want to buy a heat transfer machine for the following reasons:

  • It is ideal for small jobs
  • It is less costly to purchase
  • It is easy to operate
  • It takes up less space
  • It can utilize Plastisol Transfers
  • Useful for DTG printing
  • The heat press is versatile – Vinyl Transfers, Sublimation, Inkjet Transfers
  • It is easy to carry around
  • Useful for foil and rhinestones transfers.

There are actually different heat transfers techniques including the vinyl heat transfer and the digital heat transfer. With the vinyl heat transfer, shapes are cut out from colored vinyl by a special vinyl cutting machine and then transferred to the t-shirt using heat and pressure. The digital heat transfer takes place through the printing of the design on special transfer paper which is then applied to the t-shirt by the heat press machine.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is the process of applying inks by using stencils made of nylon mesh to fabrics and garments. This technique is not suitable for every design, so care must be taken to check whether your design is compatible with screen printing or you will need to use another technique.

To use screen printing, you will need to have on hand certain chemicals and tools. You will notice that screen printing is used mainly by apparel companies and not small, home-based businesses.

Some of the tools and materials you will need to carry out screen printing include films, tapes, scrubbers, squeegees, screens, printers, and Plastic ink.

Some of the benefits of using screen printing include:

  • It is less costly for larger projects, there are no job size limitations for using screen printing.
  • Prints produced by screen printing are more durable than those produced by other methods.
  • You can wash your t-shirts or garments and the design remain as bright as it was when it just came out.
  • The softness of the fabric is also maintained.

Some disadvantages of using screen printing include:

  • It is unsuitable for small projects
  • You cannot produce complex and multi-colored designs with this printing method.
  • You would experience longer turnaround times if you are using more than one colors or working with complicated colors.

So, you see the heat press and screen printing techniques for printing t-shirts are quite different. The heat press technique is easier for small operators to use than the screen printing method. However, expect greater durability with t-shirts that have been printed by screen printing methods.

Your choice of a t-shirt printing technique is, however, dependent on the projects you will be doing. Both t-shirt printing techniques remain popular and producers of printed t-shirts continue to use them even now.



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