Printing on clothing has come a long way since the days of simple screen printing. Today, there are a variety of printing techniques available, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular printing techniques for clothing, including screen printing, heat transfer vinyl, direct to fabric (DTF), and sublimation, and why we have selected DTF and sublimation as our preferred print method.
Screen printing is one of the oldest and most traditional printing techniques for clothing. This process involves creating a stencil (or "screen") of the design and then using that stencil to apply ink to the fabric. The stencil is created by blocking off certain areas of a mesh screen so that only the open areas will allow ink through. The ink is then pressed through the stencil onto the fabric using a squeegee.
Screen printing is best suited for larger orders and simple designs. The setup costs are relatively high, but the more garments you print, the lower the cost per garment becomes. This technique is not ideal for printing full-colour designs, as each colour must be printed separately, adding to the setup and printing time.
Heat Transfer Vinyl
Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is a process that involves cutting a design out of a sheet of vinyl and then applying it to the fabric using a heat press. The vinyl is cut using a special machine that can create intricate designs and cut through various colours of vinyl. Once the design is cut, the excess vinyl is removed, leaving only the design on a clear backing.
The vinyl is then placed on the garment, and a heat press is used to apply heat and pressure to the design, causing it to adhere to the fabric. This process is quick and easy, making it ideal for smaller orders and one-off projects.
However, HTV has some limitations. It is not suitable for printing full-colour designs, and the vinyl can crack or peel over time, especially with repeated washing and drying.
Sublimation is a printing process that involves printing a design onto a special transfer paper using sublimation ink. The transfer paper is then placed onto the garment and heat is applied, causing the ink to turn into a gas and penetrate the fibers of the fabric. The gas then solidifies, creating a permanent print on the fabric.
Sublimation printing is ideal for printing full-colour designs, and it offers a high level of detail and durability. This technique is suitable for both small and large orders, and the final print is resistant to fading and cracking, even after repeated washing and drying.
While sublimation is a popular printing technique for clothing, there are some limitations to this printing method. Firstly it is only suitable for printing on certain types of fabrics, specifically fabrics that are made of polyester or have a polyester coating. This is because the sublimation ink needs to be able to bond with the polyester fibers in order to create a permanent print. If you try to use sublimation on a fabric that does not have a polyester coating, the ink will not bond properly and the print will not be permanent.
Sublimation also has limitations when it comes to the type of designs that can be printed. While sublimation can produce high-quality prints with great detail, it is not suitable for printing on dark-colored fabrics, as the ink is not opaque and will not show up well on darker colours. Additionally, sublimation ink is not as opaque as traditional inks, so it is not ideal for printing on thick or heavy fabrics like sweatshirts or jackets.
Direct to Fabric (DTF)
Direct to fabric (DTF) printing is a modern printing technique that uses inkjet technology to print designs directly onto fabric. DTF printing involves using a special ink that is formulated to be absorbed by the fibers of the fabric, and a digital file of the design is sent to the printer. The printer then prints the design directly onto the fabric.
DTF printing is ideal for printing detailed designs and full-colour prints, making it a great option for custom clothing, including t-shirts, hoodies, and more. This process is suitable for both small and large orders, and the final print is durable, lasting longer than other printing methods.
Sassy Cub's Chosen Techniques
Here at Sassy Cub we have decided to provide a combination of sublimation and DTF (direct-to-fabric) printing techniques. Sublimation offers high-quality prints with vivid colours and excellent durability, while DTF allows for printing on a wider range of fabrics and colours. Together, both techniques can produce high-quality, durable prints on a variety of fabrics, ensuring that the final print looks great and is long lasting.