Screen Printing Tshirts is the best, but what kind of print on demand processes have similar quality?
July 14, 2010 6:26 PM   Subscribe

How much variability is there in different Print on Demand t-shirt printing methods? (eg Direct to Garment vs Heat Transfer vs ???) Do they all suck compared to real silk screen printing?

I've been screen printing some logo tshirts in a "batch process" -- with a minimum order of 12 shirts which requires me to figure out what shirt size distributions I'll sell, etc, etc. I'm looking at "print on demand" tshirt vendors, but I'm confused by the methods that different printers use. I printed one shirt with uberprints and was not satisfied with the quality of the print. The uberprint shirt I had made used a "digital printing" process -- and I didn't like how it created a rectangular area of printed material even though my logo isn't rectangular.

I'm not sure if I've made a mistake by uploading a non-transparent image, so that my logo had to print as a big rectangle with a black background on a black shirt... Or is the printed "black background" of my logo an inherent drawback of all "print on demand" technologies -- which seem like some kind of iron-on transfer (from a printed sheet) to me.

I guess my basic question is: Is there any print on demand tshirt process that has a quality that is any where close to batch screen printing for images with empty spaces in them?
posted by mhh5 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I guess my basic question is: Is there any print on demand tshirt process that has a quality that is any where close to batch screen printing for images with empty spaces in them?


You could try something like this gizmo,

Slow to print. Expensive.

posted by alex_skazat at 7:53 PM on July 14, 2010

Best answer: Sounds like you bought a digital transfer, which is the worst of the 3 big print-on-demand printing methods. Direct to garment printing is better for raster designs and plot printing is superior if you have a relatively simple vector based designs.

I sell shirts on demand for a living, and personally the plot printing samples I've made for myself over the years have outlasted any of my silkscreen shirts in terms of quality (of course I'm pretty gentle with how I wash and dry t-shirts in general). The down side is that my designs are limited to 3 colors (solid) and no details can be smaller then 1.5mm. If you can live within those limitations then Plot printing might be right for you.

But even if you need more details/colors you really need to try someone who prints direct to garment, instead of with a transfer. Since at this point DTG is pretty much a strictly superior technology.
posted by Jezztek at 8:58 PM on July 14, 2010

Response by poster: Jezztek,

so how do I do I find printers who use plot printing? hmmm..
posted by mhh5 at 9:39 PM on July 14, 2010

Response by poster: Looks like Spreadshirt is a popular plot-printing tshirt vendor.. I'll have to check them out.
posted by mhh5 at 11:01 PM on July 14, 2010

I know this says it's answered, but if you have the time and it's a one-color design, you might try silkscreening yourself. It's not very expensive to get started (or as hard as you think!), and once you pay for the initial cost of the screen and ink, you can print as many as you want for basically the cost of the shirt. If you run out of one shirt size, you can just make more with the same screen. It's boring work, but not so hard that you can't do anything else. Invite some crafty friends over, turn some music on, and get cranking!
posted by wayland at 7:25 AM on July 15, 2010

This forum. Is good. Will have answers if you search - or go ahead and ask.
t-shirt forums
posted by kid_twist at 6:36 PM on March 11, 2011

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