Vinyl Printing or Screen Printing
Vinyl printing is all about heat transfer. I use a vinyl cutter to cut out letters and designs from colored vinyl and heat-press them onto a t-shirt or hoodie to transfer the color to it. Vinyl printing depends on a combination of pressure and heat.
Screen printing is an analog technology that involves pushing ink with a squeegee through a stencil on a fine mesh screen and onto the shirt being decorated. I do this process by hand on a manual screen printing press. Screen printing requires a different screen for each color in your design. For example, a design with 4 colors requires 4 different screens therefore costing more than a 1 color design.
Now, let’s take a look at the differences between screen and vinyl printing when customizing a t-shirt. Remember, both will deliver quality, long lasting results if the garment is used correctly.
1. RUN TIME
Vinyl printing is suitable for small runs of up to 16 t-shirts. That’s due to the fact that the set-up time is little relative to that of screen printing. However, this method is much slower than screen printing as each t-shirt needs its own set up. This makes it too time consuming and less cost effective beyond the 16-t-shirt mark.
My recommendation for screen printing is at least 24 t-shirts. Setting up screen printing takes much longer compared to vinyl printing but as soon as the set-up in done, the printing process is swift. The high speed is because nothing needs to change from t-shirt to t-shirt, provided the designs remain the same. Screen printing is the right method if you’re looking to work on large orders.
2. DETAIL AND COLOR
Vinyl printing is best suited for simple graphics. If you’re looking to create basic shapes or text-based designs, this is the method to use. Need to print jersey numbers for your high school soccer team? Excellent! Want a sleek photograph of the Penguins of Madagascar on your t-shirt? This method just won’t cut it. With vinyl printing, there’s no way you can come up with true gradients (blending of colors); fine details will easily get lost.
If you’re looking to print that photograph of the Penguins of Madagascar on your shirt, screen printing is the method that will do it for you. this method gives you access to a much high level of color and detail, making printing of photographs possible. As a matter of fact, complex designs come through effortlessly and definitely beautifully. Furthermore, screen printing gives you access to a full range of colors; you can mix whatever shades you prefer.
Under appropriate use, both methods should produce results that last for years. Here’s a look into the lifespans of the two methods and how to maximize it.
Under normal use, the design should last more than five years. I recommend following these care guidelines to maximize the lifespan:
Do not dry clean the garment. Rather, machine-wash it warm, with mild detergent.
Dry the t-shirt at normal setting.
Do not use chlorine bleach on the garment.
Wait for at least a day (24 hours) before the first wash after printing.
The graphics produced through screen printing should last for the t-shirt’s life under normal, proper use. To make the graphic last the garment’s life, be sure to wash the garment inside out, with cold water only.
Your choice of a printing method depends on the size of your orders and the complication of the designs you’re looking to create. If you’re hoping to do just a few orders with simple designs, I recommend going for vinyl printing but if you’re looking to do many orders (over 100) with complex picture designs and fonts, it’d be better to use screen printing.