Types of Printing on Apparel

Hey! As a part of "Creating your brand" series, we'll go over some of the types of printing methods available. 

There are several different types of printing techniques that can be used to apply designs or patterns to clothing. Below are the most utilized techniques!

Screen Printing Example

Screen printing: This is a popular printing method that involves pressing ink through a stenciled screen onto the fabric. It is suitable for printing large, bold designs and is often used to print t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other types of casual clothing.

This is a printing technique where a mesh screen is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, such as fabric, paper, or plastic. It is also known as silkscreen printing or serigraphy.

In screen printing, a stencil is created by blocking off areas of the screen where ink is not desired. The stencil is applied to the screen and ink is forced through the screen onto the substrate below using a squeegee. The ink is applied only to the areas of the substrate that are not covered by the stencil, resulting in a sharp-edged image.

Screen printing is a popular printing method for a wide range of applications, including printing on textiles, promotional items, and packaging. It is known for its ability to produce high-quality, long-lasting prints and is often used for printing large quantities of a design at once.

Heat transfer printing example
Heat transfer printing: This method involves printing a design onto a special transfer paper using inkjet or laser printing technology, and then pressing the paper onto the fabric using heat. It is a relatively quick and easy printing method, but the prints are not as durable as those produced using other methods.

This type is a printing process in which a design is printed onto a special heat-sensitive transfer paper and then transferred onto a substrate, such as fabric, using heat and pressure. The heat activates the ink on the transfer paper and causes it to bond with the substrate.

Heat transfer printing is a popular method for printing on textiles, particularly for printing small quantities or for printing designs that are not suitable for screen printing. It is a relatively quick and easy process and can produce high-quality prints. However, the prints produced using heat transfer printing may not be as durable as those produced using other printing methods, such as screen printing or dye sublimation.

Heat transfer printing is often used to print custom designs onto t-shirts, bags, and other textile products. It is also used to print onto hard surfaces, such as ceramic tiles, wood, and glass.

heat transfer vinyl roll example

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV): This is a special type of vinyl material that is used in the process of heat transfer printing. It is a thin, flexible sheet of vinyl that has a heat-activated adhesive backing. The design to be printed is cut out of the HTV using a cutting machine, such as a vinyl cutter or a Cricut machine. The HTV is then placed onto the substrate, such as fabric, and heat and pressure are applied to transfer the design onto the substrate.

Heat transfer vinyl is a popular choice for printing custom designs onto textiles because it is easy to use and produces high-quality results. It is also relatively inexpensive and allows for a wide range of design options, including the ability to print multi-colored designs. Heat transfer vinyl is available in a variety of colors, finishes, and textures, and can be used to print onto a variety of different substrates.

digital printing onto fabric example
Digital printing: Digital printing involves printing directly onto the fabric using inkjet or laser printing technology. It is a versatile method that allows for the production of high-quality, full-color prints, but it is generally more expensive than screen printing.

Digital printing is a printing process that involves the use of digital files, such as PDFs or JPGs, to produce prints. Digital printing does not require the use of printing plates, as is the case with traditional printing methods such as offset printing. Instead, the digital file is sent directly to the printer, which translates the file into a printed product.

It is known for its fast turnaround time and its ability to produce high-quality, short-run prints. Digital printing is also highly customizable and can be used to print a wide range of designs and formats.

There are several different types of digital printing, including inkjet printing and laser printing. Digital printing is often used in combination with other printing techniques, such as screen printing or heat transfer printing, to produce customized products.

embroidery example on hat
Embroidery: This method involves sewing a design onto the fabric using thread. It is suitable for producing intricate, detailed designs and is often used to add a touch of elegance to clothing. It is a decorative stitching technique in which threads are sewn onto a fabric to create a design. 

In machine embroidery, a special embroidery machine is used to sew the design onto the fabric. The machine has a variety of different colored threads and can be programmed to sew a specific design onto the fabric. Machine embroidery is a popular choice for producing large quantities of a design or for creating highly detailed and complex designs.

Embroidery is often used to add a decorative touch to clothing, such as t-shirts, hats, and jackets, as well as to household items like towels, pillowcases, and tablecloths. It can also be used to create corporate logos and other types of promotional items. Embroidery is known for its durability and can add a professional touch to any product.

tie-dye example
Tie-dye: This method involves dyeing fabric by tying it in knots and applying dye to the exposed areas. It is a popular technique for creating colorful, playful designs, especially on t-shirts and other casual clothing.

Tie-dye printing is a dyeing technique in which fabric is tied or folded in a specific pattern and then dyed to create a distinctive, multicolored design. Tie-dyeing is a popular method for creating colorful, vibrant patterns on fabric and is often associated with the fashion and counterculture of the 1960s.

To tie-dye a fabric, the fabric is first soaked in water and then twisted or folded into the desired pattern. The fabric is then secured using rubber bands, string, or other binding materials. The areas of the fabric that are not covered by the binding materials will absorb the dye, creating the characteristic tie-dye pattern. The fabric is then left to soak in the dye for a period of time before it is rinsed and washed to remove any excess dye.

Tie-dye printing is a fun and creative way to add color and interest to fabric. It can be used to create a wide range of designs, from simple, single-color patterns to complex, multicolored designs. Tie-dye printing is often used to create clothing and other textile products, such as bags, scarves, and pillowcases.


There are other printing methods that are becoming available to the public which have sustainable alternatives within each method of printing that the designers can explore. These 5 are the most utilized printing methods when creating apparel and should be considered when designing your next clothing! 


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