There are many different methods available for decorating your garments with your design. Some methods work only on certain garments or different abilities to resolve detail. They all have different price points. This guide gives you all the information you need to make the best choice for your situation.
Screen printing is a decoration process that uses a fine mesh with a hard emulsion blocking some of the mesh. Your design makes up the parts of the mesh that are not blocked by the hard emulsion. Ink is pressed through the mesh onto the t-shirt. The inked t-shirt is then heated in a conveyor dryer to over 330 degrees to cure the ink. The ink used in screen printing is called plastisol. Plastisol ink washes well and is perfect for any shirt that will see repeated use. Screen printing is best for larger orders with just a few colors in the design, special effects like metallic, glitter or glow in the dark ink are available.
Digital Printing is a decoration process applies a design directly from a computer file to the garment, using water based inks. The process can be used for any color garment. For any garment color other than white, a base white layer and a pre-treatment is applied to make the design visible. The shirt must be prepared for digital printing as well. It’s first coated with a special pre- treatment solution that keeps the ink from being pulled into the shirt material. This solution is applied in a machine designed to put down a consistent layer on the area to be printed. The shirt is then pressed to flatten the fibers and remove the water from the solution. The shirt is then ready to the put in the digital printer. The ink used in the digital printing process is a water based pigment style ink that is inserted into the machine by way of a cartridge. The ink is specially formulated for garments and requires careful application and processing for best results. Digital printing is best for short print runs, multicolored designs, and prototypes or samples.
Vinyl printing involves a computer-controlled blade which digitally cuts the design out of vinyl. Generally we would recommend screen printing, but there are times when vinyl is more suitable for certain products. Vinyl is great for personalising names and numbers for sports team. Vinyl is also better for customising high-visibility workwear and other nylon fabrics. Vinyl printing is generally limited to simple text and designs. A single-color print is the norm but we can overlay different colors of vinyl to produce some clever effects. Once the artwork has been cut, we then take away the unwanted vinyl, this process is called weeding and can be very time consuming and delicate if the design has fine detail. This is why vinyl is only really good for lettering and simple one-colour designs. Once the weeding has been done we are left with the design on its backing paper. We then transfer that onto the garment, this is done using an industrial heat press.
The embroidery process is one of the oldest fabric decoration methods. It consists of strands of thread, in various colors, sewn into the garment to create an image, text, or design. The threads can be applied in various patterns, lengths, and thicknesses to produce an array of different visual effects. Once the customer approves the proof, digitizing artist converts the image to a series of computer instructions for the machines to sew. This is done using both computer software and experience to gauge the direction of the stitches, the size of the stitches, how the colors get sewn, and a myriad of other subtle choices that yield an embroidered design. After digitizing, the design is sewed out on a piece of scrap fabric for proofing purposes. Embroidery cost is determined by the size or number of stitches in the design. Embroidery holds up well in the long term. It’s great for use on garments that are heavy soiled and need to be cleaned using hot wash cycles.
Tackle Twill Applique
One way to create a unique design is by using tackle twill. Tackle twill, or applique, involves sewing down a number, letter, or part of a design made by cutting pieces of one material and applying them to the surface of another material usually with a nylon twill. Basically, tackle twill begins with a “patch” of sorts that is applied to the garment, or other garment that is then sewn to the material for a more rugged finish. Tackle twill is the most popular for both professional sports teams and school athletic organizations. Look closely at your favorite football, baseball, or hockey player’s jersey. These jerseys have most likely been decorated with tackle twill names and numbers. This type of applique offers a bold look to your uniform or jersey.