Screen printing and heat transfer are two of the most common methods when printing promotional items for your business, non-profit organization, clubs, sports teams, or events. While both methods produce fantastic results, their differences can affect the final product’s look, feel, and longevity. Typically, screen printing is better for larger orders with less complicated designs, while heat transfer is better for smaller orders with multiple colors or complex designs. 


The Basics Of Screen Printing

One of the oldest methods of printing on shirts, the screen printing process involves a few steps. Once a screen is developed of your design, it is placed on the product that is to be printed. Next, ink is passed onto the product using a squeegee and cured through drying. Each color ink used in the design will have an individual screen, which can complicate the process if the design is complex or has many different colors. Once the screens are set up, and in place, the method is highly effective and produces durable prints. 

Pros & Cons of Screen Printing


  • Cost-effective for large orders
  • Creates durable, long-lasting prints
  • Produces a soft finish with color absorption


  • An extensive set-up process can increase the price of large orders
  • Not suitable for designs with numerous colors
  • Lower resolution than heat transfer printing


The Basics of Heat Transfer Printing

Heat transfer printing involves using heat and pressure to transfer a design onto fabric using a specific type of paper. Two of the most common types of heat transfer are heat transfer vinyl (HTV) and digital heat transfer. HTV is a more traditional method that consists of letters and logos printed on a piece of vinyl paper and then placed on the garment. A heat press is then applied to the paper, which transfers the vinyl design using heat and pressure. 


Digital heat transfers print the entire design onto a specifically made transfer paper, then transfers that design in one heat press. This method allows for complicated designs to be printed more efficiently. However, with HTV printing, the ink is not soaked into the fabric but instead printed on top. 


Pros & Cons of Heat Transfer Printing


  • Cost-effective for small orders
  • Produces high-resolution prints
  • Can print multiple colors efficiently
  • Effective for printing in small spaces


  • Prints may be less durable
  • Not as cost-effective for large orders
  • Heat transfer creates a stiffer feeling shirt than screen printing


Screen Printing vs. Heat Press: Which Should You Choose?

Both screen printing and heat press printing are efficient and effective methods of transferring your logos and designs onto shirts and clothing. While both ways have pros and cons, they each produce professional results that continue to make them the go-to methods of the printing industry. Depending on the size of your order and design complexity, either screen printing or heat press printing will work better for your needs. Consult your professional apparel printing company about your printing goals to determine which process is proper for you. 


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