T-shirt Transfer Printing: All You Need to Know. Complete 2021 Guide

by Aug 8, 2019

If you’re thinking of having some personalised merchandise such as T-shirts, tote bags or caps, you’ve probably been faced by the big question: which technique is right for me? As there are so many available and so many service providers, you simply can’t decide on one. Each printing technique has its own advantages and disadvantages and knowing what is best for your printing needs will save you a lot of money. Below, we’ll take a look at one of our favourites – t-shirt transfer printing

What is Transfer Printing?

The transfer printing process encompasses all the techniques where you first print a design that you wish to transfer onto a surface that is later going to be plastered onto a different one. You’ll take that off and the design remains printed on that surface. Pretty straightforward, right? Within the textile transfer printing sector, this is often achieved with the use of a vinyl, which is cut in the form of your desired design and later, applied to a t-shirt. Think about how stickers work- that sums up how vinyl t-shirt printing works. Plus, the results are great becasue you can have cool personalised designs that catch the eye, bring our your personality and last long.

Cool tshirt transfer printing design from the back

You might have heard that the end result is often quite similar to that achieved through the use of the screen printing technique, but we’ve covered the main differences between those two in one of our previous articles, so check that out if you want to learn more about screen vs vinyl printing. But going back to transfer printing, let’s have a look at what really makes it a good printing option.

History of Transfer Printing

Funny thing about transfer printing is that it’s actually been around for a while- for over 300 years- but back in the day, the process looked more complicated. Nowadays, we regularly use transfer printing on fabric. In the past, however, the transfer process was actually used for decorating ceramics and other household items rather than clothes. People used a metal plate (usually copper or steel) as the main tool for transfer printing, which was immersed in coloured ink then further pressed or rolled over the surface that was to be embellished.

Transfer printing process on ceramic plate

The tableware decorated using the transfer printing method was called trasnferware (see what they did there?). But those were the old times and people quickly adapted to thermal transfer print, which is also what we kind of use today (minus the primitive tools).

What are the different t-shirt transfer printing techniques?

This is probably one of the most printing methods since it’s comprised of several other sub-categories that fall under the transfer printing one. We’ve only included the ones that are most prevalent and widely used by the pros. 


CAD-Cut Vinyl

Undoubtedly, one of the most popular t-shirt transfer printing technique remains the CAD-Cut Vinyl which is a method used to heat transfer designs ono both T-shirts and other pieces of clothing. It is mostly used to produce t-shirts and other equipment for sports teams. The process behind CAD-Cut Vinyl is quite simple: a computer is programmed to cut your preferred design into various types of vinyl and then we later apply it to the fabric using a heat press.

As we have mentioned above, with the CAD-Cut process, we can utilise different colours and textures in order to create highly personalised designs. The most popular choice will remain a simple block colour, but you can opt for patterns that include animal print, camo patterns, stripes and so on.

Plastisol transfer

This technique is often confused with the screen printing once since the later utilises plastisol when imprinting designs. The difference lies in the way the ink is applied. With transfer printing, we transfer the ink onto a paper then apply it to the fabric. With screen printing, the ink is applied directly to the fabric. The main limitation with plastisol transfer is that you’re going to be limited in terms of the colour you use, with a maximum of 4 colours that you can utilise in your design. However, due to its durability, it remains a popular choice still.

Vinyl T-shirt transfer printing questions we get all the time:

“Is my design going to look cheap and plasticky?”

The common assumption surrounding vinyl t-shirts is that they often end up looking cheap like you just plastered a piece of plastic on the top of your t-shirt. However, we use the latest materials available on the market and old vinyl designs are just a thing of the past. We know how fabrics work in connection to vinyl design and you’ll never end up with ugly t-shirts.

“Can I use nylon or other stretchy fabric for vinyl printing?”

Yes, there are different vinyl fabrics that are going to be used for different types of garment. We will advise you on what is best suitable for your requirements.


“Will it crack/fade?”

Vinyl t-shirts are going to last you a good amount of time without the design fading or cracking. We use high-quality vinyl paper which prolongs the durability of your t-shirt. So in short, no, you’re not going to struggle with cracked designs.

“Can I use dark/light t-shirt for vinyl printing?

Yes, you can use both of them. The key thing that you might want to remember is that with dark colours, the garments are going to feel thicker than the white ones. In contrast, the fabric that is going to be used for whiter garments is going to be thinner since it is transparent.


Is t-shirt transfer printing superior to other techniques?

Transfer printing is quite versatile from any point of view since you’re able to plaster your design on just about whatever you want. It’s been favoured by many professionals since it gets the job done in a timely manner and also at a reasonable price. It can also reproduce highly detailed images with full-colour vibrancy.

Go wild on personalisation

With transfer printing you have the freedom to apply any sort of design on your garments. So if you’re going to have your sports team personalised, vinyl t-shirt printing is going to be your best bet. Add names, numbers, logos and other details onto your fabric in a quick time.

Crazy patterns and colours

If you’re into glitter, flock or fluorescent tones or other surfaces that look pompous or extravagant, then with vinyl clothing printing might be right up your alley. We can utilise a wide range of patterns for your final design, and this is what makes vinyl printing such a versatile method as opposed to other printing methods.


Well, if you’ve got yourself started up on a t-shirt business, wan to produce some quick merchandise, then opting for vinyl t-shirts could be more suitable for you. You might know that in cases where your units are not high (you only need a couple of items) vinyl printing is far more attractive than screen printing.

Details aren’t a problem

With transfer printing, you have the option to print designs that are composed of tiny intricate details. That’s because the design is going to be first printed on a paper then transferred onto fabric.



‘’Is my vinyl t-shirt going to last?” We often get that from our customers and the short answer is yes. Vinyl printing produces lasting results, even after many washes. This is why we are always recommending it to sports teams. A vinyl t-shirt could go thought a lot of things and still outstand the damage.

SO, the good bits!

There’s a lot to love about t-shirt transfer printing! Here are the main benefits:

  • Production times are significantly lower than other printing techniques
  • Print awesome and complex designs that would be otherwise hard to be reproduced with other methods
  • Affordable
  • Have unique patterns such as velvet, glitter and metallic effects
  • Ideal if you need our items delivered the same or next day.

The bad stuff

  • You are going to be restricted when it comes to the actual fabric that you can use for your design. The materials that are NOT suitable are those sensitive to high temperatures and heat. You’ll have some restriction when it comes to printing darker designs.
  • You’re obviously going to need to print a limited amount of items, as it is not ideal not practical to print large batches.
  • If you require a complex design, it will have to be cut individually.

Want to get your own personalised t-shirt printed? Check out our top-quality t-shirt transfer printing services!