Types of T-shirt Printing: Screen Printing vs Vinyl Printing (2019 Ultimate Guide)

by Jul 17, 2019

How to print t-shirts?

If you’re planning on starting out your t-shirt business or you’re simply wondering how you could print some awesome designs on your t-shirts, then look no further. We know how confusing are all the different types of tshirt printing and that’s why we have compiled a guide for you with all the ins and outs of the different t-shirt printing techniques. From pros and cons, to what is the best garment for each, you’re in for a comprehensive read.



What is Screen Printing?

If you haven’t read it already, we had an in-depth look at how screen printing works and what the process of screen print is like. The procedure is pretty straightforward: you have tiny stencils or screens as they are often called, and we use them to apply layers of ink on whatever surface you wish to have printed. What makes screen printing an interesting technique is that each colour is applied one at a time, using a different stencil.


Why should I choose Screen Printing for my T-shirts?

If you’re going to start a t-shirt business that’s going to focus on grunge fashion styles or dark streetwear, then you might want to go for screen printing for your t-shirt designs. Screen printing works really well on garments that are dark because they are able to produce a great level of vibrancy which is going to make your designs stand out easily in a crowd. As opposed to other printing techniques, screen printing allows you to apply a thicker coat of ink and that’s how you end up with brighter colours even on dark shirts.



What is Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing?

In the case of a vinyl t-shirt printing, we individually cut out the designs in the colours that you wish. The next step is to then use a heat press (which is like a massive hot iron) and we use it to transfer each vinyl pattern that we’ve previously cut, onto the t-shirt. Heat transfer vinyl printing is a pretty straightforward process that involves a mix of heavy pressure and heat.



Screen Printing vs Vinyl Printing. The differences


What are the minimum run sizes?

Vinyl printing

This technique is best suitable if you’re planning on only having anywhere between 1 and 15 t-shirts done. Set-up times are much quicker than using screen printing. However, anything beyond 16 t-shirts will be a counterproductive task so that’s why you’d want to produce a limited amount. Think about how many hours of work and financial resources it would take you to print over 100 t-shirts using vinyl printing: it would take forever and most certainly no one will do it.

Screen printing

You’d need to print at least 20-25 t-shirts if you’re going to opt for a screen printing technique although some companies could even ask you for a minimum order of 100…). The set-up times are much longer due to its meticulous and precise nature but once it’s all set up and ready, it’ll be easier to just print larger numbers of t-shirts.


Think about your business or needs. Are you going to print a large number of t-shirts? Then screen printing might be your best bet. Have you just started out and need only a few t-shirts? Go with the vinyl method.

T-shirt Design: what about my colours and details?

Vinyl printing

Awesome simple graphics that only use one colour? Numbers or symbols for your t-shirts? The vinyl technique is your friend. It’s accessible and produces beautiful designs that will stand out.

Screen printing

Intricate designs with fine details and tiny edges? Screen printing will do the job. You’ll be able to use more colours as well, as opposed to the vinyl heat press.


What’s your design going to be like? Are you opting for minimalist patterns with one or two colours? The vinyl is going to be more appropriate for your needs. In contrast, if you’re going to produce highly detailed designs, then screen printing is better suited for your needs.

How long is my design going to last?

Which one is going to fade? Do I need to wash them in a particular way? Those are some of the most frequent questions we’re getting.

Vinyl printing

If you’re going to take care of it, your t-shirt design will last you as long as your t-shirt lives. You do have to take care of your t-shirt. Some of the tips that we recommend are washing your garment with warm water using a mild detergent and do not use chlorine bleach on your t-shirt as that’s going to damage your design.

Screen Printing

Your screen printing t-shirts should last your t-shirt’s life as well if you take proper care of it. We recommend washing the garment inside out with cold water.


Screen printing requires more delicate care since you have to remember to wash your screen printed t-shirts with cold water. So it’s your call!


So which printing technique should I use?

You need to take into account the many factors that go into the whole equation and decide which option is more favourable for what you need. If you’re just starting up your t-shirt business, you will have to think about the production costs, distribution and other costs that you will have to make. Work out our budget and decide the long-run course your business can follow.