What is the Difference between Screen Printing and Heat Press T-Shirts?

When printing designs or graphics onto T-shirts, you have the choice between a variety of methods which can be split into two categories: screen printing and the use of a heat press. Neither technique is really better than the other, but they are each best-suited to certain types of printing.

It is therefore important to know the big differences between these methods in order to choose the right one for your T-shirt. In this article, we’ll offer a broad overview of both screen printing and heat pressing, highlighting the best uses and advantages of each technique.

screen printing

What is Screen Printing?

Let’s begin with screen printing. This technique is as old as civilization itself, originating in ancient China. The fact that this technique is still used today, despite being thousands of years old, just goes to show how effective it is. Essentially, as the name suggests, screen printing makes use of screens to apply ink onto the fabric. The process is also used to add graphics onto all sorts of other objects as well.

The process is actually quite complicated and involves the lots of use of many different pieces of equipment like light machines, squeegees, tape, a dryer and more. Printers also need access to a variety of products like ink, emulsion and emulsion remover.

The process of screen printing bulk orders

Due to the huge amount of preparation and equipment involved in screen printing, this technique is usually reserved for bulk orders. Screen printing also has the limitation of only being able to print a single design at any one time. This technique commonly makes use of plastisol, which is a type of ink, but can also work with water-based inks and discharge ink. Water-based inks tend to produce higher quality products as they won’t fade over time. Meanwhile discharge ink is specially made to show up on dark fabrics.

Overall, screen printing is a time-tested technique that works well. A variety of ink types are available and this process can be used to print onto many different types of material. It’s perfect for people who are looking to great dozens or even hundreds of products in a short amount of time.

It’s also a versatile process and can be modified to suit the customer’s needs. On the other hand, this technique isn’t recommended for small orders as it can be quite pricey in those cases, and screen printing won’t allow you to print lots of different designs at once.


How does a heat press work?

Now let’s move on to the heat press. This process makes use of a heat press machine and allows you to easily and quickly apply cut-out designs to many different fabrics. The designs can simply be prepared using computer software and transferred to a vinyl cutter machine. This machine then cuts out the desired design from a variety of materials.

Otherwise, the designs may simply be printed off using a regular printer onto transfer paper. This transfer paper or cut-out material can then be placed into the heat press machine. This machine then, as its name suggests, uses heat and pressure to embed the design onto the fabric.

One specific type of heat press printing is known as sublimation printing. This is when the cut-out design is actually physically integrated into the shirt, rather than being embedded on top of it. This method has certain limitations though. It won’t work on certain materials like cotton or 50/50 T-shirts, for example. On the plus side, this technique is able to create very bright and vibrant designs that stand out from the crowd, so it’s becoming increasingly popular in recent times.

Advantages of the heat press process

heat-press-machineOverall, the heat press technique has a lot of advantages of its own. With this method, you don’t have to worry about being forced to place a large or bulk order. As not much equipment is required, it’s perfectly possible and easy to simply get one or two shirts printed without having to pay a huge fee. You also have the option of stacking multiple designs, allowing you to create a set of shirts that are each unique.

This technique is actually quite commonly used to create sports jerseys, for example, allowing people to have separate names and numbers on each item of clothing. On the downside, the thick, 3-dimensional designs produced by the heat press technique aren’t always to everyone’s taste.

So now you can see that the screen printing and heat press techniques are both very different. Each technique has its strengths and weaknesses and will be better-suited to certain situations. If you’re in need of dozens of identical shirts for a party, for example, then screen printing is probably the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re in need of a specialized and unique design just for you, the heat press technique is the simplest method available.