Difference between Printing Methods

Date Published: 3rd of April, 2023

Equip yourself with the knowledge below and make better printing decisions for your fashion startup. Don't make mistakes and waste fabric, while respecting your creations by pairing the appropriate printing method with end-goals and circumstances.

The three methods explored: Screen and Puff printing, Direct to Garment (DTG for short), and Vinyl Printing. Learn about how they age, Minimum Order Quantities from suppliers, and how they appear in real-life.

Screen and Puff Printing

Screen printing is a technique that uses a stencil to create a design on a fabric. The stencil, also known as a silk-screen, is placed on top of the fabric, and ink is then spread over the screen, and 'pressed' into the fabric, imprinting the design. The screen is then removed with the ink then heated to seal the print. This method is ideal for designs with a limited number of colors. Minimum order quantities are often either 20 or 30. The main cost is in the screens creation, which after completing a run, that one-off cost is not incurred again for the same design, allowing more cost-effective printing.

Screenprint close focus on uppercase A showing clean print

In the image, we can see how the design is pressed 'into' the fabric, almost embossing the design into it. The lines are clean, and colour is rich.

Direct to Garment (DTG)

Direct to Garment printing is a process where a printer directly applies the ink 'onto' the fabric using a specialized inkjet printer. This method is ideal for designs with a high level of detail or a large number of colors. DTG printing allows for a more precise rendering of the design and can produce photorealistic images, however this is often at the sacrifice of fuller colours with more standard printers.

Direct to Garment printing closeup shot showcasing clean graphics with lower contrast

As these prints use a digital file opposed to a physical screen for printing there does not tend to be a MOQ when outsourcing DTG, and turn-around times should be quick. However, if wanting a concise colour-set, you may need a test print to ensure the colours are being printed as intended and matching colours with your printer and available inks, or if an undercoat of white/black ink is required. Here is an example of a design not correctly matched, which we found to be the designs limitation as the white fabric didn't allow a strong enough background for the colours, and the colours faded as weren't matched.

Great Ocean Road side-mirror image digital print

Vinyl Printing

Vinyl printing is a process where a special vinyl material is cut into a design using a plotter. The excess vinyl is then removed, leaving only the design on the vinyl. The vinyl is then transferred onto the fabric using heat and pressure. This method is ideal for designs with a limited number of colors. It however does not age well, or take washing/sunlight well and can shrink and tear. In this ‘feature’ presenting itself, the decision to no longer use Vinyl prints for any of our future designs was made.

Vinyl Print tearing after under two years of use. Closeup image of details

In conclusion, we’ve showcased three ways to designs are often printed onto clothing for fashion startups. Screen and Puff printing, Direct to Garment (DTG), and Vinyl Printing are just a few of the available techniques explored. Each method has its own advantages and limitations, and the choice of method depends heavily on the specific context and funding available. As new methods are explored, they will be added to this list.

Experiencing these methods in person will allow you to make the best decsision for your design and you. Its worthwhile reviewing whether these activities are worth being completed internally opposed to outsourcing and going externally. There are trade-offs on both sides which are explored here in our post about 'Production Trade-offs: to Internalize, or not to internalize, that is the question'.

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