Garment printing: there’s more to it than meets the eye

There are a number of ways to personalise clothing and various items you use for promotional and marketing use … the most commonplace being printing. If you ask us to print on something, 99% of the time the answer will be “Yes”. But exactly how does your image get on to the product? 

Direct to Garment

The printing method we use the most is Direct to Garment (DTG) because it’s the best and most sophisticated process available. The garment is held in a fixed position and special inks are applied by a print head, in a way not dissimilar to the inkjet printers in your office.

Because the ink is absorbed by the garment’s fibres, you don’t get a distorted image which is the by-product of some other processes, but that’s not the only benefit in terms of quality. We call the image on a printed garment the ‘hand’, and with DTG printing, this is virtually impossible to feel, giving you a garment that’s comfortable and flexible. And as it’s a digital process, we can print your complex, multi-colour designs with ease – whether they involve an intricate photo or small, fine text. That’s on light or dark garments, with equal quality. The durability and longevity of images printed using DTG is generally excellent. 

Turnaround time is considerably lower with DTG because it uses a design file rather than the screens used in traditional garment printing. This also means that there’s no lower limit to the print run … you could order a one-off if required but, as with most things in life, the unit cost decreases with larger quantities. And the price will be the same whether your design features one or 101 colours.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is the most traditional way to decorate garments, having been around since the Chinese Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD). The ink is transferred to the garment by being forced through a framed nylon mesh using a squeegee, with areas not required to be printed blocked by a stencil.

Each colour needs its own screen and one is ink is layered on top of the other to achieve multiple colours. Printing can be carried out manually, or more often with automatic machines that can produce over a thousand prints an hour. This makes it cost-effective for large batches.

With screen printed garments, the quality can be excellent, but there is a more noticeable ‘hand’, especially with some kinds of inks, especially plastic-based ones. Lead times are also usually longer, and the cost increases with the number of colours printed.

Heat Pressing

If you’re of an age where you can remember going into a record shop and getting your favourite album artwork printed on to a T shirt using a heat press, you’ll know the process we’re talking about. The image is printed on to a special transfer paper, then on to the garment – like an iron-on process but with considerably more heat and pressure. We still have heat presses at Workwear Giant, but these days their use is limited to small quantities required quickly. The ‘hand’ is probably the most noticeable of any process.

To determine the most suitable printing process for your garments, have a chat with our sales team on 0118 9120 420, or email [email protected]  They can also discuss your embroidery requirements.

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