Picking the Best Image Printing Method

When designing t-shirts, one of the most common ways to customize a plain t-shirt is to add an image. Images can be added to shirts through a variety of methods, with two of the most common being sublimation printing and heat transfer printing. These two methods differ in how they can be used and the overall results. Which one is best will depend on your business needs.

What Is the Difference Between Heat Transfer Printing and Sublimation Printing?

  1. The Feel of the Fabric: Due to the different printing processes, the shirts produced by these two methods do differ in how they feel. Because sublimation causes the image to become a part of the fabric, the t-shirts produced by this method are softer to the touch. With heat transfer printing, the image is added to the shirt as an additional top layer, changing the overall feel and texture of the finished product.
  2. Overall Image Durability: When an image is added to a shirt by sublimation printing, it becomes a part of the fabric and the overall durability of the shirt remains high, matching the overall durability of the shirt used in the printing process. By comparison, a heat-transferred image is a separate layer that can become cracked or faded over time while the rest of the shirt is undamaged.
  3. The Colors and Fabrics You Can Use: When comparing sublimation printing vs heat transfer printing, there are notable differences in the fabric types and colors each method can make use of. With sublimation printing, you can only use light-colored or white shirts made of polyester. This also extends to other surfaces, as a polymer coating would be required to apply an image. With heat image printing, you can use any color, and it works on most fabrics, such as cotton, blends, nylon, polyester, and others. Plus, heat-transferred images can be applied to most solid surfaces without a coating.

Picking the Best Printing Process

When comparing these two methods, keep the pros and cons in mind. If you don’t mind liming your shirt selection to lighter-colored polyesters, then sublimation printing can produce long-lasting, high-quality results. However, you are very limited in your design options. By comparison, while heat transfer printing may produce a less blended finish, you have a nearly limitless ability to customize fabric and colors to fit your customer base. Ultimately whichever method is best depends on what you are looking to sell and what your customers want to buy.