Wednesday, April 25, 2012

T-Shirt Printing: Heat Transfer VS Screen Prints

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Just recently, I received an email saying straightly like this:
Heat Transfer - good quality of print
Silk Screen - not good quality of print

Now I’m writing this article not to correct that email but just to share my thoughts base on my experience about Heat Transfer and Silk Screen Printing.

For those who still don’t know what I am talking about here, Heat Transfer and Silk Screen Printing are the two most common ways to print t-shirt.

Silk screen printing is the classic way while Heat Transfer could be the new generation’s way of printing t-shirt.

The easiest way to differentiate this two type of printing is to compare them on foods that you ate every day. Screen prints could be those foods you cook from raw ingredients while the heat transfer could be the instant noodles you’re holding right now while reading this post.

Screen printing uses screens in different mesh, textile paint mostly known as Tulco here in the Philippines. Chemicals for the photographic process and lots of time to do the whole printing process.

On the other hand, Heat transfer printing uses printing machines with pigment inks, cutter plotters vinyl stickers, foils and heat transfer papers.

If you compare the products of these two types of printing, you could easily determine whether it is a screen print or a heat transfer print, since screen prints uses paints directly on the shirts you could not see unnecessary colors on the designs unlike the heat transfer you could notice some colors outside the design trying to mimic the color of the shirt, to understand what I’m saying about, try to imagine putting an automotive sticker on a shirt. See it’s not too nice to see. Screen prints are more comfortable to wear since air can still pass through the paints unlike heat transfer prints the air are trapped on the designs causing you to sweat like your swimming on the desert’s sand.

Now let’s talk about the quality of the prints. Screen printing last unlike the heat transfers. Since heat transfer prints where printed from the computer printer, although it uses waterproof pigment inks it still fades after washing. After washing you’re shirts for times, you could notice that the designs of the prints are fading. Unlike silk screen printing, the designs last regardless on how many times you wash your shirt. That’s why branded t-shirts used screen printing method instead of heat transfer.

Screen printing needs to be practiced to perfect you’re prints. Some amateur printers still don’t know the whole method that results a poor quality prints. The one who emailed me could maybe a victim of those kinds of works. When you decide to have you’re shirts for printing, make sure you know the right people to work for your prints. A good high resolution designs is a must. Don’t put to many shades on your design, complicated designs are harder to print, try to do simple but nice designs. Limit you colors or else printers decides to use CMYK color halftone method. Solid colors are better than halftone colors. Later, I will explain the differences between Solid color prints and the Halftone prints on screen.

Overall, I could say that Heat Transfer method is faster that Screen Printing method, if you’re in a rush use Heat Transfers but if you’re considering the quality of prints, screen prints last longer than the heat transfers. The design depends on the resolution of the illustrations to be processed, the choose of colors and the mastery of the person that prints the t-shirt.  
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