There are many different types of fabric printing methods and they all produce different results. Let’s compare the three most common printing technologies.
1. Heat Transfer Printing
Use professional heat transfer paper. You can print your design onto transfer paper using a standard home or industrial printer, then transfer it to the fabric using a heat press or a home steam iron. This can be upgraded and done professionally on larger runs, but it will leave a shiny film or surface texture on your fabrics. It is not a permanent method of fabric printing, as it can crack and peel over multiple washes and often fade.
Can be printed with standard printers
No professional equipment required
Great for small businesses
Easy to print and transfer
Leaves surface texture/film
Transfer is a one-time use
Peeling, cracking and fading
May suffer from low resolution
2. Screen printing
Screen printing is a common method in the fabric printing process. This printing method uses stencils and nylon mesh to create print designs. Waterproof material will be used to shade the spaces where you want your design to appear, and then those shaded spaces are flooded with ink. Because of the way this method is performed, you can only use one color per screen, however, it does produce excellent reproduction.
Amazing image reproduction
Great for sharp edges and solid color blocks
Cost-effective to run in large batches
One color per screen – not suitable for multi-color designs
High labor intensity, not suitable for small batch production
Not suitable for photo/Gradient color
Cause pollution and waste
3. Dye sublimation
This is a multi-step process that produces some of the best results of all fabric printing methods. The designs are printed on thermal transfer paper called sublimation paper. It is then used to create a print on the fabric. Both heat and pressure are used to permanently bond the ink to the fibers of the fabric. This leaves your fabric as soft as it was before printing. Deep infusion technology penetrates professional water-based ink deep into the fabric, making your prints permanent. Great for intricate details and colors.
Stunning permanent image reproduction
Leaves no texture or residue on fabrics at all
Eco-friendly, water-based ink will not fade or peel
Suitable for all sizes of press runs
Not suitable for natural fabrics, only for polyester textiles
Requires professional equipment and dyes
More expensive printing
Requires in-depth knowledge and experience