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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A common question on the forum is "What is considered a "quality" printing method?" or "What print method has a better quality printing? "X" or "Y"?" (insert printing methods).

I think listing the printing methods in order as to how they're "generally" perceived by the public and forum, too, will be really helpful.

Please help write this thread. If you think one process is better than another on the list, please add "why" to the thread. Everything you add will help to the quality of this thread, and aid in the sharing of knowledge and learning opportunities.:)

:)My disclaimer: This list is not a definitive list on quality ranking, just a general basic guideline. I know debates go on as to which is best, and for different reasons, each makes a valid point.

For anyone who is newer, not yet familiar with the various printing processes, are trying to decide which direction to take, or are looking for a basic informational introduction into print quality and how it is generally perceived, this list is for you:


Here you go on perceived QUALITY of printing method in order, with a brief description:

* Screen printing - The industry standard. Great for volume orders, can be very affordable in volume. Low quantity may be cost prohibitive due to screen/set up charges. Great quality, vibrant colors. Water based inks and discharge screen printing have a softer feel than plastisol screen printing.

* Plastisol transfers - The designs are screen printed with plastisol ink onto release paper that can be applied with a heat press as shirts are ordered. Same quality as plastisol screen printing. Have to be custom ordered unless you can screen print. Best pricing is in bulk orders. Good to gang designs on one sheet for price break when possible.

* DTG - Can print detailed designs with alot of colors, soft feel. Can do 1 offs affordably. DTG is costly to buy. Some Dtg printers mention issues with white ink. Images can look less vibrant than screened. Can do photo like images.

* Vinyl - Durable. Can layer vinyl for designs, up until a certain point, then it can become too heavy of a feel. Can layer in colors. Can do 1 offs affordably. Works on many fabrics. Using a different kind of vinyl - can add signs, banners, decals and more using your cutter.

* Sublimation dye - Works best on 100% polyester, dyes fabric = no hand, lasts. Ink is expensive. Light shirts. Can do photo like images. Can do 1 offs. Can add mugs, tiles and other hard substrates to product list.

* Laser transfers - Can cost a little more to get into than inkjet heat transfer, but I hear the cost per shirt is less to produce, making this process more affordable over time. There is a paper called Image clip that makes it possible to transfer to cotton, cotton blends without a window. Best for light shirts. Products for darks can be expensive, difficult. Can do photo like images. Can do 1 offs affordably.

* Inkjet heat transfers - Affordable to get into. Can do photo like images and 1 offs affordably. Alot of advances in quality due to a paper like Jetprosofstretch for lights. Printers are pretty cheap. Ink is cheap when bought at 3rd party generic ink suppliers. Bulk ink systems for the printer help add to affordability. Re-fill carts are easier to use (so they say.) :)



While this thread deals with the perceived quality of the print methods, I think it would be super helpful to hear from some owner/operators of the different print methods, asking them to highlight the pros and cons of their printing method. If anyone wants to volunteer, I think it was add so much to this thread, so please do so with my thanks.

Any and all input is appreciated and welcomed. Hearing from others on the quality of printing methods will only help other folks understand more about each printing method, and can help them decide which printing process is the right one for them.

I hope this helps answer some of those questions, best regards.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Inkjet heat transfers
Inkjet heat transfers. I'm using an Epson C88+, Durabrite OEM Pigment ink, Jetprosofstretch paper for light shirts, and I like the 50/50 cotton/poly blend preshrunk shirts. Preshrunk 100 cotton shirts can still have a slight bit of shrink in the wash, the 50/50's don't seem to do this.

PHOTO transfers/ One Off's: Can print photo like images onto shirts. If you can print it on your inkjet printer, you can press it. You can do one shirt only if you like.

COST: You don't need much: A printer, paper, the right ink, and some shirts, and the equipment isn't expensive either. This is outside of a press, but you'll need that for most of the other methods as well.

PAPER for light shirts: Using JPSS (Jetprosofstretch) I get fabulous transfers. Superior color retention, the paper stretches with the shirt, no cracking or peeling, very little hand (soft feel) and - I've bleached JPSS shirts with no fade.

I might add more later to the good things about heat transfer, but for now, this is where I'm at.

QUALITY PERCEPTION HURTS: There is an assumption out there that today's heat transfers are like the iron on transfers of yesterday. There have been alot of advances in this process over time, and the new papers are nice, namely JPSS :), but people don't forget easy. If someone is not told these are heat transfer shirts, alot of times, they can't even tell (referring to JPSS). I like to call these Digital Image Transfers, or Digital Transfers as David/Motoskin likes to call them, which I also like as well -- they are both good ways to differentiate this process from an iron on transfer of yesterday. :)

Also, for high end or boutique stores, while nothing is impossible, it's not as likely to sell many high end retailers on inkjet heat transfers. Knowing your market will help when selling this product. Folks are carving out a nice bottomline with inkjet heat transfers, but sometimes, they do have retail limitations.

OPAQUES/Paper for darks: Dark papers have a heavier hand, and alot of folks don't like it. Because of it, alot of folks simply won't use it, because they don't think like the feel and/or the quality. There are folks that will sell heat transfers for lights, but are still waiting for something they like in darks. Many use some other process for dark shirts, or choose not sell dark shirts at all. Then there are the folks who like and sell shirts using papers for darks. It really seem to be each persons preference, but there really is a split in opinion on the dark papers.

TRIMMING/CUTTING THE WINDOW: Transferring the POLYMER WINDOW on light papers to the shirt, or the unprinted areas of the design with dark papers onto shirts, is an issue to deal with. With inkjet heat transfers for lights, the paper is coated with a polymer that carries the ink to the shirt. Whereever there is no ink, the coating still transfers to the shirt, and can be seen as well as felt. With papers for darks it is the same, except since the paper for darks has a white background, whereever there is no ink, it will be white. These areas need to be cut away either by hand or with a machine called a cutter/plotter, or add a color box to the back of the design, or take a chance and leave it, either way, it'll have to be deal with somehow. And heat pressing will not make the window/box go away.

For light shirts, it is possible sometimes to get away without trimming the transfer when you use a paper and shirt combination that really super reduces the noticability of the window. It will still be there, but I find with JPSS, and especially the Jerzees HW 5050's I have, I have a very hard time seeing the window from the start. I'd say to experiment with your own stock to see if you like it or not, to figure out if you want to leave it or not.

There's quite a bit to list, and it's alot when giving explanations, too. I have to post this for now, but will come back to it if there's something major to add that I'm completely forgetting. Lunchtime!:)

Best regards.

PS: other INKJET users: please help add to the list of things to consider when using the process if you have some time. Thanks so much! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)

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Nice job on posting this information. I agree with a lot of it, but I also think we should talk about how does a decorator choose which decorating method to use. Here is my thought process as to what decorating technique that I would recommend to use:

1. What type of substrate iand color is the graphic going on?
Some decorating applications work better on different type of fabrics. If it is polyester, the sublimation is the best decorating method. For cotton shirts, I like dtg, plastisol transfers or screen printing. For hard substrates (i.e. mugs, license plates, tiles,...), sublimation is the preferred method if you want it to last. For nylon, most people use vinyl.

Also, the color of the fabric will affect which decorating method to use. Sublimation is a light transfer process only - so the lightest color in the graphic has to be darker that the color of the fabric or your colors will not reproduce accurately. For dark / black shirts, the common way is to use plastisol transfers or screen printing. Hopefully in the near future, the process of printing white ink in a dtg printer will become easier and more consistent.

2. What type of graphic is the artwork / design and how many colors are there?
Certain types of graphics can be printed using only certain methods. A digital photograph needs to be done using a digital transfer (i.e. inkjet, laser or sublimation transfer) or dtg printing. Anything with fine details is probably not going to be done with vinyl, but rather one of the other methods.

Some methods can handle a high number of colors better than other methods. With any digital transfer or dtg method, the number of colors is really not an issue and does nto raise the cost per a print. With screen printing and plastisol transfers, the number of colors can have an effect on the price per a print. Most people will only use vinyl when there are one or two colors.

3. What quantity is the order?
This is the key to making the most money as possible. There are different break evens for each company when you should switch from one method to another. Large quantities are typically done with screen printing if the graphic be printed that way. Otherwise, a plastisol transfer (which takes around 10 seconds to press) is used. Short runs can be done with any of the digital transfers, dtg printing or even vinyl.

The big question is what is a large run and what is a small run. This is going to depend on what equipment / resources you have in your shop and what are your alternatives to outsourcing. The biggest mistake I see is people that use a method that they have inhouse even when they know they can do the job more profitable by outsourcing because they are not busy. If you can make good money without doing the labor, then you should be focusing your time on making sales calls or marketing attemps. The stories I have heard of people doing a dark garment on a dtg printer for 500 shirts of a vector graphic that took a week to do is crazy when you could do the same job in less than a day with a plastisol transfer or even outsource the entire job to a screen printer that takes you very little time. The only catch is the decorator needs to know about all the decorating methods (the pros / cons - which Kelly stated above) and they kind a contract partner to work with.

Hope that Kelly's information above and this post help people make better (i.e. more profitable) choices. Have a GREAT WEEKEND!

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, Mark, thank you so much for the fabulous post. I regularly enjoy your posts very much, and this is yet another one of the greats. Your post addresses another huge question on the forum: "What method should I use to make my shirts?" which is usually followed immediately by the "is that seen as good quality?". Thanks so much, and sorry to see you got the "blue screen". Thanks for writing it again. :)
 

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Great thread, just wanted to add a little bit to it!
Vinyl is mainly portrayed as either layered or single color on this thread, however you can do color prints on some materials, you can also get some special effects from the vinyls such as a puffy feel.

I have used Roland's HTM for t-shirts, it had a fairly heavy hand though, so I discounted t-shirt vinyl for quite awhile. It wasn't until I got involved with these forums that I decided to give it another shot, since I had boughten a Brother DTG, I needed a solution for darker colors. Josh at Imprintables gave me a few sample rolls of Solutions Opaque and their pritnable metallic. Both worked well, the opaque had very little hand to it. The metallic did have a hand to it, but wasn't all that bad (probably less than a hand of the old style inkjet transfer papers). Anyways, just wanted to toss this in there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you for a great post and for adding to the thread, Joe. It's just what I'm hoping for. Wonderful, thank you. :) Anyone else have thoughts to share on printing methods to help folks decide?
 

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I have another question would would be i would say a ruff estimate to start a t-shirt bussiness from scratch or there isnt an certain amount of money u need?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Different processes used to print garments cost different amounts of money to get into. But for all, there are two ways to start, figure out your budget and set up within that budgeted amount, or to get financing and set up the way you want right from the start. People vary so much on their comfort levels with going into debt on a new business. The discussion of debt is between you and your partners. Some folks do it, most would advise against it. Another good idea is to discuss responsibility of disolving the partnership and/or business in advance, to avoid ruining any friendships. Writing things down is a great way to make sure even if the business doesn't succeed, the friendships do. :)

There is a resource I can recommend that, in addition to this forum, can help you with your new business. It is a great resource for any business, new or existing, it is your local Small Business Development Center. They are a FREE resource. They help with everything from business plans to financing, grants, marketing, expansion... the list goes on. The SBDC is there to help you start up and succeed. They are wonderful. I use them.
Small Business Administration - sbdc_locator_map

I'm linking you to the locator to find yours, but if you go to the home page, you can really find out alot more about them. I can't recommend them enough. Good luck to you guys.:)
 

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I am a real newbie and have been reading the forums for the past 8 months. I truly appreciated this article and believe it would be beneficial to have a listing of the basic
Equipment that is needed for each type of print method below. This all confuses me. Cutter, heat press, transfers, etc. etc.

Screen printing
PLastisol Transfers
DTG
Vinyl
Sublimination
Laser transfers
Injet Heat transfers
 

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Hi, I use a Roland Print/cut onto white digital vinyl then cut out design, then its onto the garment with a normal heatsealer. Not sure what name it would have on here but its a great way to do T shirts

Here's a link to a thread that deals with the pros and cons, the highlights and the drawbacks of various print methods/processes. Between the two threads, hopefully we'll get a well rounded overview of what is what, here's the link to this great thread:

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/general-t-shirt-selling-discussion/t37985.html#post222419

Best regards
 

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Hi guys i have a really important question not sure if it belongs in this section so in sorry in advance.
Once i get things ready to be made and find ppl to sell to or what not right now im just talking metaphorically what do i need to go bout actually selling my stuff do i need a license and what kind do i need, how much,how long does it last ,and does it matter once i have it who i can sell things to? plz need help... Also i think one of my partners has a whole sale license is that matters at all..
 

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what about ink quality on inkjet prints? I'm basically thinking about getting a continuous ink system with an inkjet printer, im looking at maybe getting the epson R1800 (to replace my 1290) as you can get A3+ prints from it, but for around the same price i could get an A4 laser printer. if i got a CISS for the inkjet to reduce ink costs would i be able to get good enough inks to refill it with? and where in the UK?. It's really been a sticking point for me because i don't want low quality prints due to poor inks, and the procrastination is doin my head in. would really appreciate some knowledge on the matter so i can get into it. Cheers
 

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Here is my 2 cents worth.....:)

I basically do all of the above except laser transfers. Everything in-house except plastisol transfers.

Vinyl for low quantity orders with lettering or simple designs on both light & dark shirts.

Inkjet transfers or DTG for low quantity light shirt orders with multi color or photorealistic designs. Starting to use JetPro Softstretch more often than DTG for these orders though especially now that I'm getting my cost down on my transfer sheets and refillable ink cartridges AND that we now have a product that is holding up so well in the wash.

Dye Sublimation is rarely used by use on apparel. We use it mainly for hardgoods (mugs, etc.). We have used it for multicolored images on performance shirts for running clubs and similar applications where the customer wants that type of material.

DTG for dark shirts for medium quantities that require photorealistic designs.

Four color process plastisol transfers for larger orders on both white or dark colors due to the high minimums for this process. We used Dowling Graphics and were very happy with their product and support.

Screenprint for medium to large quantities up to 4 colors (spot only). Anything more than 4 colors and I'll use plastisol transfers.

Plastisol transfers for medium to large quantity orders where we are backed up on our screenpress or the design has more than 4 colors on it.

Quality is a very subjective but screenprint is probably the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to customer preference and heat transfers the least preferred. However a bad screenprint can wash out faster than a good heat transfer...LOL.

These may be different for others but that is how we roll....:D
 

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Here is my 2 cents worth.....:)

I basically do all of the above except laser transfers. Everything in-house except plastisol transfers.

Vinyl for low quantity orders with lettering or simple designs on both light & dark shirts.

Inkjet transfers or DTG for low quantity light shirt orders with multi color or photorealistic designs. Starting to use JetPro Softstretch more often than DTG for these orders though especially now that I'm getting my cost down on my transfer sheets and refillable ink cartridges AND that we now have a product that is holding up so well in the wash.

Dye Sublimation is rarely used by use on apparel. We use it mainly for hardgoods (mugs, etc.). We have used it for multicolored images on performance shirts for running clubs and similar applications where the customer wants that type of material.

DTG for dark shirts for medium quantities that require photorealistic designs.

Four color process plastisol transfers for larger orders on both white or dark colors due to the high minimums for this process. We used Dowling Graphics and were very happy with their product and support.

Screenprint for medium to large quantities up to 4 colors (spot only). Anything more than 4 colors and I'll use plastisol transfers.

Plastisol transfers for medium to large quantity orders where we are backed up on our screenpress or the design has more than 4 colors on it.

Quality is a very subjective but screenprint is probably the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to customer preference and heat transfers the least preferred. However a bad screenprint can wash out faster than a good heat transfer...LOL.

These may be different for others but that is how we roll....:D
John that was a awesome breakdown of al the printing process' . You are the man!!!! ..... JB
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hi, I use a Roland Print/cut onto white digital vinyl then cut out design, then its onto the garment with a normal heatsealer. Not sure what name it would have on here but its a great way to do T shirts
Thank you for adding to this post. Would you be able to explain a little more? Maybe tell us the Roland model number, and where you buy your digital vinyl. This way, others can look up the products that you are using and getting great results with. One more quick Q, just to be sure, by heatsealer, do you mean heat press? Sorry to ask, I'm just not positive. Heatsealer could mean another process I'm not familiar with. Thanks so much. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
what about ink quality on inkjet prints? I'm basically thinking about getting a continuous ink system with an inkjet printer, im looking at maybe getting the epson R1800 (to replace my 1290) as you can get A3+ prints from it, but for around the same price i could get an A4 laser printer.
Some laser users say the quality of the print of a laser is a bit higher than that of inkjet. There is a new paper for inkjet called Jetprosofstretch (JPSS) that has really raised the quality and color retention of inkjet to new heights.

infidel said:
if i got a CISS for the inkjet to reduce ink costs would i be able to get good enough inks to refill it with? and where in the UK?.
Yes, there are alot of folks using bulk inks/cis in their printers and they are very happy. If you do a search on the forum for your model number printer and bulk systems, you'll find alot of feedback on what's working for folks and what is a headache. There is also a UK section on the forum. It is a subforum to the Regional Section. There is a great place to find others in the UK to ask what suppliers they use for their businesses. Best regards.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Hi guys i have a really important question not sure if it belongs in this section so in sorry in advance.
Once i get things ready to be made and find ppl to sell to or what not right now im just talking metaphorically what do i need to go bout actually selling my stuff do i need a license and what kind do i need, how much,how long does it last ,and does it matter once i have it who i can sell things to? plz need help... Also i think one of my partners has a whole sale license is that matters at all..
Hi Shawrue,

Below is a link to the business section of the forum. This section is to deal with these items specifically. A few things I will mention to get you started are:
1. You will need a sellers/reseller permit to resell items. Sometimes to open wholesale accounts as well. If your partner has one, it may not be in "your 'company's name", so you might have to find out if you need a new one that is, if it isn't.
2. Look up your state's business website. It is a wonderful resource to help guide you to what you need to do business in your state. Our's is called "PA Open for Business".
3. Check with your local municipality to see if they have seperate licenses or fees to sign up for.
4. I still recommend contacting your Small Biz Development Center because they have all this information there for you, and they guide you through the process, literally hand holding. They do this so you are set up properly and set up to succeed. Your business success is a success for your local community and economy. That is the purpose of the SDBC. The government created this program to help entrepreneurs, this is your tax dollars at work. It's a wonderful, free resource that is a phone call away.

This forum and a SBDC adviser is a formula for success. Best regards, Shawrue, here is the link:
Business and Finance - T-Shirt Forums.

This is next little bit of information I learned from the SBDC, and is only for anyone who sets up a as a Sole Proprietor: Even though you could file your taxes under your Social Security number, they recommend getting an EIN (Employee Indentification Number) for your business bc with the EIN your social security number is shielded and not passed around everywhere on applications for your business (like like credit lines, credit cards, wholesale accts, bank accounts). I did need the EIN to open a few of my wholesale accounts as a SSN wasn't accepted. Not all wholesalers are like that. But for some, you'll need the EIN and alot of time the seller/resellers permit as well.
 

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hi guys i am new here just registered today and i ordered a epson 88+ and heat press. was trying out the machine tonight and tried to put a picture onto the shirt and i couldnt get the picture to transfer onto the shirt. if it is possible could you explain the process to me. what i did was print the picture and heat the press to 320 degress which was what the instructions told me to do. i placed the transfer paper to the shirt and clamped down the press and nothing. i left the press closed for a number of different times and nothing. please help....
 

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Hi , yes i did mean heatpress. My machine is a Roland SP30, it will take a 750mm roll of vinyl. It will cut garment vinyl,digital print vinyl, sign vinyl and also make full colour banners. These are very popular with businesses. The heatpress vinyl comes fron Target Transfers at a good price. I use Adobe Illustrator to vector graphics and the machine will print as many colours as you want at the same time then cut them out staright away. excellent piece of kit.

Regards
Bill







Thank you for adding to this post. Would you be able to explain a little more? Maybe tell us the Roland model number, and where you buy your digital vinyl. This way, others can look up the products that you are using and getting great results with. One more quick Q, just to be sure, by heatsealer, do you mean heat press? Sorry to ask, I'm just not positive. Heatsealer could mean another process I'm not familiar with. Thanks so much. :)
 
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