There are many different ways that you can print or decorate custom apparel.
Specifically with heat printing, there are many materials you can use just with this printing method alone.
For this heat applied transfer product comparison, we are going to compare heat transfer vinyl (htv) rolls to screen printed transfer sheets.
We’ll look at when to use each, and the benefits of each.
What is Heat Transfer Vinyl and How Do I Use It?
First of all, in order to cut your own vinyl rolls, you need to have a cutter. This machine is the only piece of equipment, in addition to your heat press, that you will need to go this route of apparel decorating.
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Once you have your cutter and set up to use it to cut vinyl rolls or sheets, then you just need to learn how to use it.
There is a slight learning curve to learning the ins and outs of your cutter and the software that goes with it.
Essentially, what you’ll be doing is creating your t-shirt design on the computer, and sending the design to the cutter to cut the design out of the vinyl. You would then “weed” out the excess pieces and heat apply the cut out vinyl design onto your blank apparel.
The other heat applied transfer we’re comparing htv to is a screen printed transfer.
What are Screen Printed Transfers?
For a screen printed transfer type, you’ll be sending your artwork to a screen printed transfer printing company to print it for you.
Within a few days, you’ll receive the transfer prints ready to heat apply to your blank apparel using just your heat press.
It is the same plastisol inks as direct screen printing, so after your screen printed transfer is heat applied, you have the same result as screen printing – a screen printed shirt.
The only difference is that the plastisol ink was printed onto a special transfer release paper that applies to your blank apparel with your heat press.
With this method, there is no need for cutting or weeding.
Is HTV or Screen Printed Transfers Better for Heat Printing?
The quick answer to this question is “both”. Both are great for heat printing custom apparel and other items.
Each of these transfer types have their time and place.
The textures of both heat transfer vinyl and screen printed transfers can vary, but they can feel very similar depending on the exact types.
The durability will be similar as well, with both materials holding up to sports uniforms and other wear and tear.
If you are a crafter, you most likely started out using a small-scale vinyl cutter and vinyl rolls/sheets.
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This is an easy way to do low quantity, custom items, which most crafters are doing.
Crafters who sell items on Etsy, etc., may even choose to cut and heat apply items on demand as they are ordered from customers. This helps reduce inventory. However, if you go this route, you do still need to have your vinyl supplies on hand, so there is still an inventory cost involved.
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The ‘per piece’ cost for heat transfer vinyl designs is pretty economical when you are only doing small quantities.
If you aren’t producing a lot of orders, then this is a viable option to keep your costs low, and profits high.
However, there is an extra cost involved when using this process to produce your custom apparel. Each time you want to produce a product, you need to cut your design, weed it, and apply it.
This actually adds production time, and as a business, you need to take your time into account.
It can take a considerable amount of time to cut and weed more complex designs.
On top of that, if it is a multi-color design, you’ll need to cut, weed, and heat apply each color separately. Aligning the colors together can be challenging in itself.
Screen printed transfers, on the other hand, come ready to apply. They don’t need to be weeded.
Screen printed transfers are great if you are doing more than just a small quantity. As soon as you are doing higher volumes of the same design, screen printed transfers can speed up your production process tremendously.
Goof Proof screen printed transfers apply in as little as 4 seconds. Even if you have a multi-color design, all of the colors are printed onto the same sheet to heat apply in one application.
A 3 color Goof Proof transfer still applies in one, 4 second application. Goof Proof is also a “hot peel” transfer, so as soon as the application is done, you can peel the backing paper off immediately. You don’t have to wait for it to cool down first.
Even if you are a crafter selling shirts or other items through an Etsy store online, you can still order your screen printed transfers and apply them on demand as your customers order them.
If you are doing a lot of sales over time of the same design, this is a perfect scenario to order screen printed transfers for your crafting business.
Order your prints in a larger quantity to sell over time.
Screen printed transfers have a long shelf life if stored properly. We have seen these transfers apply perfectly after several years of storage.
Compared to heat transfer vinyl, screen printed transfers are more expensive at lower quantities, but as the quantity increases, screen printed transfers will actually be cheaper at higher quantities.
Also keep in mind your labor and production time. Your labor time will be much less with screen printed transfers, especially as your quantities increase.
Since you’ll only be weeding a few pieces at lower quantities, vinyl would probably be a better choice for those types of projects.
Price Comparison for Heat Transfer Vinyl and Screen Printed Transfers
To compare pricing for your particular project, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. How many pieces will you be printing? How many colors is the design? Are there multiple items within the same project, such as a t-shirt and a cap?
After you know the basics of your project, you can compare pricing.
When you are looking at vinyl, you can buy in sheets or rolls. If sheets, know how big the sheet size is and how big your shirt design is. Can you fit multiple designs per sheet? Can you fit a full size t-shirt design and a cap design?
Then you’ll be able to determine your “per piece” price. The same goes for if you are buying in rolls. Figure out how many pieces you can fit from the roll and how much it is per piece.
If it is a 2 or 3 color design, don’t forget to take that into consideration, too. You’ll need to figure out for each color how much you can fit onto the sheet/roll.
Then you can easily compare those numbers and prices to screen printed transfers. Look at the price grids for the same number of sheets and know the transfer size.
With screen printed transfers, you are usually working with a particular sheet size. You may be able to fit multiple images on the same sheet for the same price, just like you may be able to fit multiple images when you are cutting your own vinyl sheets.
If this is the case, figure out how many total sheets you need to get the price break, and then how much it will be per image on the sheet.
Check the pricing for the number of colors, too.
Don’t forget to take into consideration your time as well. If the price is similar or if screen printed transfers are a tad bit more for the quantity you are printing, is it worth your time to cut and weed all of the pieces to save a few cents per piece?
Only you can answer that question. What is your time worth to you and how much margin do you want to make on your finished apparel?
Answering these types of questions will help you to determine which transfer type to use for your next custom apparel job – either heat transfer vinyl or screen printed transfers.
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Heat transfers provide better resolution than screen prints, but are less cost-efficient for larger quantities. The factors to consider when determining whether to use custom heat transfer or screen printing for T-shirt transfers include design complexity, color, durability, fabric choices, and the size of your order.Which lasts longer screen printing or heat transfer? ›
This process can be more time-consuming for designs that have many colors; however, screen-printed art tends to last much longer than heat-pressed art. It also requires more chemicals and equipment for it to work.Is it cheaper to screen print or vinyl? ›
Vinyl is best suited for small runs (under 24), screen printing is more cost-effective for large runs.Do screen prints feel like vinyl? ›
It prints designs onto white vinyl material that we then can press on. It is still hard to do designs with fading and distressing, and sometimes we just flat out can't do them. Screen printing is also softer than vinyl. We do use soft-touch vinyl but it does not feel the same way.What is better than screen printing? ›
Where a screen printing gives a more vibrant finish (especially when printing onto a darker surface), digital distribution is better suited to detailed work due to the layers of ink being thinner which assures the final print will turn out more precise.How long do screen printed transfers last? ›
There is no concrete number of days, months or years the transfers are good for. This all depends on how the transfers are stored to keep the ink in tip-top shape. Stored correctly, plastisol transfers could last for many, many years.Is there a difference between vinyl and printable vinyl? ›
There are two types of vinyl paper — printable vinyl sheet and vinyl sticker sheets. Both will work in your printer. The difference is how the final product sticks to surfaces. Vinyl sticker sheets have more adhesive on the back and could leave a glue residue if later removed.How many washes does printable vinyl last? ›
With proper care of your garment (wash inside out on a cool wash, dry inside out on a washing line and iron inside out - no tumble drying or dry cleaning) the manufacturer recommends around 50 washes for the vinyl heat transfers, which do eventually crack and fade.Which is better vinyl or transfer paper? ›
Unlike Heat Transfer vinyl, printable transfer paper, Transfer Papers permits full-color designs in just a single layer. Transfer vinyl, on the other hand, has zero multiple layers of vinyl i.e., user can only use in a single press.What is the best heat transfer for T shirts? ›
Goof Proof® is our best-selling screen printed transfer type. It is the easiest and fastest to apply in just 4 seconds. This will work on all your basic t-shirts and apparel containing cotton, polyester, and cotton/poly blends. It's durable for sports applications, and goes on any color of apparel.
HOW MANY WASHES DOES THE TRANSFER LAST? They will last between 7 to 10 washings when applied with a home iron. They will last 10 – 15 washings if a heat press is used.How well does heat transfer vinyl hold up? ›
Heat Transfer Vinyl
Vinyl material that can be reverse cut on a vinyl cutter, then weeded and heat applied to a garment. Durability – Excellent, when properly applied the heat transfer vinyl will outlast the life of the garment without cracking, peeling, or fading.
One of the main disadvantages of screen printing is that it has a much higher initial setup cost than digital printing and takes more time. Other cons of screen printing include: more limited colour ranges available. the amount of ink used can make the design look as if it is raised from the print material.Which is cheaper heat press or screen printing? ›
Screen printing is ideal for simpler artwork with 1-3 ink colors or large quantity orders. This method typically has higher bulk discounts than heat press transfers. Therefore, screen printing is the more cost-efficient option for high quantities.Do screen print transfers peel? ›
Screen print transfers have to be peeled HOT. Not warm, not cold. This means you need to peel the paper immediately after you are finished pressing. If the paper resists being easily peeled, do not force it.Do screen print transfers crack? ›
It's imperative that a screen printed heat transfer is properly applied, as improper application will cause adhesion issues, cracking, or hot splitting.Is screen printing high quality? ›
Pros: Screen printing has a lot of pros, first being the high quality of the print. Your t-shirt prints are going to be more vibrant in color compared to on-demand printers. And if you're using water-based ink, the print will feel softer and last a lot longer.How can you tell the difference between heat transfer and vinyl? ›
If you turn over your vinyl and find a paper backing, you're holding adhesive vinyl. If you turn it over and it's the same color on both sides, you have heat transfer vinyl. Heat transfer vinyl has one shiny side and one matte side.What is the best vinyl to use for screen printing? ›
As a screen printing with vinyl pro, I have tested many different vinyl brands with my Screen Printing With Vinyl process. I have found the best vinyl for screen printing is Oracal 651 and Siser EasyWeed. Oracal 651 is an adhesive (sticky) vinyl and Siser EasyWeed is HTV or iron-on vinyl.How long does heat press vinyl last? ›
If clothes are properly cared for, VISION heat transfer vinyl manufacturer recommend about 33 washes for vinyl heat transfer, after which they will eventually crack and fade.
- 1 – Long lasting. ...
- 2 – Big Order Friendly. ...
- 3 – Great Finish. ...
- 5 – Versatility. ...
- 6 – Straightforward. ...
- 1 – Not practical for small orders. ...
- 2 – The more colors, the more expensive it is. ...
- 3 – It's not environmentally friendly.
Versatile, durable, cost-efficient and high quality; these are just four of the many reasons why screen printing continues to be one of the most popular methods of printing in a variety of commercial and retail applications.What is cheaper than screen printing? ›
The cost of screenprinting is determined by the number of colors in your design, while digital printing is a flat fee per print. So, if you have a complex design with a wide range of colors, digital printing will be more affordable than screenprinting.What happens if you press a screen print for too long? ›
You should only be pressing for 5 seconds! If you press too long it will burn the transfer.How many times can you use a screen for screen printing? ›
Once the stencils have been burned with your artwork, they will no longer have a shelf life and can be used over and over again. With proper care, the stencils can be used 100's of times!Why did my screen print wash off? ›
Without enough light and for too short a time the emulsion does not fully bond and go hard during exposure. If your emulsion is totally washing out or falling off, your screen is definitely under exposed. If its breaking down during printing this is also a common sign of under exposure.Is matte or glossy printable vinyl better? ›
Glossy substrates hold the ink better and therefore appear more vibrant and crisp when printed. Matte paper tends to absorb and dissipate some of the ink, which makes it look faded and a little washed out. If this is the look you're going for, then great!Does printable vinyl last? ›
On it's own, inkjet printable vinyl is rated to last outdoor for one year, but when you add a laminate overlay, it will last for 4-5 years.Is vinyl actually better than digital? ›
Vinyl is far more high-quality. No audio data is lost when pressing a record. It sounds just as great as the producer or band intended. There's another, far superior reason why vinyl is better than lossy digital formats.What is better heat transfer vinyl or iron-on? ›
Iron-on transfers are more lightweight than heat transfer vinyl, and they can apply bold colors in just one layer. They're also a special kind of paper. So you can print off your design, cut away excess paper, and iron it onto your desired item.
The iron on vinyl for shirts fall off when washing letters will happen more in the drye because the heat inside the machine can soften the fusible used in decorative applications. It is possible that these items were not properly cleaned before adding the design to the garment.How many washes does screenprint last? ›
In general, you can wash a screen-printed shirt 40 to 50 times before it starts to fade. Because the ink used in screen printing is thicker than the ink used for other printing methods, screen-printed garments can withstand a large number of washes while keeping the design intact.Does vinyl heat transfer last? ›
Applying heat transfer vinyl to an article of clothing is an easy way to get creative with your own designs. It's inexpensive, easy to apply, and with the proper care, can last for years!Why is my printable vinyl cracking? ›
When moisture is trapped below a transfer during application, it can create issues. Even if you don't see it right away, moisture can cause a transfer to crack after only a few washes.Why is my heat transfer paper not peeling? ›
Paper does not peel easily or remains stuck after pressing
Start by making sure the pressure is set properly (Machine should “Snap shut firmly”). Pressure should be set: Medium/heavy. If the pressure is OK, try increasing either the temperature or the time duration.
10. Can thermal transfer paper be reused? You can't reuse your thermal transfer paper, whichever type you use. Although with sublimation paper, you may find that there is some ink remaining on the paper, it will not be enough to make a good-quality print.Is it cheaper to screen print or heat press? ›
Screen printing is ideal for simpler artwork with 1-3 ink colors or large quantity orders. This method typically has higher bulk discounts than heat press transfers. Therefore, screen printing is the more cost-efficient option for high quantities.Is screen printing the best for T shirts? ›
Screen printing is the best option for designs that require a high level of vibrancy, when printing on dark shirts, or for specialty products. The ink in screen printing is applied thicker than digital printing, which results in brighter colors even on darker shirts.How long do screen-printed transfers last? ›
There is no concrete number of days, months or years the transfers are good for. This all depends on how the transfers are stored to keep the ink in tip-top shape. Stored correctly, plastisol transfers could last for many, many years.How long does screen printing last on shirts? ›
Since the DTG ink is sprayed right onto the fabric, it does not adhere to the fibers the way that screen printing ink does. If the right ink is used, screen printed shirts will last a very long time without fading. Even with the best ink, DTG can only last a few dozens of washes at most.
- Expensive set-up costs.
- Cannot layer colors because the t-shirt will become bulky and heavy.
- Each image needs to be cut precisely to eliminate the extra paper you do not want to print onto the image. This can be very time consuming.
Sublimated Prints and Screen Prints are considered to be the ones that would last longest. Screen printing has been around for a long time, so there are many different variations of it. Screen printing is the most popular form of t-shirt decoration, especially with slogans and cartoons.Which Tshirt printing technique is best in quality? ›
DTG is the most durable and direct way to print any design on a t-shirt. On the other hand, screen printing is widely used for bulk orders. Similarly, dye sublimation offers premium quality with its special colour vaporising technique.What is the highest quality Tshirt printing? ›
We recommend DTG for most t-shirts as it offers the most precise print for your design. But if you're after an all over print, sublimation printing is definitely the way to go.What is the most efficient method of t-shirt printing? ›
Digital Transfer Printing – The Best Print Method for Sportswear or Synthetic Fabrics. Digital transfer printing combines the bold colours of screen printing with the ability to print onto almost any material. Screen Printing and DTG produce high-quality prints however, they work best on high percentage cotton garments ...What is better screen printing or sublimation? ›
If you're making a large volume of items, screen printing is typically best. Dye sublimation, on the other hand, is a more time-consuming process, but the colors are brighter and more vibrant than with screen printing. Screen printing is very versatile, allowing you to print on virtually any type of fabric or garment.How do I stop my screen print from cracking? ›
- #1. Turn Inside Out. I'm not sure why some find it ridiculous to take a couple of seconds to flip their t-shirts before washing, but it is definitely the best practice if you want to extend their lifespan. ...
- #2. Wash With Cold Water. ...
- #3. Use Only the Necessary Amount of Detergent. ...
- #4. Dry Your Tees Away from Direct Sunlight.