Methods for printing images on fabric

There are five ways to printing images on fabric that are used by modern companies. The choice of color application technology depends on how many things are to be painted, the area of ​​the design, the number of colors and the type of fabric. Each method has its pros and cons that need to be considered before printing.

Five printing methods

Our company Custom Shirts Dallas works with all modern methods of applying designs to T-shirts, sweatshirts, workwear, etc. Among them:

silkscreen printing, which is also called screen printing;

direct printing on fabric – works well when applying designs to cotton items;

sublimation, which can only be used on white synthetic fabrics;

thermal transfer or flex printing. To do this, a unique film is used.

DTF printing  – applied using special thermal transfer films and an inkjet printer.

Let’s have a more in-depth discussion about these technologies.

 Silkscreen printing

Silk-screen printing is a method of applying designs to fabric using stencils. It is suitable for printing images with no more than six colours, because making stencils for a larger number of shades is very labor-intensive and not worth the investment.

The advantages of this technology include:

speed of printing, which is why silk-screen printing is often used when printing large quantities of things. The design settles on the fabric in a couple of seconds;

low price, which also encourages the printing of a large number of identical sweatshirts, T-shirts, etc.

The only difficulty with silk-screen printing is the labor-intensive process of preparing stencils. Therefore, it is not used to apply images to a couple of things – it is not rational.

Direct printing

Direct printing on fabrics is also called digital printing. This is the most modern and advanced method of applying images, which conveys all the richness of colors and detail of any degree. Suitable for printing on both synthetics and cotton.

 Its advantages:

  • resistance to environmental influences and abrasion during washing. About 50 machine washes will cost the image without any consequences;
  • the paints become part of the fabric, so the picture can be easily ironed – it will not smudge or deteriorate;
  • the number of shades and small details in the drawing is not limited.

However, digital printing also has its disadvantages – low speed. Therefore, it is better to use it when sealing one or more things.


Sublimation printing is an innovative way to create images on various surfaces, including fabric. The peculiarity of this method is that paint particles are fixed to the fabric structure through exposure to strong temperature and pressure, which contributes to high-quality fixation. As a result, you can get clothes with a bright and clear pattern, which will have excellent resistance to fading and washing.

How is sublimation printing done?

To transfer an image to any surface with a fabric structure using thermal sublimation printing, you must follow an algorithm consisting of two steps:

  1. First of all, the image is printed on a transfer material – sublimation paper. It is coated with specialized compounds that prevent ink from penetrating into the cellulose structure of the sheet. A prerequisite is a mirror image of the transferred image;
  2. After this, you need to wait until the image applied to the paper dries. When this happens, it will be necessary to combine the paper and textile (to which you plan to transfer) and heat press them. Inside the latter, high temperature and pressure are applied, as a result of which the dried paint immediately turns into gas and settles on the structure of the fabric.

Sublimation has undeniable advantages:

  • The ink used for printing penetrates into the deep structure of the fabric, due to which the final image will remain bright for a long time and will not fade in the sun;
  • This technology allows you to print even complex images, which are characterized by numerous small elements, as well as a large combination of colors;
  • The finished print is of exceptional photographic quality, characterized by clarity, brightness and saturation;
  • The sublimation printing process is quite fast, due to which you can quickly print a large batch of prints or make an individual order in a short time;
  • Finished textiles after sublimation printing do not lose their natural properties – they still continue to absorb moisture and allow air to pass through, in other words, they are no different from the rest of the product;
  • The cost of sublimation printing is low due to the simple technology, which allows us to offer customers truly competitive prices.

 Thermal transfer

Thermal transfer or thermal decal is printing images using a special flex film or appliqué.

It is considered one of the most convenient options for applying images and has many advantages:

  • Thermal appliqué allows you to print both large batches of items and single copies;
  • the applied image is resistant to environmental influences, retains rich colors for a long time and is machine washable;
  • fast application speed – one image is applied in no longer than a couple of seconds.

True, a thermal transfer will not be able to print an image with a large palette of colors or too much detail. Therefore, it is often used to print logos, quotes, etc.

DTF printing 

DTF printing combines full-color inkjet printing and thermal printing (flex). This is a relatively new method in the digital printing market not only in Belarus, but also in the world. The name of the technology stands for Direct to film (DTF), which translated from English means “direct to film.”

The essence of the technology is the use of special thermal transfer films on which an image is printed using an inkjet printer. To fix it, an adhesive powder is used that can polymerize at elevated temperatures. The resulting thin adhesive base is transferred to fabric or other materials.

This digital printing method has several advantages:

  • is easy to use;
  • allows you to obtain full-color images that are not inferior in quality to direct printing using pigment ink;
  • ensures high durability of the resulting image, capable of withstanding minor mechanical stress and washing at temperatures up to 60 0 C;
  • suitable for decorating natural and synthetic fabrics and leather, ceramics and PVC materials resistant to temperatures of 120 – 160 0 C;
  • can be used on white and colored fabrics;
  • allows you to obtain contour-free images;
  • has the ability to print one image;
  • financially accessible.


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