Screen Printing vs Heat Pressing

Hello everyone, welcome to our blog! Today we’re going to talk about some design methods we’ve encountered over the years.

One of the more common questions we get is ‘Why do you heat press your apparel?’ When trying to go with a decorating method, heat pressing can achieve the same look and feel as screen printing. Some pro’s about heat pressing is it will cost a little less, it’s easier to learn, and it’s portable. Continue reading to find out the difference between the two methods.

Before we get into the pros and cons, let’s get an idea of what screen printing and heat pressing are. Screen printing is a process where ink is pushed through a mesh or stencil to print a particular design on the material. The liquid only transfers to the areas the screen permits. Only one colour can be applied at a time so a screen must be made for each colour. While screen printing is mainly talked about regarding apparel, its also a very popular way of creating posters and other works of art. 

Heat pressing is a machine that imprints a design on a garment, such as a t-shirt. The application process is used with heat and pressure for a certain amount of time. The three most important steps to factor in when heat pressing is time, temperature, and pressure. Each garment takes a different temperature and pressure so its crucial to ensure you’ve read the instructions before starting.

Unlike heat pressing, screen printing doesn’t always work for all designs. Screen printing needs more chemical and equipment for it to work.

Heat Pressing Advantages

–          Heat pressing is clean and environmentally friendly. Screen printing methods involve a lot of chemical combinations 

–          Guaranteed a high-quality garment because the heat press method uses specialty ink with advanced software packages

–          Unlike screen printing methods that only use one colour at a time, heat pressing can be used to provide a full colour design

Cons

–          For a large number of products, it will be time consuming

–          You won’t be able to lay multiple colours because the garment will feel bulky

–          You will only get approx. 50 washes before the colours may start to fade 

Let’s look at the smaller details that make heat pressing stand out:

Artwork complexity 

  • Artwork with multiple colours is very easy to execute with a heat press. Complicated designs can be easily applied with one application. You can also get details in designs which direct screen printing doesn’t allow for.

Speed 

  • Most heat transfer finishes are achieved in one quick and easy step, sometimes as fast as 4 seconds. While screen printing can be slow and cumbersome to set up and produce each colour

Personalization 

  • The heat press allows you to personalize any custom piece with ease. You don’t have to deal with the messy inks and screens for each name on the order

Any item

  • There are some items too difficult to customize through screen printing. The heat press is ideal for hats, bags, laptop sleeves, blanks, umbrellas, and other items that would be difficult to screen print.

Creative placement

  • The heat press can accommodate unique placements on a garment which can be impossible or more difficult to screen print.

Durability

  • The average lifespan of a garment decorated with a heat press is 50+ home wash/dry cycles. This is equal to, if not better than direct screen printing

Screen Printing Advantages

  • Cost effective if you have large projects. Screen printing doesn’t have any size limitations like other methods of printing.
  • Screen printing produces bright fabric with a better feel. Garments products through screen print method tend to be durable and can endure roughness from any washing machine. 

Cons

  • Not suitable for printing small orders as the cost gets high
  • Cannot take on complex multi-coloured designs, it works best with 1 or 2 colours – explains why you need to take one colour at a time
  • The more colours you want, the most screens you’ll need 

When it comes to screen printing, natural fabrics seem to do better than synthetic ones, simply because they absorb liquids better, leaving a vibrant print behind. If you’re unsure of what fabric to pick, go with cotton. You may not be able to use 100% cotton as the cost may be high, but anything with a blend will work – be aware that the more cotton the garment has, the better the end result will be.

In the end, my go-to is heat pressing. For what our company produces and for our customers, it makes the most sense. We’re able to keep costs down, while also providing our customers with great quality products. We have an apparel heat pressing machine as well as a hat machine and both work excellent. 

Heat pressing may seem like a time-consuming job but the designs you can make are worth it. You can choose between regular vinyl, 3D brick, reflective, and many more, so when you think about it, you can achieve so much more with a heat press machine than with screen printing.

Stay tuned next week when we compare heat transfer vinyl vs dye sublimation!

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