Different Garment Printing Techniques – Big Frog Custom T-Shirts
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Different Garment Printing Techniques

When most people think of “custom t-shirts”, they think of a technique called Screenprinting, and who can blame them? Screenprinting has been around for over 100 years, and it’s understandable that most people think of this.

However, there are some other techniques that may not come to the front of your mind when considering how to print on garments. This article will cover 5 of the top garment techniques that Big Frog Custom T-shirts & More offers for just about any sized order, and on more than just t-shirts.

Direct to Garment

Let’s start with the newest technology: Direct to Garment (also known as “DTG”). DTG uses a large inkjet printer to embed the ink into the fabric of the garment, usually mixing with the color of the fabric dye. DTG has the lowest setup cost, as the whole process is digital, which allows for the printing of 1 to 16 million colors. Additionally, since DTG printers don’t have the labor-intensive methods that other processes have, DTG printers can print as low as 1 garment!

DTG can print on cotton, polyester, blends, and just about any other garment type. The only downside to DTG printers is that unless they are setup a certain way, they cannot print white ink. That means that if you are seeking a darker-colored garment, another method will have to suffice. Many DTG printers can print white ink, in which case a layer of white ink will be placed down first, and then the color will print on top of the white ink, resulting in a much stiffer printout than the standard DTG process.
When it comes to printing on darker garments, the selection of garments is also limited, as only certain types and makes take to the “White Ink Process” whereas others don’t hold on as well. DTG’ed garments can fade over time if proper care is not taken.


Most people know “screenprinting” as the primary “custom garment printing method”, and it is understandable. Screenprinting uses a transfer method of limited shapes to create a “negative” effect on a screen, at which point the screen is painted over and the image/shape is transferred to the garment. This is a very labor-intensive method, and can get very messy, very easily. This is also the reason why many screenprinters can’t print fine details on garments.

Most Screenprinters charge a “per screen” setup cost (change of colors) because they have to repeat the transfer process for each color and separation of the colors from the main image. This is also why many screenprinters have a minimum of anywhere from 10-50, as they need to offset their cost of creating the screens for printing.

For many people, Screenprinting is a perfectly fine option, but designs can crack and fade over time.

A personal vinyl cutter


Vinyl is the next-to most popular custom garment decoration process, as it is the one most people think about when it comes to Sporting events. Most non-major league athletes have a uniform with a vinyl-cut application put on the garment, such as names and numbers. This is a great method, and does require some set up (cutting of the vinyl, weeding out the negative spaces (such as between letters with loops, such as D, P, R, and O), and the application to the garment), but most vinyl-cut items can be applied to just about any garment type.

Many screenprinters offer vinyl applications, but it does require a different setup than the large screenprinter machines, the “do it yourself” screenprinting kits, or even the DTG machines. Many people even use at-home vinyl cutter systems to create their own artwork cutouts for projects.

“Ultraprint” (aka: heat transfer)

Ultraprints are fairly new to the game, but they are something very familiar: heat transfers. Most people are familiar with Screenprinting, and heat transfers are roughly the same thing, but the Screenprint is placed on a piece of transfer paper, and will require a larger heat press (not just an iron) to transfer the print from the paper to the garment.

This method can peel and crack over time, but it gives the effect of professional screenprint without the screenprint price.


The last, but not least, option is embroidery. Most professional people know embroidery by its sheen look, and more “corporate” appeal on polos. Many people have hats and bags embroidered, and sometimes sweatshirts and larger garments. Embroidery is nice, but it does have a bit of setup work.

First, after the artwork has been created, the artwork must be “digitized”, by which someone has to manually go through the artwork, and figure out where threads must go. This is also to create the artwork in a format that the embroidery machines can read. However, this may result in the loss of some detail in the artwork, as the threads cannot be controlled finely enough to create some detail. After the artwork is digitized, it can be sent to the embroidery machine, which can easily thread 400-1000 threadings per minute. Changing out the threads is not that complex, as the machine is only following a set of instructions of where the threads need to go, but the end result is more professional than standard screenprinting.

Monogramming is similar to embroidery, but usually only results on simple letters or shapes in a single thread color.

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6675 Falls of Neuse Road, Suite 107
Raleigh, NC 27615
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