Vinyl vs. Screen T-shirt Printing: Which Method Is Better And Why?


Starting a custom t-shirt printing business? If yes, you must be working out on all necessary aspects, including the printing method. Vinyl printing or Screen t-shirt printing—which one is better? It’s one of the most asked questions by the people from the t-shirt printing companies. 

But which method is better and why? There are different opinions of experts on this topic. Vinyl and screen — both methods are suitable for tshirt printing, offering high-quality and durable results.   

So before you proceed, first dig down a little deeper to understand both methods. With the growing demand for custom shirts, printing methods have emerged over the period—each one of them with a unique feature suitable for a specific fabric. Here are some of the well-known printing methods being used today:

Different T-shirt Printing Methods

1.           Screen Printing

2.           Inkjet / Laser Iron-on Transfer

3.           DTG Printing

4.           Dye Sublimation

5.           Vinyl

6.           Plastisol Transfers

7.           Discharge Printing

8.           Belt Printing

9.           Cut & Sew

Some printing techniques best suit a particular fabric, while on the other hand, a specific printing method best suits an order of a certain volume/quantity. 

Moreover, it becomes inevitable for you to learn the ropes before you get started. Since you want to choose only from screen and vinyl printing techniques, let’s investigate and quickly compare the two so that you can print your custom tshirts with great precision. 

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1) Screen Printing

Screen printing, also called silkscreen printing, is the most commonly used printing technique by t-shirt makers. If you wear a t-shirt with a vibrant graphic design on it and the design just looks good after being washed several washes, the chances are that your t-shirt is made with a screen printing technique. 

In this printing method, a design template is created, placed onto the tee, and held in place by a screen made of a finely woven fabric known as mesh. Then, ink is poured onto the screen and spread by a squeegee-type tool, and the design gets printed on the t-shirt. That’s it! 

The key feature of this printing technique that makes it so popular is that it replicates the exact design on the product. Therefore, the screen printing technique is best for printing a huge volume of t-shirts of similar design in a single color. 

2) Vinyl

In the Vinyl or CAD Cut Vinyl printing method, vinyl cutouts are applied onto the t-shirt with heat. Then, with the help of a machine, you need to cut the design from a solid colored vinyl sheet. This printing is usually a single color process and is a cost-efficient method when compared to other techniques.

Design made with the Vinyl method is durable, but the process is slow, which is not suitable for a bigger lot. Also, the design may look stiff and heavy if it is large. 

Check them on the following parameters.

1) Run Time

Vinyl: Vinyl t-shirt printing technique is suitable for small runs as 16 t-shirts.This is because of the lesser set-up time than that of the screen printing technique. However, a t-shirt maker struggles for a higher turnaround time as the method in vinyl printing is much slower than screen printing. You need to set up different settings for each t-shirt. This makes this technique more time-consuming and expensive when the order volume is over 16 t-shirts. 

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Screen: The screen printing technique is suitable for order sizes of more than 25 t-shirts. That’s why a t-shirt maker prefers this option when the order is in bulk. Although, setting up screen printing takes much longer than that of vinyl printing. But once the setup is done, the process for t-shirt printing is fast. 

2) Details &Color

Vinyl: Usually, a t-shirt maker uses this printing technique for simple graphics. When the requirement is to create basic shapes and text-based designs, you can go with this printing option. However, you can’t come up with a true gradient (blending of colors) with the vinyl printing technique. Also, you’ll lose fine details. 

Screen: Screen printing is suitable for printing complex designs and graphics because it gives you access to a very high level of color and details. Printing of beautiful photographs comes smoothly. You can mix plenty of colors in screen printing.

3) Lifespan

Vinyl: Designs on custom t-shirts printed using the vinyl technique usually last for more than 5 years under normal use. The general guidelines for optimum lifespan are:

● Don’t dry clean. Machine-wash with mild detergent is recommended.

● Don’t use chlorine bleach 

● Dry the garment under a normal setting

● Don’t wash the garment before 24 hrs. of printing.

Screen: Under normal use, the graphics printed using the screen printing technique lasts for the life of your shirts. Always wash your custom t-shirt inside out with cold water for graphics’ longer life. 

Final word 

The methods mentioned above are the top printing techniques for custom t-shirt printing today. However, you need to analyze your requirements first before moving with a particular custom t-shirt printing technique. Vinyl printing and screen printing both have certain limitations and benefits, choose one that best suits your project. This article aims to educate people who want to get their custom t-shirts printed cheaply and grow their t-shirt business.  

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