Screen Printing vs. Iron On Transfers for T-Shirts


Size of order, durability, detailing, and labor costs are among the most important factors when choosing between iron on transfer and screen printing.

Screen Printing vs. Iron On Transfers for T-Shirts
Screen Printing vs. Iron On Transfers for T-Shirts

Choosing iron-on transfers or screen-printing is a key decision for decorative t-shirt professionals when they receive an order. Size of order, durability, details required, color hues, overlapping, and labor costs are all important factors when choosing between heat transfer and screen printing.

The choice between using transfer paper or screen-printing was at one time dictated by the complexity and the colors of the design. But now, printing on transfer paper for iron-on t-shirt decorations offers more precise detail and color saturation than ever before, matching the customization of screen printing.

T-Shirts are the number one printed clothing item in the market. Today, wholesale t-shirts are offered in a huge selection of colors, fabrics, and fabric blends. The resurgence in off the shelf clothing manufactures coupled with astoundingly low-price points offered by t-shirt wholesalers is benefitting the profit margins of custom clothing printing professionals. Both customers and screen printing professionals benefit from the increased selection of colors, fabrics, cuts, and designs of wholesale clothing.

The Durability of Iron On Transfers and Benefits

The durability of iron on transfers has proven itself over the last decade. T-shirts customized using heat transfers over 10 years ago show little signs of wear and fading. As transfer paper inks are improved year after year, there is no doubt that a properly applied heat transfer design will look as brilliant after years of wear as it does on the day of delivery.

The benefit for the customized t-shirt and printed clothing professional is that it is a simple, inexpensive process to apply a heat transfer design to any number of shirts. Setting up the screen print template for small orders make them cost prohibitive. Not only is the setup time of screen printing more costly, but the actual printing process of changing screens and applying individual colors also adds to the labor costs of customized clothing. There is also a high cost for starting a screen printing business, as there are many tools needed for the process. The iron-on transfer is a one-step easy, quick, and cost-effective method of customized smaller amounts of t-shirts. Iron on transfers can cost as little as .50, lowering all labor, setup, and application costs.

Clothing customizers can quickly, easily, and affordably apply acrylic numbers and name letters from stock heat transfer paper. At one time, the durability of acrylic heat transfer templates was shunned because of cracking and peeling. Today, the improved quality of templated heat transfer numbers and letters allow shirt customizing professionals to apply heat transfers with confidence in quality and durability.

Iron-on transfers allow clothing printers to accept small orders while maintaining a reasonable profit margin. Iron on transfers offer the same color hues, overlapping and brilliance of more time-consuming screen-printing.

The Durability of Screen Printing and Benefits

The brilliance of a properly screen-printed t-shirt is indisputable. Many people have a perceived notion that screen printing will fade over the useful life of the garment. This may have been true in the past, but not anymore. The quality and durability of the ink used in screen printing continue to improve. Today’s screen printing maintains its look longer wear after wear. This puts screen printing on equal footing with the lasting quality of iron on transfers.

Professional clothing decorators can now offer almost equal durability for their customers with either screen printing or iron on transfers. Now that decorative clothing professionals can purchase wholesale t-shirts and other printable apparel at low prices in smaller volumes, the choice of screen printing or iron-on transfers should be decided based on the type and size of a job.

Iron On Transfers or Screen-Printing Deciding Factors

For the decorative clothing professional, labor, setup, and time should be the deciding factors in whether to choose the heat transfer method or screen printing. Using transfer paper for small orders that require sequencing, such as sports teams with numbers and names, is more cost effective. The iron-on transfer is an ideal choice for these kinds of orders. A heat transfer can save time and labor. The iron-on transfer is a one-step process, whereas screen-printing is a multi-step process. The iron on transfer will save time in set up, inking and labor costs enabling the professional clothing decorator to offer an affordable finished product to their customer.

Clothing decorators should run the numbers and decide for themselves at what order quantity does screen printing make sense and cents over iron on transfers. Iron on transfers are most beneficial for smaller orders.

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