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Should You Screen Print Your Custom T-Shirts?

Should You Screen Print Your Custom T-Shirts?
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Should You Screen Print Your Custom T-Shirts?

When it comes to custom t-shirts, there are a few decoration methods to choose from such as screen printing, DTG, heat transfer, and more. Technological advances have given consumers the ability to print single custom t-shirts and changed the way production facilities operate. While there will always be situations where screen printing custom t-shirts wasn’t the best choice, the majority of our orders remain screen printed, even today. Despite a few limitations, it remains the gold standard for brands worldwide for the reasons we’ve listed below. If you’ve ever purchased a t-shirt from a retailer, given one for free, or represented a company, chances are your shirt was screen printed. Here are a few reasons you might consider screen printing on your next order.

Screen printing is cost-effective.

When it comes to volume, nothing beats screen printing costs. As one of the most affordable methods of printing t-shirts, especially in large quantities, companies will choose this decoration format to reduce costs. Brands will screen print in order to maintain sales margins that keep them in business. In the custom apparel industry, the ability to set up high volume runs on automatic printing presses means the savings are passed onto the consumer. With screen printing minimums as low as 6 items, it’s relatively easy to benefit from this form of decoration without having to order hundreds of t-shirts.

The cost per custom t-shirt decreases as the order size increases, making screen printing a cost-effective option for larger orders. The value of bringing costs down applies to virtually every customer profile from brands looking to turn a profit by keeping cost-of-goods down to businesses looking to control costs on employee swag. Even family reunions, that are looking to make an impression on a budget, will choose screen printing for their order. While all orders require the same preparation, larger orders are often produced at high speeds, which helps lower labor costs and saves you money. Lower volume screen print orders may often be printed on a manual screen printing press, demanding increased labor expenses, leading to an increased unit cost. If you are considering screen printing your custom apparel, ask about quantity price breaks. For many years, it was a common practice to incentivize customers to order more by creating price breaks at 12, 36, 72, and higher numbers of impressions. Although you may not find this advertised as much, you might find that a price break gives you a deeper discount or an increased number of t-shirts for the same price. If you want to try this for yourself, check out our custom t-shirt pricing page.

Custom T-Shirt Quick Tip: Buy more, save more. Higher volumes mean lower individual costs.

Screen printing is versatile.

Screen printing can be used on a variety of t-shirt fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics. The demand for the comfort of cotton, with the fit of rayon, is responsible for new fabric types that are worn today. Rayon became popular in the 1920’s, with polyester introduced to clothing in the 1950’s. Only in the last 20 years, have tri-blends become popular, blending cotton, polyester, and rayon. With tri-blend popularity came widespread manufacturing. Tri-blends have become available to anyone thanks to apparel manufacturers like Hanes, Bella + Canvas, Next Level, and others investing in the materials and research to guarantee quality and durability. You can shop for various cotton and blended t-shirts on our products page which features apparel you can customize.

Custom T-Shirt Quick Tip: Pantone color matching is free with your order.

Screen printed t-shirts are high-quality.

Screen printing produces sharp and clear images on custom t-shirts that remain vibrant and long-lasting. Many clients require a color match to represent a brand’s logo, which requires precise attention to color outcomes. Ink color matching is achievable with screen printing, yet remains a challenge with current digital printing technology. With Pantone Color Matching, we can control the outcomes of your screen print, in great detail. Due to the nature of a screen-based design, where your image appears on your t-shirt is determined by where the screen allowed the ink to pass through to the shirt. To make your colors appear how you expect, we often lay down an ink under-base to create predictable color outcomes. This under-base is much like starting with a white canvas, despite the color of your garment. Because the under-base screen needs to line up perfectly with your design (and potentially many additional screens) the lines must be precise and crisp. Once the ink has been applied, our flash dryers and belt driers are tuned to the ideal temperature of your t-shirt material to ensure the ink cures and permanently bonds to the fabric. This leaves a perfect print that will stand the test of time. If the art process seems daunting to you, consider our T-Shirt Concierge™ service, which offers expert art creation at no cost to you. This free service is exclusive to DesignAShirt.

Custom T-Shirt Quick Tip: Screen printed t-shirts produce clean and crisp prints.

Screen-printed t-shirts can be highly detailed.

The world took notice when digitally printed t-shirts allowed for full color t-shirt prints, but screen print had been achieving the same effects for years prior with halftones. Halftones are a screen printing technique used to reproduce images with wide ranges of shades and tones, rather than just solid colors. With traditional t-shirt screen printing, an image is printed using one or more solid ink colors. Halftone screen printing uses a pattern of tiny dots of varying sizes to represent different levels of tonality in the image, allowing for the creation of full-color images or the simulation of continuous-tone images, such as photographs. The halftone dots are created by using a special screen that has been burned with a pattern of dots of varying sizes. When the ink is pressed through the screen onto the garment, the dots blend together to create the illusion of a full-color image. Many customers feel that digital prints are the only option for photolike prints on t-shirts. Halftones are your best solution when printing photo-style graphics in bulk quantities.

Screen printing offers a fast turnaround.

Need custom t-shirts, fast? You will often find that screen printers force you to wait up to 2 weeks to receive custom t-shirts. When DesignAShirt started in 2003, we focused on trimming this down to a 10-day delivery window. Over 20 years later, we often deliver even sooner and beat our own delivery estimates. It’s not uncommon to have orders from the beginning of the week enter production by the end of the week. You can receive your custom t-shirt order even sooner by selecting our expedited shipping options at checkout.

Custom T-Shirt Delivery Speeds

Screen printing is easy to accomplish and reliable.

There are many different ways to invest in becoming a screen printer, but to produce thousands of t-shirts every day, you have to have a robust production facility. A quality automatic printing press from a reputable manufacturer can cost close to $100,000 and it’s not uncommon to have 3-6 per location. This investment means that we can offer perfect prints all year round, at volume, and with ease. Because screen printing has become the gold standard for custom t-shirts, the process has become standardized and nearly foolproof. Our expertise comes down to knowing the equipment, dry times, ink behavior, screen specs, and years worth of research and development. Sound complicated? Many of our production team members have been with DesignShirt for over 20 years.

Custom T-Shirt Quick Tip: When it comes to speed, the automatic t-shirt print press cannot be beaten.

Screen printing is eco-friendly.

Production facilities are often pressured to operate as “green” as possible. With pollution concerns in nearly every industry, screen printing is no exception, but how does our industry focus on protecting the planet? Most screen printing factors revolve around water and energy. Before we get into water or energy, let’s take a step back and talk about inks. There are two popular ink formats; plastisol and water-based.

Plastisol-based inks have been used for screen printing since the 1960s. Plastisol inks were introduced to the world as a type of printing ink that featured improved durability and vibrancy compared to traditional water and oil-based inks. They quickly became the standard for screen printing.

Water-based inks have been around for a longer period, dating back to the early 20th century. However, they have only recently become more widely used in the screen printing industry, due to advances in technology and growing awareness of environmental concerns. In recent years, water-based inks have become increasingly popular due to their eco-friendly properties and print look and feel. Despite this seemingly apparent edge over Plastisol, both ink styles come down to one thing; water.

Water-based inks require a specific humidity level to be present in order to create predictable prints and keep inks from going bad. What is saved by being bio-degradable is lost by requiring more water to maintain. You might be wondering what DesignAShirt uses, given this complex issue. We use Plastisol inks on custom t-shirts for their vibrancy and durability, with water-based on special request, with a focus on water preservation at the same time! Our automatic screen washer and reclaimer focus on preserving as much water as possible while achieving the best possible job. Some might say preserving water this way is “better living through technology”. We just consider it doing our part to be eco-friendly along with over 80 solar panels to power our print facility.

Custom T-Shirts Frequently Asked Questions

Can I print a single custom t-shirt?

While screen printing can be accomplished at low volumes, the cost is typically too high to be considered. An exception to this might be an apparel brand that wants to see a sample before going to print or a corporation looking to produce thousands of employee t-shirts. If you are looking to print one custom t-shirt, consider a digitally printed t-shirt on one of our no-minimum custom t-shirt styles.

Is screen printing the best for t-shirts?

There are many decoration methods for t-shirts and the best method might be dependent on your budget, goals, and product. Shirt decoration methods, such as DTG (direct-to-garment), perform best on 100% cotton but have no volume limitations. When it comes to digitally printed shirts, many printers struggle to find success on tri-blends due to poor color absorption. The ability to absorb colors is dependent upon pretreatment applied before print, which is a challenge on less absorbent materials. Many limitations of digital printing do not apply to screen printing. While you may consider what is best for your needs, we consider screen printing to be the gold standard of the industry, even as new technology emerges.

Does screen printing last on shirts?

The reality is that it’s better to measure by the t-shirt itself than the print. According to the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (and the Better Business Bureau), you should expect to get about 2 years out of a t-shirt, with regular wear. This translates to approximately 35-50 washings. Factors that influence t-shirt lifespan include material, usage, and wear. To extend the life of your t-shirt, consider printing on a reputable brand. DesignAShirt only uses trusted blank apparel manufacturers, ensuring your custom t-shirt will last.

Can you do custom colors on t-shirts?

If you are looking to match a specific color for your custom t-shirt, consider screenprinting, as we can match custom ink colors with our Pantone Matching System. Printing color outcomes are highly predictable with screen printing. Our ability to test prints, before applying your design to a product, means we can guarantee an accurate representation of your colors. Screen printing inks also come in various specialty formats like glow-in-the-dark, Crystallina, and various gold, silver, shimmer, and glitter styles. These special effects may not be possible with other printing formats and may be cost-prohibitive at low volumes. You can obtain a quote for specialty inks through our Customer Service by contacting our support team.

Can I screen print t-shirts on my own?

Many screen printers started out with a manual printing press in their garage! While these more humble beginnings may spark a sense of nostalgia in us, there are some natural limitations that lead all printers toward investing in better equipment. From screens, to inks, to emulsion, to flash driers, and to outputting production-ready artwork, there are some definite hurdles to becoming your own custom t-shirt printer. While we would never discourage friendly competition, the question often becomes; what is your time worth? When fully prepped, an automatic screen printing press can produce upwards of 700 t-shirts per hour. You read that right. Did we mention we also ship for free?

How long does it take to receive custom t-shirts?

There are a few factors that influence the speed at which we ship custom t-shirts. While we offer standard free shipping with 10-day delivery on all orders, let’s dig deeper into 3 factors that may affect order speed.

1. Order queue – New orders are placed into our production schedule. The schedule is influenced by the anticipated shipping date for all customer orders. Some customers take advantage of free shipping and are willing to wait for their order, while some may need it sooner. Flexibility within this schedule is what allows us to beat our anticipated delivery dates. During busy times of the year, production schedules aren’t as flexible, which is why we recommended ordering early.
2. Product availability – Did you know most screen printers do not inventory blank products? Our relationship with vendors all over the country is what allows us to order your items when your order is placed. This just-in-time process allows us to keep pricing low and pass those savings on to you. If a customer orders a large enough volume of custom t-shirts, we may be required to order them from various locations. Manufacturer quality control guarantees that fit and color will remain the same regardless of where we order from.
3. Shipping options – DesignAShirt offers free shipping on all orders. We also offer two faster options that you can choose at checkout. In the example below, free shipping was available 8 days from the date the order would have been placed, with options to receive the order in 7 and 5 days. These windows are influenced by the day of the week as they also account for weekends and holidays. Check the timer on the homepage of to get details on order windows.

Have additional questions? Contact us anytime at or by phone at 888-487-4478.

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