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Screen Printing vs. Heat Press: Which is Right for You?

Screen Printing vs. Heat Press: Which is Right for You?


Screen Printing vs. Heat Press: Which Method is Right for Your Business?

There are many ways to produce custom apparel, and there are a lot of techniques to produce the look and feel of the custom shirt that you would want to have as a brand. However, two popular methods stand out: Screen Printing and Heat Press. Each method has its own functionalities and drawbacks, which is helpful to know before getting the type of print you want for your design. That said, for this blog, we will explore the two and compare them side by side, eventually ending up at a point where you can determine the type of method best suited for your needs.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing, or silk printing, involves transferring ink onto the garment through a mesh screen. To transfer the design, a stencil is created on the screen. Once the ink is pushed through it, it goes through the open areas and passes through using a squeegee onto the garment.

Screen Printing Shirt

The reason brands and businesses use it is because, among the two, it can offer vibrant colors that can withstand multiple washes. If you want custom tees or apparel that is durable and has high-quality prints, use this method instead of heat transfer. In addition, it is more efficient for bulk orders because as the screens are set up, it becomes a smooth process. That said, everything runs smoothly and consistently because it is fast and there is already a setup. Because of its nature of being suitable for bulk orders, as a business that needs custom apparel, you can choose this option to cut down costs, as the more orders there are, the lower the costs per unit.

Despite the positives of screen printing, it is essential to note its drawbacks, including its setup time and limited color options and detail. Screen printing requires screens for each color in the designs. The more color there is, the more expensive i becomes. In addition, it also takes time to set up the screens per color, which is why the turnaround time for these custom tees and other apparel is around two to three weeks. Note that screen printing is not only limited to t-shirts; it can also be applied to hoodies, jerseys, tote bags, and posters.

What is a Heat Press Printing?

Heat press or heat transfer printing is a process that involves applying heat and pressure to transfer a design from a special transfer paper or vinyl onto the fabric. Before any of the processes occur, the design is first printed onto the transfer material. Then, it is heat-pressed using a heat press machine. This method allows full-color prints and intricate designs to be transferred onto the fabric, which cannot be done by the screen printing method.

Heat Press Printing Services

In terms of costs, it is more effective for small orders, and unlike screenprinting, there are no setup costs once you opt for this option. It also has a quick turnaround compared to screen printing due to the number of orders used. The only drawback of this printing style is simple – heat-pressed prints are not as durable as screen printing. They will fade and peel over time over multiple washes and wear. In addition, not all screen printing services offer heat-pressed printing, which could be a challenge if this is the method you want to go through.

Comparison of the Two Methods

Quality and Durability

  • Screen printing offers higher-quality prints with vibrant colors. After it's done, the prints last longer compared to heat-pressed prints. 

  • Heat-pressed prints may not be as durable as screen prints because the design would peel or fade over time, but it's still good regardless of short-term.


  • For costs heat-pressed prints are less expensive than screen printing since they don't require multiple screens. The downside, however, is that it is more efficient for small runs. 

  • Screen prints don't win the costs battle with heat-pressed printing but trample heat-pressed prints when it comes to efficiency with bulk orders.

Turnaround times


  • Heat pressing is faster compared to screen printing. This makes heat-pressed printing ideal for rush orders and tight deadlines. 

  • Screen printing may be slower than heat-pressed printing; however, it is efficient when printing larger orders. 

Design versatility


  • Screen prints are limited when it comes to their ability to print designs. It can't print those that have intricate designs and detail. 

  • Heat-pressed prints, however, can print designs that have greater detail. Therefore, it has an edge compared to screenprinting in that regard.

Factors when choosing the Right Method

Five factors can help you choose the proper method, whether screen printing or heat press printing – type of design, quantity of prints, budget, type of garment, and time constraint.

Type of Design

For the type of design, if you have a design with bold graphics and fonts, solid colors coupled with minimal gradients or fine details. You can opt-in for the screen printing methods. Through this, you'll be able to highlight your designs and make them as sharp and high-contrasting as possible.

Type of Design for Shirts

If you have, however, a design that is similar to a photograph with mixed blends of colors and gradients, opt for the heat press method. With this method, you will not sacrifice the cost to achieve the outcome, unlike if you chose screen printing.

Quantity of Prints

This will be a little bit easier for you. If you order in bulk or large runs, go for screen prints, as the costs would decrease. In contrast, you can use the heat press method if you're running with a small order and need it as fast as possible. It's more cost-effective that way.

Bulk Screen Printing


Depending on your budget, screen printing can be a little costly due to setup costs. In addition, if you increase the color of your print, the price would also increase due to the screen being used. Although all in all, if you have the budget, it is a no-brainer as it can produce high-quality prints in the apparel you want. On the other hand, a heat press print is less expensive than screen printing; however, the cost per unit you've ordered is higher than that of screen printing.

Type of Garment

You should note that there are specific printing methods that are better suited for specific garments or custom apparel. Screen printing is the way to go if the material is cotton, polyester, blends, or heavier. Typically, it is used for custom merch and apparel as it is suitable for a wide range of apparel. 

Suppose you use delicate fabrics like polyester, spandex, or performance fabrics. In that case, you can use the heat press method. This is more optimal than screen printing as it preserves the integrity of the fabric and minimizes the risk of tear, given that these fabrics can easily rip.

Types of Garments for Printing


Time Constraints 

Screen printing is more time-consuming than using a heat press. The setup and preparation take time, making it less suitable for projects you need. The only difference is that it's more efficient for larger quantities once everything is set up and moving smoothly. 

The advantage of heat press printing here is its faster turnaround time, ideal for rush and quick orders. You should also note that, though its scope is expansive, only a few t-shirt printing businesses offer heat press printing, especially locally. You should also take that into consideration.

Wrapping Up

Screen printing and heat press printing are very different methods of producing custom apparel. Both of them have their own advantages and drawbacks. However, you must know these methods to choose the right one for your business or brand. Suppose you want to achieve a successful result. In that case, you have to learn the balance between quality, cost-effectiveness, and the turnaround times of each method. If you're looking for a t-shirt printing service provider to deliver these services in Philadelphia, check into Tee Vision Printing. Tee Vision Printing offers one of the best methods for producing apparel. Check them out!

Tee Vision Printing
920 E Hunting Park Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19124
(267) 538-5331

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