Heat Transfer vs Silk Screen Printing- Everything You Need to Know

Heat Transfer vs Silk Screen Printing- Everything You Need to Know

When looking to customize t-shirts and other garments, there are 2 main ways in which you can get the job done. You can either use heat transfer or screen printing. Although the two methods are similar in that they involve the transfer of images to fabrics, there are differences. Also, there are situations where one method might be much more suitable than the other.

Apart from the benefits and drawbacks associated with each of the two printing methods, the designs come out differently, and customers have different tastes. Today, we shall dive into the two methods and I bet at the end of it, you will be able to figure out which one works for you.

Heat Transfer

Heat transfer is a relatively new method that has gained popularity over the last 2 decades. This method involves transferring images onto fabrics by pressing good vinyl onto the fabrics using a heat press.

With heat transfer, the design in printed onto good-quality paper using inks that stick onto the material. The design is then positioned at the desired location and heat-pressed to transfer the image onto the garment.

Heat transfer is ideal for small printing jobs involving numerous colors. The method needs a special printer and high-quality paper. Here are the associated advantages and disadvantage:


  • Easy to print designs involving many colors and complicated designs.
  • Perfect for small orders.
  • Lets you customize different garments easily.


  • The design fades and cracks easily when used for dark fabrics.
  • The design won’t last as long as a screen-printed one.

Screen Printing

This method is quite old. It started thousands of years ago in china, and has undergone tremendous improvements to be the modern method we know today. Screen printing, also known as silkscreening, involves transferring images to fabrics using real screens.

To attain your desired design, what you have to do is use an emulsion layer to cover the entire screen. Then, utilize light to ‘burn’ your design out of the emulsion layer to allow the paint to pass through the screen in the desired shape. You can use a squeegee to layer the paint evenly across the screen.

With this method, every color you use in your design needs a different screen, and thus it can be time consuming to set up. However, once you’re done setting it up, the rest of the process is much quicker as screen printing works like a stencil.

As long as the color and design is the same, you don’t need to cut different design templates. Then again, the design will last much longer than the heat-pressed one, and the colors will be more vibrant. Here are the advantages and disadvantages:


  • The process is very cost effective especially for large orders.
  • The resulting image is of much higher quality than the heat-transferred one.
  • The design is durable.
  • The colors are more vibrant even when printed on a dark garment.


  • Different colors require different screens.
  • Setting up the process can be time consuming and quite messy.
  • You might have to print many apparels at once using the same design for this can be a viable solution. This is why there’s usually a minimum order quantity for screen printing.

As you may have discovered, both heat pressing and silkscreening offer a good solution to getting designs onto garments. However, they are suitable for different scenarios. For instance, if you’re looking to print custom designs with different names, like for a sports team’s uniforms, heat pressing may be the cost-effective option.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking to print durable designs for a bigger order, screen printing might be the better alternative.

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