CUSTOMISATION METHODS - HOW TO CHOOSE
There are four main types of decoration methods, each has its unique benefits. Choosing between them can seem like a daunting task, but we’re always on-hand to give tailored advice and we’ll let you know which technique will work for you when we come to set up your designs. Here’s a summary of the differences between the techniques, to get you started:
DTG (Direct-To-Garment) Printing
You can think of the DTG as essentially a huge inkjet printer, spraying ink onto fabric and textiles rather than paper. The fabric is pre-treated with a solution to ensure the ink binds to the garment threads and the designs stay looking pristine wash, after wash, after wash. If you’re printing on to dark fabric, a white underlayer is printed first and then the colours are layered on top.
It’s great for printing intricate, multi-coloured designs and can produce photo-quality results as it has virtually no colour limitations. There’s no setup required, so it’s ready to go as soon as we receive the artwork file. It’s great for experimenting with new ranges and designs, and ideal for large print runs.
DTG printing hoodies for Beaulieu Motor Museum
Screen printing is ideal for one or two solid colours and bold designs. Once we receive your artwork, we create separate art files for each element of your design. We then prepare the mesh screens for printing these screens start completely covered and our Spyder machines remove the areas where your design will be printed, leaving a stencil outline. The screens are then loaded onto a carousel, and the garments positioned onto the pallets underneath. The garments are pre-treated, and then the ink is placed on the top of the screen and pushed through the mesh that has been left uncovered, onto the garment underneath. Each layer goes under the dryer before the next is added, building up the final picture bit by bit.
We are seeing more and more people choose complex, multi-coloured designs for their garments which is where screen printing is not suitable, as you are restricted with colour limitations and they are more costly and time-consuming to produce. As screens need to be created for each layer of your design, there is a fair amount of prep work that needs to take place before we can take your designs to print. However nothing beats screen printing if you have clear, precise designs in one or two colours, and they give amazing results for things like typography, shapes and symbols.
Screen Printing for The Royal Ballet
Heat transfers are probably the method you’re most familiar with; it’s not exactly like ironing on a patch but the concept is the same! We print your design on to heat transfer paper and position it on top of your garment, with a piece of resistant sheeting on top to protect the design. If you’re customising a t-shirt or hoodie then we use a flat-bed heat-press, and if you’re decorating a cap then we have cylindrical presses.
The ink is thermally transferred from the paper to your fabric using heat and pressure. It’s versatile and great for photo-like images but isn’t ideal for large print runs. The DTG can also be used to print similar images, but the DTG isn’t compatible with nylon and polyester materials so this is where the heat transfer press comes in.
Sometimes nothing beats a classic embroidery. Your artwork is digitised and the file is loaded onto our embroidery computers, which tells the machines what to stitch and where. Our embroiderers then put the section of the garment that is due to be embroidered in an embroidery hoop, which keeps the fabric taut. The hoops are then loaded into the machines, which are capable of customising 6 garments simultaneously.
Each machine has 15 sewing heads, meaning we can stitch 15 different colours without having to stop and change the threads. This makes embroidery an extremely fast and effective method of customisation.
Embroidery is generally seen as the most durable customisation method and is often used on workwear and garments that see a lot of wear-and-tear. However, embroidery is priced by stitch count and is generally more expensive than other methods, so it’s generally saved for the high-quality materials - there’s no point embroidering a great design on a cheap shirt that won’t last very long.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that t-shirts and thinner fabrics can't cope with a high stitch count and they can pull, so it’s best reserved for items like caps, polo shirts, beanies and jackets. We often combine embroidery and printing - embroidery is great for small designs so we’ll often stitch a design on the front of a garment and then a large version will be printed on the back.
Embroidering fleeces for Plymouth Mayflower Museum
We hope that helps to clear up some of the differences between the main garment decoration methods. If you have any questions or would like advice, please get in touch!