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Get the Scoop on Screen Print vs Heat Transfer: We're breaking down the pros and cons of screen printing and heat press methods. Find out which method ticks...

Pros and Cons of Screen Printing vs. Heat Transfer

The print world is always on the move, always evolving and adding more ways to bring art to life through printing. Here at Superior Ink, we're all about embracing change. Change to us means the vast majority of consumers are getting woke to the ideas of sustainability, and less concerned with the fast fashion mantra of buy more, throw away more, buy more again.

That may seem to you a little counterintuitive, we are after all a shop focused on the production of custom merchandise, with our fingers in all the pies as soon as you type in "Denver Screen Printing". You are absolutely right, we produce merch, and a crap ton of it if we're honest. We embroider it, we make it, we print it, we wear it. What we've always focused on is what sets us apart during that production journey. Giving planet Earth a helping hand, to heal the garment industry a little bit more with each piece we produce.

That's why we wanted to introduce to you some options to bring your designs to life, all while maintaining a firm commitment to your values as a consumer and a producer of merch. We love working with brands just like yours because it means that you care enough to do your research and know that you are serving your people and the planet with every dollar you spend...and make with merch. We could just try to sell you on the idea to buy more merch, make more merch, and do it any way you can, but that wouldn't be very sustainable of us, would it?

So, what are the best options for you as you produce your next batch of sustainable custom merchandise?

It's the question that brought you here, right? Yep, we thought so... let's talk pros and cons!

Pros and Cons of Screen Printing vs. Heat Transfer

Screen Printing: The Classic Choice

Let's first get clear on a few things, just because a printing method is less upfront...it doesn't mean its cost per use is less for planet Earth. Plastisol on Polyester may be cheaper and easier to print, but that's not the screen printing we are comparing with this blog. Here we are looking at sustainable screen printing vs sustainable heat transfer.


Pros:


1. Ideal for Large Orders: If you're looking to produce a large batch of merchandise, screen printing is your go-to. Our shop minimum order for screen printing is 50 pieces per design, making it cost-effective for bulk production. The choice between screen printing and heat transfers largely hinges on the quantity of production for our shop. While we believe firmly in the integrity of screen printing it's really ideal for larger orders and becomes less feasible for smaller batches due to its intensive setup process.


2. Durability and Quality: Screen prints are known for their durability and vibrant colors, ensuring your designs stand out and last long. Also, water-based ink has a zero feel, so the ink literally feels exactly like the garment it was printed on. A huge plus for any type of printing, and a much higher quality result.

Cons:


1. Higher Setup Cost and Time: The setup for screen printing is more involved, which means higher costs and longer turnaround times, especially for smaller orders.


2. Less Sustainable for Small Orders: If you're only looking to produce a small batch, screen printing might push you towards higher quantities, conflicting with sustainability goals.

Screen Printing: The Classic Choice

Heat Transfer: The Flexible Alternative


Pros:


1. Lower Minimums, Greater Flexibility: We often do large quantities at the shop, and love our screen printing process, but just because those minimums aren't met, doesn't mean a customer doesn't deserve a rockin' design. That's where heat transfer shines. For lower quantities (minimum of only 20 pieces), heat transfers offer a more flexible and cost-effective solution. The setup involves less cost and offers a quicker turnaround, making it an attractive option for small-scale or sample productions.


2. Quicker Turnaround and Lower Setup Cost: The process is streamlined, meaning quicker turnaround times and lower setup costs compared to screen printing. After a design is submitted, it is often shipped within a few days, and ready for the heat and pressure that adheres it to the garment.


3. Sustainability Advantage: Heat transfers align well with sustainable practices by reducing the pressure to overproduce. Also, our heat press designs are water-based and use recycled transfer paper, but more on that later.

4. Cost-effective Alternative to Embroidery: When the result you are looking for is an ultrasmooth finish on something like a hat or a logo, heat transfer can cost significantly less than embroidery while still producing a detailed design.

Cons:

1. Limited Durability Compared to Screen Printing: While still high quality, heat transfers might not have the same longevity as screen prints, especially under frequent washing.

2. Cost and Time: For large orders, heat transfer printing can be more expensive and time-consuming compared to other methods like screen printing.

3. Texture and Hand Feel: Heat transfer prints often create a noticeable texture on the fabric, which can be less comfortable to wear. That's not true of all heat transfers, but it's not the zero feel of water-based screen-printed garments. (This is especially true of heat transfer vinyl which has a heavy waxy feel, this is not a heat transfer type we recommend, it isn't at all in alignment with sustainability. If you feel like hot and gluey with a short shelf life doesn't sound good to you either, we have the perfect heat transfer alternative next!).

Heat Transfer: The Flexible Alternative

Partnering for Sustainability and Quality


Here at Superior Ink, we use only the highest quality heat transfers, working directly with Supacolor. They handle the creation of transfers, which we then apply to your garments with a heat press in-house, ensuring every piece meets our high standards. Their DTF heat transfers mimic the effect of high-quality traditional water-based silk screen techniques used in screen printing to produce vibrant colors and intricate designs, with the low barrier to entry of digital direct-to-film (DTF) printing. This also allows for the application of complex designs on a variety of surfaces, with a really crisp outcome.

One of the really cool things about Supacolor and heat transfers in general is that it doesn't limit you in terms of design. Our design team is still able to bring custom one-of-a-kind designs to life. Once those designs are ready, they are sent to Supacolor for a quick turnaround then we get to apply those designs directly onto the garment with a heat press machine here in the shop. We of course recommend a high-quality substrate for any project. Wondering about our favorites? Take a deep dive with us into our all-time favorite blanks!

Partnering for Sustainability and Quality

Making the Right Choice

Picking between screen printing and heat transfer for your merch? Think about stuff like how big your order is, how fast you need it, the cost, and how it vibes with your eco-friendly goals. At Superior Ink, we've got your back in choosing what's best for your brand, your fans, and the planet.

We love everything about merch production (obvs!), from design, choosing the right blank, and the epic moment when the ink is placed on the garment.

So, did you decide? Do you want to go with the timeless cool of screen printing or the slick versatility of heat transfers? However you choose to do that we're here to help you navigate every step. We are here as your guides in the industry, never hesitate to reach out...because we can only really make a sustainable impact if we do it together.

Ready to start? Click HERE!

 

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