How to Choose Right Method for Garment Printing?

Being a designer you may have multiple options to decide which printing techniques are most suitable for a specific design on the garment. Experienced designers choose printing methods primarily on the basis final outcomes such as design sharpness, durability, brightness, texture, and hand feel. A similar outcome can be obtained in multiple ways. In the sampling stage, printing costs might not be considered and designers get sample printing with the most convenient option. But as a designer, you must consider which option will be most suitable for bulk production in terms of cost of printing and production time.

When a design comes for production, we need to consider many things to choose a particular printing method. Each printing method has advantages as well as disadvantages. So it is up to you which one to finalize as you are handling bulk printing. But the important thing is the final print outcome. When a contract is signed with the buyer for a particular look you can't alter it to save money. Still you can save if proper printing method is chosen. Final outcomes mean hand feel, texture, brightness etc.

The most used printing methods are screen printing, heat transfer printing, direct print, cut out print, block print, boutique print. Each printing method has multiple ways of application. Like - pigment print, discharge print, transfer print, khadi print etc. For example, if you are going to print light color on dark base then discharge print is always advisable. Discharge print also gives a soft hand feel. If you want a bright white print on a dark base (black) color then you have to choose khadi print instead of other options but hand feel is harsh in khadi print.


According to the technology level screen printing, it can be done in rotary printing, or flatbed printing (manual or semi-automatic machine). Printing costs per garment will vary a lot compared to each other. Other variables are production time and minimum production volume. Though your customer will specify the printing option before the final order, you can advise them of a better option if you have clear knowledge about different printing methods and the pros and cons of each one. In the following, I have explained the reasons why and when to go for any particular printing option.

Block Printing (Manual): 

For mass production, block printing must be avoided. In case you need a crafted look, demographic print and quantity is small then you can go for it. Only if specified by the customer, hand block printing is taken as an option. The cost is high compared to screen printing.

Rotary screen print: 

Rotary print is suitable for allover prints, multiple color design, high volume and quicker production. Lot variation is less in rotary screen print comparing to flat-bed. The cost of printing is calculated on the basis of fabric length print coverage. Here you can save money if you buy wider fabric. Printing can be done only fabric form. Printing on garment panels or on a complete garment is not possible. The limitation is in design repeat.

Flat-bed screen print: 

Allover printing can be done in flat-bed but only in the manual as well as an automated process where long table bed is used. The advantage is no limitation in design repeat. Chance of occurring lot variation, repeat overlapping when the smaller screen is used, shade variation in the same pieces is high. Production is slow. For a smaller quantity of fabric printing, it is okay. For garment panel printing flat-bed screen printing is widely used.

Heat transfer print: 

Generally for a small motif, brand logo, label print and Swarovski print heat transfer printing method is used. This is a very slow process. In this case, the printer need only heat transfer machine and paper printed with motif. Foil printing, also done in heat transfer method. For foil print, you have no other option than heat transfer. It is a very easy method. So, many garment manufacturer who need the print logo or small motifs or stones keeps heat transfer machine in-house. In this case, logos of patterns first printed on paper and then transferred the design to the garment using a heat transfer machine.

Direct Print: 

A direct garment print is similar to inkjet desktop printer. This is not a good option for bulk printing. It has benefits in terms of design flexibility, and quick print. It does not stiffen the fabric.

When it comes to consideration of hand feel, stiffness, print texture, and aesthetic look then you have to choose out of the following options.

Discharge print: 

For soft hand feel, lighter print color on dark base discharge print is a good option. Disadvantage- getting exact color is quite difficult especially when colored discharge printing. It is very difficult to develop a final color. The printer has to take extra care in this printing. Printing cost is similar to khadi and pigment print.

Pigment print: 

Widely used print for garment print and most economic. It is easy to develop color. Dye fixation is poor compared to other printing. If there is no specification then pigment print is advisable.

Khadi print: 

Khadi print used for hand block printing. When one needs to print light colours on dark base khadi print is a good option. In khadi print fabric printed patterns stiffen the fabric. For finer and sharp lines khadi print should be avoided. When printing is done on screen, the screen gets choked and need screen cleaning. It terms of application easy to print.

Foil print, flock print and Burnt out print: 

Foil print, flock print and burnt-out print give a special look to garments. So, when a buyer specifies for these types of printing then you have to go for it.

Related posts:

What’s The Best T-shirt Printing Technique for Me?

Sublimation Printing Process (Heat Transfer Printing)

Different types of textile printing processes.

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