The highway that is custom apparel has never been bigger...from traditional screen printing to heat transfer vinyl to digital transfer printing to name a few. And trying to decided which lane to stay in or choosing which on ramp to use has as many choices as Los Angeles's dreaded Pregerson Interchange.
Some of the things to think about are your footprint, profit margins, entry costs, and scalability to name a few. As the options continue to grow, we wanted to share with you a few of the pros and cons of a few select lanes on this business highway.
What you need to know about screen printing
If you’re already in the screen-printing game, you know the ups and downs that come with it. And if you’re an entry-level screen printer, prepare for a lengthy period of trial and error as you learn the process. The technique involves ink-blocking stencil onto a screen (hence the name) and transferring it to your product. It works best with one-color designs. Multi-color shirts can be pricey and difficult to replicate consistently. You’ll need space for storing supplies and for production, and ventilation is key when you’re working with those messy inks and chemicals.
What you need to know about HTV
Many at-home businesses get started with heat transfer vinyl (think Cricut). This process, which involves cutting adhesive vinyl material, works best with simple, one-color designs. It can be a lengthy and tedious process, and works best for short-run, custom orders. The quality and longevity of the final product can be questionable – ever had a vinyl t-shirt that started peeling after a few washes? Depending on the product and design, material costs can also price you out of a competitive market – it’s not a scalable model. If you anticipate taking larger orders, vinyl may hold your business back.
What you need to know about digital transfer printing
If you’re hoping for faster production and superior design: Enter the new technology of digital transfer printing. Designs are printed on specialty heat transfer paper, then transferred onto a wide variety of materials using a heat press.
This entire process, printing to heat press, takes just a few minutes with the right equipment. Even complicated designs with multi-color detailing won’t hamper your output. You’re not limited to garments with this technology either – from hats to mugs to footballs, heat transfer printing can knock it out. Which means greater revenue opportunities for your business.
And if space is an issue, you’re in luck. Digital transfer printers and heat presses have a small footprint, and you won’t need a ton of storage space for supplies either.
After nearly three decades in the apparel industry, we’re confident that a digital transfer printer combined with a state-of-the-art heat press is a great revenue generator – whether you’re an existing apparel company looking to expand or a new business venture just starting out. You can explore our favorite printers and our favorite presses with the relative links.