Screen Printing vs. Heat Press 

Screen Printing vs. Heat Press 


Screen Printing vs. Heat Press. The difference between a heat-pressed garment and a screen printed one is that a heat press garment has a synthetic heat press sheet that sits on top of the t-shirt versus the act of passing ink onto fabric via Screen Printing.

Screen Printing:


Screen Printing vs. Heat Press 

Your Artwork is transferred onto a screen that has an exposed space and non-exposed space. The “non-exposed” space doesn’t allow the passing of ink onto the garment. Whereas the exposed space (your design) allows the ink to pass through creating a print that is transferred to the top layers of your garment fabric. 

This is the most durable and long-lasting option for image transferring and has a pleasant vintage wear with some sought-after crackling to the surface of the print after a few years time. You’ve seen t-shirts try to emulate this vintage look with fake distressing. The beauty of screen printing is that it remains vibrant but ages gracefully with time. 


Heat Press: 


Screen Printing vs. Heat Press 


A heat press is actually a transfer paper with your printed artwork transferred via a LaserJet or Inkjet printer that when combined with high heat and pressure, sits on top of the T-shirt. The ink is not embedded into the fabric of the T-shirt so their ARE limitations when using a heat press. A heat press isn’t something you  typically use for the sake of the longevity and integrity of a t-shirt design.  One might choose to just do a one-off T-shirt but it’s not really something in terms of resale value that is highly sought-after and will lose it’s vibrancy with each passing wash.


Shirt colors may also require different heat press transfer sheets, for instance a black t-shirt might require a heat-press transfer sheet that is specifically designed for black t-shirts to avoid a loss of vibrancy that a sheet designed for a white t-shirt might cause. Washing cycles may also vary when laundering your heat-pressed t-shirt and typically you’ll want to wash the shirt inside out to avoid any color bleeding on other clothing.


Another set-back of a heat pressed t-shirt is the background backing on the shirt. With a screen printed t-shirt, you only transfer the artwork but with a heat-pressed t-shirt, you get the actual sheet in its entirety unless you cut out all the unwanted heat-transfer paper out of your artwork before heat pressing. If your goal is to mass produce t-shirts, this isn’t an ideal option for the sake of both quality and consistency.


Alternative to Heat Press, DTG:


Screen Printing vs. Heat Press 


An alternative to the one-off heat press t-shirt is DTG or Direct to Garment. The t-shirt is placed in an over-sized printer and may not require a large bulk order since the process is fairly straightforward. DTG is a great alternative to heat pressing because of the improved quality and consistency and it also eliminates the need for multiple screens and bulk orders BUT, the price per t-shirt will be most expensive using this method. 


In review: Screen Printing vs. Heat Press 


Screen Printing is the industry gold standard for print quality and longevity and is the most economical option for bulk orders. Which means a larger margin for resellers. 


Heat Pressing: Heat pressing is fun for one-off printing for a gift but does not stand up in terms of quality


Direct to Garment: Is a great alternative to heat pressing for  smaller orders and is also a good alternative to Screen Printing if you have a very complicated amount of colors in your artwork. 

The longevity of the artwork just does not stand up to Screen Printing but is still nonetheless a great option if you have a more complicated t-shirt design or need smaller orders.


Seattle Screen Printing specializes in Screen Printing, embroidery and DTG on a case by case basis. Let us know if you have any questions, our T-shirt Guru’s are the oracles of Custom Printed apparel!