Screen Printing Vs Heat Transfer – Which Is Better And Why

Whether you want to order custom promo products for your customers or you?re planning to start a t-shirt printing business, there are a lot of options to choose from. How do you find which method works the best for you?

Here we explore the differences between the two most popular printing methods you should be aware of? screen printing and heat pressing. This article will break down both methods so that you can make an informed decision about which one to choose.

What is Screen Printing

Screen printing is one of the most popular methods for creating custom t-shirts, polos, hoodies, and other apparel. This technique, sometimes called silkscreen printing, ensures high-quality design reproduction and is cost-efficient for printing in large quantities.

bulk hoodies for printing

How does screen printing work?

The process starts by preprocessing the screen to create what is essentially a stencil for the design. The bulk hoodies for printing are placed underneath the screen and ink is applied over it with a squeegee.? The ink permeates through the stencil and is applied to the fabric source. This is followed by heat treating the apparel to make the print more long-lasting.


  • Screen printing is one of the most versatile printing options. You can use it on different types of fabrics, plastic wood, etc. as long as the surface is flat.
  • Screen printing is very cost-efficient if you have a lot of t-shirts to print.
  • This method creates brilliant designs that have a smooth feel on the hand.
  • The artwork created by screen printing is generally durable and can withstand many wash cycles.


  • Screen printing is a complicated process that involves lots of steps and procedures. It can be challenging for beginners and takes a fair amount of experience to produce good results.
  • You are limited to one color per screen, so for printing multi-colored designs, you will need more than one screen.
  • Screen printing is not good at replicating complex or photorealistic designs.

What is Heat transfer?

Heat transfer is a two-step process for printing on fabrics. Heat press printing has gained much traction over the years as it allows full-color images to be printed on fabrics.

How does heat transfer printing work?

Heat transfer involves a two-step process for transferring a design onto the t-shirt. In the first step, the design is imprinted onto transfer paper using special ink. The design is then placed on adhesive paper. Subsequently, the adhesive layer is peeled away from the transfer sheet. Now, it is ready to be heat-pressed to the apparel.

Step two of the procedure involves pressing the pre-printed design onto the shirt using a heat press. The heat and pressure trigger the ink to adhere to the surface of the garment. You can now remove the transfer paper and strip off the remaining ink attached to the fabric.


  • The process for heat pressing is fairly straightforward. It has a low entry barrier and requires no special skills or knowledge.
  • Unlike screen printing, heat transfer requires very little preparation before you start printing. This makes it very efficient for printing a small number of last-minute t-shirt orders.
  • Heat pressing is a fairly economical method for customizing apparel. The capital and setup space required for heat transfer printing is very low.
  • As this method does not require solvents and dyes, there is very little change of ink spills and other messes.


  • Heat pressing designs onto dark fabric does not produce the desired result.
  • This method is not suitable for printing on heat-sensitive fabrics like polyesters.
  • The print is not durable compared to screen printing. Over time, the design will start to fade or peel off from the fabric.
  • Heat pressing is very slow and not suitable for bulk printing of custom apparel.

Screen printing or Heat transfer – which one should you choose?

As you can see from the comparison, both methods come with their strengths and weaknesses. Choosing between the two comes down to your investment, customer preferences, and the types of designs you want to print.

Screen printing is the best method if you have some experience with t-shirt printing and are looking to expand. If you are planning to start big and print bulk hoodies, t-shirts, or polos in larger quantities, screen printing might be the way to go.

Heat transfer is a great first step into the t-shirt printing business. You can buy a heat press, bulk hoodies for printing, and start printing away. If you are new to the industry, a hobbyist, or looking for a side hustle, heat transfer is the method for you. You can always start small and expand with a screen printing setup.

If you have the capital, investing in both methods is also a sensible option. This will allow you to offer more options to your customers and get more business.

Best of luck in whichever venture you choose!

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