If you’re considering getting into the t-shirt business, you should become familiar with the different methods available for transferring text, logos, and images to a garment such as a t-shirt.

The two major methods used to transfer an image to a garment are heat transfers, and screen printed transfers.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

Heat Transfers


The process of heat transfer is much simpler than a screen printed transfer, but the image is not as permanent.

The artwork is printed on a special heat transfer paper. There are different qualities of paper depending on whether it’s intended for personal or professional use. Some consumer level printers are also available which can make higher quality heat transfers.

Once the image is printed on the transfer paper, the paper is pressed onto the garment and then heated for a short time. This melts a material in the paper called plastisol which seeps into the shirt. The back of the paper is then peeled from the shirt while the plastisol and the image remain on the garment.

Screen Printed Transfers

At a professional level, screen printed transfers are the most common. As far as print quality goes, this method of transferring an image to a garment is generally better. A screen print will usually last longer, and maintain higher levels of color saturation than a heat transfer.

A screen transfer is more difficult to do, however, and will require the use of more professional equipment to get a high-quality and long lasting image.

A screen print requires that you use a few different tools. First of all, you’ll need a screen. The screen is a wooden or steel frame with a special mesh material. It is pressed against the garment to transfer the ink. These screens must be cleaned after they are used, and they are quite large. If you plan on screen printing professionally, you should have a designated booth and garden hose with which to clean the screen, as well as an area to dry it.

The artwork is printed on special sheets that activate when exposed to UV light. These sheets are printed directly onto the screen mentioned earlier. This is similar to how photographs in non-digital cameras are exposed. Of course, you will either need self-contained exposure equipment for this, a darkroom or sunlight.

The screen that was mentioned earlier has a special chemical coating on it. This coating is then sprayed with a pressure hose. The chemical will eventually come off of the non-transparent portions of the image.

The screen is then pressed against the garment, and ink is applied to the sheet. The ink is then scrubbed across the screen. The ink will seep into the parts of the screen where the chemical was removed, which ultimately transfers the image to the shirt.

If multiple colors are used in the image or logo, this process will have to be repeated for the various colors.