Print on Demand: Which Printing Method is Right for YOU?

The print on demand (PoD) industry is absolutely booming right now and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon (for indisputable proof of this in the form of hard data, check out our blog article entitled 'Print on Demand: Vital Statistics').  If you're considering getting yourself a tasty slice of this immensely-lucrative pie then there is no time for hesitation — there are countless others who feel exactly the same way and so competition increases every day.

In this informative edition of the Brickweb blog, we're going to take a look at two of the most common printing methods used by PoD companies to create custom clothing: traditional screen printing and the more recent Direct-to-Film (DtF) technology. We'll start with an overview of each process in turn then move on to comparing and contrasting them, revealing tho pros and cons of each.

Screen Printing
Most people have at least heard the term 'screen printing' before because it has been around for a long time but it may come as a surprise to learn just how long. In fact, the first evidence of screen printing (albeit in a very primitive form) dates back to the Song Dynasty in China, which held sway from the years 960 to 1279 AD!

Despite this centuries-old pedigree, screen printing did not make its way to the West until the late 1700s and even then remained little more than an exotic, rarely-employed novelty until the early 20th century. The process was much improved in many ways by various people, most notably Roy Beck, Charles Peter and Edward Owens; the trio were well-educated in the sciences but also had entrepreneurial ambitions. Perhaps the most well-known person to utilise and thus popularise the screen printing method was the artist Andy Warhol, who in 1962 presented the now globally-famous 'Marilyn Diptych'; four colourful images of Marilyn Monroe.

Screen printing involves the use of a mesh stencil and several screens; each screen is in the shape of one of the elements that, when applied consecutively using different colours of ink, will together form the finished design. Less complex designs that utilise a single colour of ink can be created using a single screen. The screen or screens is/are pressed onto fabric and ink is applied using the stencil as a guide. In the case of multiple colours being used, the fabric is kept under an ultra-violet light so that the exposed areas dry and so allow the ink to pass only through the desired screen.

Direct to Film Printing
DtF printing technology is much more recent, having been invented by a Chinese company called Polytech and successfully demonstrated for the first time in 2018. The process begins with the design being printed onto a specially-designed type of film; after this has been completed, a further layer of film is placed on top of the image. 

Next, the wet ink is covered with an adhesive (also designed especially for use in the DtF process), the film is laid onto the chosen garment and placed into a heat press. After the application of heat, the garment is removed from the press, the transfer film is removed and the process is complete. 

Some Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Technique

  • Print Quality & Durability. The designs on screen printed garments are exceptionally durable due to the fact that the ink penetrates deeply into the fabric;the exact opposite is true of garments printed using the DtF technique.
  • Design Complexity. DtF gives better results when it comes to reproducing the sharp, accurate details of an image while screen printing is preferable for simpler yet more striking designs. As ink is applied in consecutive layers when screen printing, the finished design is slightly raised and has an appealing visual texture as compared to the entirely-flat image produced using DtF. 
  • Fabric Options. DtF printing is a good all-rounder and can be used on many different fabrics including fleece, nylon, cotton and on some types of synthetic and blended materials. Screen printing is best suited to fibrous fabrics like cotton and silk. One major advantage that screen printing has over the DtF technique is that it is not limited only to fabrics: all sorts of other materials can be screen printed with custom designs, including glass, metal, wood and canvas. This means you can extend your product portfolio with many other items in addition to clothing. 

The Brick Factory is a unique business automation tool created by Brickweb for those in the PoD industry. Please take some time to read other articles about The Brick Factory in our blog: we suggest you start with 'The Benefits of Dropshipping' and 'Make the Switch Seamlessly'. Also, we invite you to browse our website to discover all of the features included with The Brick Factory.

When you're ready to start making your way in the world of PoD, give us a call and we'll take the first steps together.

Posted in Blog, The Brick Factory and tagged Print on demand, the brick factory, DTG, DTF on