How To Pick The Right T-Shirt Print Method

Just talking about some of the differences between apparel print methods doesn’t always leave you feeling like you know how to apply it to your own order. In our recent video where we walk through all the things you should know to pick between screen printing and digital printing, we go over a few examples to highlight the proper use cases for either print method. Check out the clip below to learn more about how to apply the decision in the real-world.


Let’s look at a few examples

To help you better understand the key differences between screen printing and digital printing, I’ve put together a few examples for us to take a look at. We’ll talk about which print method would be best and why, using some real-world scenarios, so that you can apply it to your own order. So let’s take a look at a couple designs and I’ll walk you through the details.

Example #1

First, we’ll take a look at this Stay Creative design that you’ve probably seen featured before. It’s actually an image that I’ve uploaded into the Design Studio. I selected 2 colors once It uploaded and decided to pick matching colors from our pallet.

An example t-shirt design in the Design Studio made using an uploaded image.

Now that I’ve arranged it on the t-shirt, I’m ready to order so I’ll head up to Quote/Buy. And let’s say that I only wanted to order 3 of these for a couple people on our team. In that case, I’d want to select digital printing because that will allow me to print fewer than 12 pieces. Another plus being that the processing time is only 1-2 days.

If you don’t see digital printing as an option available, it’s because it’s not compatible with the product or color that you have selected. So just head back and swap it out with an option that’s labeled with no minimum.

But let’s say that I wanted to order this design for more people and I did need 12 of them printed. It’s cheaper to order 12 of them with screen printing because there’s only 2 colors in this design. And you can see how large the bulk discounts are if I wanted to order even more with screen printing.

Showcasing the final quote step of placing a custom t-shirt order in the Design Studio.

The processing time for standard screen printed orders is about 5 business days, shipping is free, and you get to pick from any of the styles and colors in the apparel catalog.

Design pro-tip

A detail image of the collar of an Ultra Cotton Tee.

You can change the apparel color to white and get a bit of a price break. This is true for both digital printing and screen printing. But, you can also take a look at some value-priced apparel options. The Ultra Cotton Tee is the default t-shirt in the Design Studio and it’s just about the cheapest option available. As an alternative though, I really like to recommend the Softstyle T-Shirt because it’s noticeably softer and more fitted, while still being a very cost-effective option.

Showcasing the product page of the Gildan Softstyle T-shirt.

Example #2

For my next example, we’ll take a look at this t-shirt design that I’ve made for a fictional landscaping business. I actually made this design using one of our t-shirt design templates and that means that every bit of it was made right here in the Design Studio so it’s fully customizable. If you’re interested in getting started with a template, just check out all the categories in our design templates section.

An example t-shirt design for a landscaping business in the Design Studio.

Let’s say that I wanted to order 12 of these for all of my employees. If I select screen printing and get a quote, you’ll see that it’s actually a bit cheaper to digitally print this design. That’s just because this design I’ve made has 5 colors instead of 2 like the last one we looked at. And the cost of screen printed orders is based on the number of colors in your design.

If I didn’t want to order any more, I could get it a bit cheaper with digital printing. But let’s now say that I wanted to order 24 so that everyone can have 2. Now you can see that screen printing is cheaper because those bulk discounts have been applied. And it gets even cheaper if I order more.

Demonstrating where to leave special comments when placing a custom t-shirt order on the UberPrints website.

For either 12 or 24 pieces, if I had a specific Pantone color that I wanted the ink colors matched to, I would need to select screen printing. And I can leave that as a note in the Add special printing instructions or Add notes sections. Or, if I just really want a style or apparel color that’s only available for screen printing, I can still do that as well.

Design pro-tip

With a design like this one, you can usually reduce your color count by at least 1 just by using some smart designing, and that can end up saving you some money.

Focusing on the t-shirt color swatch in the Design Studio.

It’s an easy trick to use the color of the apparel in the design itself. For example, let’s get rid of this sky blue color, and just replace it with a matching shirt color. First, I’ll switch to an apparel color that’s closer to the light blue. Then select the center clip art piece and change the light blue color to the shirt color swatch.

Demonstrating how to change the color of a clip art piece to the shirt color.

Now the design is only 4 colors which will save some money, but also, using this tactic can make your design look even better with the t-shirt it’s on.

Example #3

The last example we’ll take a look at is this event t-shirt design that I’ve made by uploading a photograph and pairing it with some text from the Design Studio. It’s pretty common for customers to put together photographic designs like this one, and with digital printing, we can absolutely print full-color photographs.

A typical example of a photographic design in the Design Studio.

But, I think we can really improve on this design, and at the same time, make it better suited for screen printing. That way, if you’re ordering for an entire event, you can be sure to get the best price possible.

The first thing we can do to make this design look better is to feather the edges so that the photograph blends in to the t-shirt and we get rid of this stark rectangle. The next thing would be to simplify the photograph to a monochromatic color-scheme that matches the shirt and is just a few colors.

To do this, just label your photograph with 3 colors when you upload it and include these notes with your design while asking for a proof of the changes. Go ahead and place your order and during our review and design preparation process, our art department will make the changes noted in your design and you’ll receive an email with an image for you to look over.

Demonstrating the result of simplifying a photographic t-shirt design.

This is what those changes would look like. The design is now only a 3 color print that better matches the text, fits better on the t-shirt, and all-around is much better designed.

Design pro-tip

The details of a screen printed photographic t-shirt design.

If you ever want any kind of design simplified to fewer colors, just leave a note with your design when you order letting us know how many colors you’d like it simplified to. Once your design changes are made, our customer service department will make sure to update your order costs to get you the best price possible.


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