Screen Printing vs. Heat Transfer: All You Need To Know

You have probably seen a lot of people wearing promotional t-shirts. Each t-shirt has a clear and neatly positioned logo that grabs the attention of passersby. This article will focus on the methods that ensure an image (logo in this case) is neatly transferred to the fabric. The methods popularly used are Screen Printing and Heat Transfer.

Both these methods have the same goal but are miles apart in execution. Let’s explore them in detail.

Screen Printing

As the name suggests, screen printing involves transferring of designs to t-shirts through a screen. This form of printing is derived from an ancient method that has a history dating back to 960 AD. Over the years, the process has gone through a lot of changes.

Screen printing in its current avatar is more than 100 years old. It became popular after printers discovered the utility value offered by emulsion processes. Also known as silk screening, screen printing became hugely popular in the 1960s.

How does it work?

Screen printing practitioners first deploy an emulsion layer on the screen. Light is used to burn and imprint a design on the emulsion layer. Later, when the paint passes through the screen, it prints a logo on the fabric that is similar to what has been burnt on the emulsion layer.

Points to note:

  • Time consuming: Screen printing requires separate screens for each color. It can be a time consuming process.
  • Economical when used for bulk t-shirts: Screen printing is considered by many to be an efficient and cost-effective process, especially while personalizing a bulk order of t-shirts.
  • High quality and durable: The final logo is durable and of high quality, ensuring that it lasts for years.
  • Vibrant colors: Colors easily stand out, ensuring people take notice of your logo.

Heat Transfer

Heat transfer is a process that has a more recent history. It became popular about 25 years ago. Many businesses rely on heat transfer, thanks to its simplicity and ease of use.

How does it work?

As the name suggests, this process uses heat to transfer images onto the fabric. Vinyl is used alongside a heated press for this purpose. The image is printed on paper first and then transferred to the right location.

Heat transfer requires a unique printer, high-quality paper and a heating press for the design to set in.

Points to note:

  • Convenient for smaller orders: It is relatively easy to transfer images and is perfect for smaller orders.
  • Avoid it for dark colors: Use screen printing if you are dealing with dark colors. Heat transfer is not able to maintain darker colors and is prone to fading.
  • Not as long-lasting as screen printed logos: Designs created by heat transfer don’t have the longevity associated with screen printing.
  • Use screen printing for brighter colors: Heat transfer doesn’t hold well with bright colors.


If you have a small order with different kinds of customization (for example, different team names), then heat transfer is the method to use. Use screen printing if you have a large order and need the imprint to be more durable. At Promo Direct, we handle both processes. Get in touch with us and we will provide you insight on the right method for you. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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Susan Smith
Susan Smith is a digital marketing strategist responsible for driving online visibility for Promo Direct. She oversees the social media strategy for the company and manages product campaigns to build brand awareness. Susan can be followed on Google+ and Twitter.