Useful Information You Should Know Before Placing an Order

Before getting started, it is important to understand the printing method that works best for your design. The quick descriptions below should help you get acquainted. Once you learn more about the printing methods, you can read more on helpful information when submitting artwork.

Printing Methods

Spot Color Printing – This is the most common form of screen printing in which your graphic is separated into specific colors to be printed one at a time in a solid layer for each.

A six-color screen print using spot colorsCloseup of a six-color screen print using spot colorA detailed view of a spot color screen print

Halftone Printing – Similar to spot color printing but used to simulate color gradients by overlapping layers of colored dots in varying sizes. The size of the dots will concentrate color in certain areas and make it appear lighter where the dots of color are farther apart. Overlapping colors of dots will trick your eye into seeing the color that combination of colors makes (i.e. red and yellow dots will trick your eye into seeing orange).

Example of a screen printed design with halftonesCloseup of a screen printed design with halftoninghalftone detail
one-color screen print to produce a grayscale halftone

Grayscale Printing – Similar to halftone printing, this is a simple way of printing full color photographic images by using single color halftone dots. Full color drawings or paintings that contain complete tonal ranges in different colors may also be reproduced by means of a 1 color halftone. This is the same way that photographs in newspapers are printed. This is generally done with ALL black or white ink (on contrary colors).

Duotone Printing – This method is still printed using halftone dots, but it is using 2 different colors together to make a multi-colored image. This method allows for more than just a single color to be used. It is slightly more difficult (2 screens are needed) but still adds a slightly more flavor than a standard halftone print. (this can be compared to a sephia colored photograph).

2-color screen print for a duotone image

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing – This is a printing method that has been developed only in the last few years. It uses very specialized and modern ink jet technology by using very small micro-sprayers to apply water-based ink directly onto the garment, similar to that of an inkjet photo printer. This permanent process leaves a very soft hand, but in most cases can be very expensive. The benefit is that images can be printed in full color without the labor or cost of any set up fees or screens. Digital printing technologies are non-contact, meaning that media is printed on without hand contact, allowing for a more precise image.

full color dtg printed image on cotton

Dye Sublimation Printing – (also called Sublimation) - A process in which a large format paper heat transfers are printed using specialized dye sublimation inks, then those heat transfers are designed to be imprinted on textiles using a heat transfer machine. This process can be full color without any set up or screens, yet can only be transferred onto 100% polyester material. Unfortunately, we do not have the equipment to offer this type of printing.

dye sublimation on polyester t-shirts

4-Color Process Printing (CMYK) – Although this process can be done via screen printing, since the 1980’s it hasn’t been common practice. (And is used more in Lithography today). This process uses the four primary colors (C-Cyan, M-Magenta, Y-Yellow, K-Black) combined together to recreate the full tonal and color range of any original image. Each color printer is a halftone of the opposite color in the original image. This system is based on what light is being absorbed. This is by far the most complicated and expensive process for apparel. The process printing method has been replaced by the simpler, and less expensive, simulated process printing method.

illustration of how CMYK process colors mix to produce other colors

Simulated Process Printing (CMYK) – This process also uses the 4 primary colors combined together but can also integrate spot colors as well. An image is separated into its 4 primary colors, then each of those colors gets burned onto a screen. Once registered, a set of transparent process cmyk inks is used, and each of the inks lays on top of each other and combine to simulate a full color image (when really its just the 4 primary colors on top of each other). This method is more difficult on a dark garment, but still possible. It’s also possible to add spot colors to intensify the overall look of the printed shirt. We believe that in most instances, using Direct To Garment printing in place of simulated process is always better, cheaper, faster and more efficient.