Compare Vinyl Print and Screen Print, Which One Is More Suitable for Printing T-shirts?

There are three methods to printed t-shirt: vinyl print and screen print and sublimation print.However, heat transfer printing is only suitable for t-shirts made of polyester, so it is common to use vinyl or silk screen printing to print t-shirts.Whether to print T-shirts with silk screen printed or vinyl printed has always been a topic of discussion. Although both methods can print high quality T-shirts, I chose to use vinyl printing in this article.And I will tell you why.

1.What is screen printing?

Screen printing is a printing technique whereby a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil. A blade or squeegee is moved across the screen to fill the open mesh apertures with ink, and a reverse stroke then causes the screen to touch the substrate momentarily along a line of contact.

2.What is vinyl printing?

Vinyl printing is when a sheet of polyurethane (pu) vinyl is cut to produce a design which is then heat applied to the garments.It is a method of printing that is generally limited to a 1 colour print.

The process of using silk screen printing T-shirts

3.The differences between the two printing

Now, let’s take a look at the differences between the two printing when customizing a t-shirt. Remember, both will deliver quality, long lasting results if the garment is used correctly.


Vinyl print is suitable for very small runs of up to 16 t-shirts. That’s due to the fact that the set-up time is little relative to that of screen printing. However, this method is much slower than screen printing as each t-shirt needs its own set up. This, therefore, makes it too time consuming and cost ineffective beyond the 16-t-shirt mark.

MOQ (acronym for minimum order quality) for silk printing is 25 t-shirts. Setting up screen printing takes much longer compared to vinyl printed but as soon as the set-up in done, the printing process is swift. The high speed is because nothing needs to change from t-shirt to t-shirt, provided the designs remain the same. Screen printed is the right method if you’re looking to work on large orders.


Vinyl printed is best suited for simple graphics. If you’re looking to create basic shapes or text-based designs, this is the method to use. Need to print jersey numbers for your high school soccer team? With vinyl printing, there’s no way you can come up with true gradients (blending of colors); fine details will easily get lost.

Screen printed gives you access to a much high level of color and detail, making printing of photographs possible. As a matter of fact, complex designs come through effortlessly and definitely beautifully. Furthermore, it gives you access to a full range of colors; you can mix whatever shades you prefer.


Under appropriate use, both methods should produce results that last for years. Here’s a look into the lifespans of the two methods and how to maximize it.

Vinyl printing

Under normal use, the design should last more than five years. I recommend following these care guidelines to maximize the lifespan:

Do not dry clean the garment. Rather, machine-wash it warm, with mild detergent.

Dry the t-shirt at normal setting.

Do not use chlorine bleach on the garment.

Wait for at least a day (24 hours) before the first wash after printing.

Screen printing

The graphics produced through screen printing should last for the t-shirt’s life under normal, proper use. To make the graphic last the garment’s life, be sure to wash the garment inside out, with cold water only.

The process of using vinyl printing T-shirts



So, you might wonder why I use vinyl over silk printing despite all the benefits associated with the latter. I will tell you why.
First, screen printing is not cost effective or even quick enough for small jobs. A new screen has to be cut for every design. Actually, silk screen printing is suitable only when we’re talking of a minimum of around 100 t-shirts. Now that I don’t normally print such a huge number of garments, I always go for vinyl printing.
With this method, I can help my customers with small jobs of even 2 or 3 items. That way, I’m able to keep my costs low and my customers happy.
Ever had a t-shirt printed and after washing it several times noticed peelings, fading or cracking all over it? This is another annoying issue with screen printing when the garment is not used appropriately. Of course, the graphic should last the garment’s life but that is if you wash it inside out with cold water each time. But, who remembers to do that?
The best thing about this printing is that the design will not fade or crack. In fact, I have a t-shirt that I always use as a sample when folks ask how my vinyl printing washes.After owning the t-shirt for around 4 years now, and cleaning it for more times than I cared to count, the front printing is faded. In fact, it is now virtually freckled with the original color of the t-shirt showing through. On the other hand, the back has remained as I printed it.
Of course, there are numerous advantages of screen print. Most importantly, it helps you complete the job much faster and with less toil. With vinyl printing, you have to cut each design from a vinyl roll and then weed out the unwanted parts, such as the inside of most letters including a, b, d, e and g. Moreover, you have to repeat the process for every color of the design for every shirt.
If you’re to do orders of more than 100 t-shirts, it would be better to get a good machine with 2 heat presses in 1 and lasers to help accomplish the task quickly.


So,which print should you choose,vinyl print or screen print?Your choice of a printing method depends on the size of your orders and the complication of the designs you’re looking to create. If you’re hoping to do just a few orders with simple designs, I recommend going for former print but if you’re looking to do many orders (over 100) with complex picture designs and fonts, it’d be better to use latter print.

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