T-Shirt Press Machine vs Screen Printing Machine

One of the most asked questions by anybody looking to get into the T-shirt printing business in the United States is whether to go with a screen printing or with a t-shirt press machine. These are two very different ways to produce T-shirts. Depending on how you choose, it can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.

If you pick correctly, your vision of making money in the T-shirt making industry will become a reality. If you pick incorrectly, at best, you would be settling for a few cents on the dollar, at worst, you won’t be making much money at all. In fact, the vast majority of T-shirt making businesses doesn’t make much money. I’m not saying that they don’t make a profit, but it’s not enough to make up for all the time, effort, and energy they poured into their business.

Consider this if you want to get intro the T-shirt making business!

You need to keep in mind that if you’re in any kind of business, return on effort is crucial. You need to maximize the amount of money you’re getting out while minimizing the amount of time, effort, energy, and capital you’re putting in. This should be fairly common sense when it comes to any type of business.

This is why it’s crucial to pay attention to return on investment as well as return on effort when analyzing the classic question of T-shirt press machine versus screen printing.Below, You will find everything you need to know about the two processes. 

image of someone painting with a stencil

How does the process of screen printing work?

Screen printing is the traditional process of transferring a design onto a surface. To do so, you will have to use a bunch of materials, like ink, meshes, polyester fabric, and vinyl. To create the stencil you can use:

  1. Tape or Vinyl to create the desired design onto the screen.
  2. Materials like glue or lacquer to paint the stencil you want onto the screen.
  3. A light-sensitive emulsion to make a stencil.

Screen printing takes a lot of time. You have to fix the screen on your material and wait until the first layer of the ink dries if you want to use multiple colors. You got to clean the screen if you don’t want to make a new one with the same stencil on it.

The advantages of screen printing are:

  1. The colors are brighter and the contrast is better. 
  2. The quality of the printing is higher.
  3. The prints are more durable and they resist for a long time. 
  4. You can use the same stencil on a bunch of items without changing it every time.

If you are the owner of a small business, I would not recommend screen printing. It takes a lot of time, and it is pricey. Just think about the fact that you will have to resupply regularly. Also, keep in mind that if your clients are not looking for a bunch of products with the same design, you will end up spending a small fortune on stencils. Furthermore, you will need a small team to manage the screen printing to lessen the time.

More about Screen printing

With screen printing, you need to print the colors separately. Now think about that for a second. If you are going to hire somebody to print the colors separately on each shirt, then this would automatically explode the amount of time each shirt requires. A press machine, on the other hand, can print several colors at the same time. As long as these colors don’t overlap, you can print out a multi-colored shirt with one operation. Instead of hiring somebody to go over a T-shirt again and again so they can print different colors separately, you only need to hire that person once to get the job done right.

Also, in screen printing, you need a separate screen for every design. This is a problem because you have to create a new screen for each and every design. What if the customer is wishy-washy and wants a new design almost every time he or she blinks? That’s going to be a problem. Your costs go up tremendously. You can try passing your costs to your customer, but good luck with that.

Screen printing also requires a lot of time because you have to not just set it up, but also have to clean it up. And if you go through this process again and again, particularly messy jobs can cost you a lot of money. Why is this a problem? Well, you have to pass the cost to your consumer, unless you’re in the business of losing money. I haven’t yet met a business person who is in the business of losing money so this means that your T-shirts are going to be more expensive than the competition. Unless you’re dealing with highly sought-after T-shirts, chances are, your higher prices will come and bite you in the future. That customer will probably not come back.

Image of a man working on a digital design

How does the t-shirt press machine work?

When it comes to a heat press machine, the process is easier. However, you will need another machine that can get your desired design on a transfer paper. Afterward, everything is simple, you fix your product and then you use the heat press on the transfer paper to get your design on the product.

The advantages of using a heat press machine are: 

  1. It takes a few minutes to do the whole process including printing on the transfer paper. 
  2. It is not as pricey as screen printing.
  3. You can digitally customize the design and adjoust it. 
  4. There are more usable colors.
  5. You don’t get things messy because you don’t work with ink. 
  6. It is easy to set it up.

If you own a small business, I recommend getting a heat press machine. They are efficient overall and allow you to do a bunch of personalized products. The whole process is not as pricey as it is with a screen printing machine, and you don’t need a small team to operate it. 

One notable disadvantage of the heat press machine is that you have to let it cool off from time to time. If you use it for hours, you risk damaging the machine and the products. Another downside of using this technique is that the colors are not as vibrant as the ones from screen printing. Also, keep in mind that the quality of the print is not high. In time, the colors might wear off, and the model might stretch and tear. 

More about t-shirt press machines

A heat transfer press machine can print photographic material. This means that you only need to print out the new design on thermal paper, and then apply the thermal paper with vinyl on your T-shirt, and you have yourself a nice shirt. Compare this with having to come up with separate screens for every new design.

This is why it is really important to consider a T-shirt press machine because it’s not only easy to set up, it’s also not messy. In fact, there is no mess at all because you’re not dealing with ink. You’re just dealing with a heat transfer paper with vinyl on it. You press that paper using the heat transfer machine on your shirt and you’re good to go. No mess, no headaches, no problems.

What is worth considering

Given all these differences between the two methods, the safe investment would be the heat press. With a t-shirt press machine, you trade quality for digital customization and time. On the other hand, with screen printing, you get quality and quantity, but you trade time and resources.

When it comes to using multiple models and colors, the heat press is the better choice. With it, you don’t have to wait a long time for the paint to settle on the product to apply another layer. You just have to apply your model and that’s it you can get to the next one.

Just imagine how long it will take to apply 4 different colors through screen painting. You will have to add 1 color, wait for the product to dry, clean the stencil, use a way to protect the previously painted model, apply the other color, and repeat. This longer turnaround time for screen printing can eat up your profits unless you can get the labor for dirt cheap.

This is where different T-shirt printing companies rise and fall. It all boils down to the cost of labor. Accordingly, it pays off tremendously to invest in the right machinery that will help you minimize your cost of labor. As much as possible you want to go with a production process that enables you to design once and do things once to produce a shirt. Repeat that over and over again with the same setup. You can’t do this with a silkscreen setup. I’m sorry but it’s just impossible.

While traditional printing is still recognized and does have key strategic advantages, if you are looking to make money with your T-shirt business, you should seriously consider buying a T-shirt press machine. You not only would be able to accommodate a wider range of customers, but you would also be able to serve them quickly. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on labor while maximizing your profits.

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