Dye sublimation vs screen printing

Dye Sublimation vs. Screen Printing – Which is Better for T-Shirts?

Screen Printing and Dye Sublimation: How They Work

Dye sublimation is a technique for printing in which you use a special printer and a heat press to dye the T-shirt.

Screen printing is a technique for printing in which you use a squeegee to press ink onto your T-shirt through a stencil on a finely meshed screen. You can do your own screen printing by hand, or use an automated screen printing machine.

Should You Use Dye Sublimation or Screen Printing for Your Next T-shirt Project?

Both are great printing methods. It just depends on your preference, the material you are working with, and the nature of your project.

If you are making many T-shirts, screen printing is a more cost-effective approach.

Dye sublimation is better for small projects of just one or two T-shirts. The reason for this is because dye sublimation is more expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, dye sublimation is not very practical for bulk printing or large orders. Small orders, on the other hand, are not very practical for screen printing. The lengthy setup time required for screen printing is wasted on a single order. For this reason, many printing companies will require a minimum order amount to make screen printing cost-effective.

Screen printing is most effective on a flat surface and is used mostly for T-shirts and other apparel. Although it is most common for clothing, screen printing is super versatile and can be used to print on almost any substrate.

Dye sublimation is great for T-shirts, banners, and signs. You can use dye sublimation on hard surfaces that are treated with polymer as well as clothing. The biggest pitfall of dye sublimation is it only works on polyester and other synthetic materials, so you won’t be able to use the technique on cotton T-shirts at all.

One of the selling points of dye sublimation is that you get bright, vibrant colors. The drawback of this is that the process only works well on light-colored fabrics. You will not be able to see the results of dye sublimation on darker materials. Screen printing, on the other hand, can be done on any color material, and most fabrics.

The Setup: Dye Sublimation Versus Screen Printing

Setting up for screen printing takes both time and a lot of effort. The reason for this is because you can only apply one color at a time. If you have a project that involves more than one color, you will have to set up a stenciled screen for each color and make sure each one is aligned correctly so the layers will be lined up properly when printed.

Dye sublimation is a much simpler process to set up. You can print all the colors at one time. With dye sublimation, you are also able to customize your designs more quickly. All you have to do is edit the graphic file and print a new transfer using a dye sublimation printer. Screen printing, on the other hand, would require a whole new screen for any color or design changes.

What Colors Can You Use?

Dye sublimation and screen printing are both effective options for creating intricately detailed designs and photo-quality images on T-shirts. To achieve intricate photo designs through screen printing, you will need to use a four-color process using grids and tiny dots. This process takes both practice and patience because you will need to make sure the dots are aligned just right to achieve the desired look.

For dye sublimation, photo-quality printing is easy. Dye sublimation printers use a color combination of CMYO – cyan, magenta, yellow, and clear overcoat. This combination allows you to print any color without any further setup.

Dye sublimation is the easier, quicker method. You can create photo-realistic designs in any color you desire. However, a drawback to dye sublimation is that you are not able to do any special effects. Dye sublimation creates a flat print that becomes part of the fibers of the fabric. With screen printing, you can create special effects using different types of ink. Some of these effects include 3D prints, puff prints, and foil, shiny, or glow in the dark colors.

Dye sublimation is the go-to printing method for a graphic that adds no weight to the T-shirt, resulting in a super-soft finish. You can achieve lasting soft results with screen printing too. You have to choose the right inks. Use water-based ink to make this effect through screen printing and produce a design that won’t fade or peel with lots of washings.

Why You Should Choose Dye Sublimation:

  • The four-color CMYK method means you can use any color and any number of colors at no additional time or cost.
  • Dye sublimation is cost-effective for low volume projects or projects with a lot of colors.
  • Dye sublimation is the go-to method for polyester garments.

Why You Should Choose Screen Printing:

  • You can use a variety of ink types to create special effects, including 3D and foil designs.
  • Screen printing is cost-effective for high volume orders.
  • You can screen print on almost any fabric.

Which is Better?

So, the answer to which method is better? It depends on your project and your preferences! Dye sublimation and screen printing are both great for creating custom T-shirts. There are benefits and drawbacks to both methods. When deciding which approach to go with, think about the specific project you are working on, what you are trying to achieve, what materials you have to work with, and your budget. All of these things will need to be taken into consideration before you begin.

Photoshop Guide: Step-By-Step Checklist on Putting a Logo on a Shirt

Are you looking to get your logo on a T-shirt to advertise your business or for a special event? Did you know you can easily put your logo on a T-shirt using Photoshop? You don’t have to be a Photoshop wizard to create your own T-shirt mock-up with your logo on it. Follow these simple steps to get your logo on a T-shirt simply and quickly.

This is an easy step-by-step tutorial for those of you who have used Photoshop at least a little bit. However, if you are brand new to Photoshop, you may want to learn Photoshop basics before jumping into this project.


*For this tutorial, I am using Adobe Photoshop CC 2018/ Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018. Some features may not be available in older versions of Photoshop.

**This tutorial is for those of you who have already created your logo. For best results, create your logo as a vector image with a transparent background in a program like Adobe Illustrator.

***Ready to make your T-shirt design a reality? Check out our AA Custom T-shirt services for great deals!

How to Photoshop A Logo Onto Your Custom Shirt

Step 1: Setup Your Document

Have Photoshop CC open. Using the default workspace: Go to Window > Workspace > Essentials (default) to make sure you are using the same settings for this tutorial.

Click “Create New” in the upper left corner of your screen. You want to make sure you prepare your document specifically for T-shirt design. The most important part of the process is the setup. If you don’t set up your document correctly, you may end up with problems later on with sizing that is way off for a T-shirt.

Change your width and height settings from pixels to inches. A good rule of thumb for T-Shirt designs is to start out with 14 inches for the width and 17 inches for the height (you can always adjust this later).

Change your resolution to 300. Your resolution is extremely important because it will have a significant effect on how the logo will look when it is printed. If you leave your resolution at 72, your logo will likely not look that great when you get it printed. You can go above 300, but this is a good place to start.

If you are looking to do a quick design, and not interested in getting a realistic T-shirt mock-up – you can simply change the background color to the color of the T-shirt you intend to print on.

There are some other settings on this screen. You will want to keep the other settings the same – keep it in portrait, keep color mode the same.

Step 2: Place Your Logo Image

Paste your logo image onto the background and set image as a “smart object”. Place the image on the shirt and do a free transform while holding the shift key to adjust the size and placement.

Step 3: Save Your File. You Are Done!

The Slightly More Complex Way – Realistic T-Shirt Mock-Up

If you are looking to do a more realistic T-shirt mock-up (where your logo is shown on an actual T-shirt), it’s a little more complicated – but not much! Instead of setting up your file and choosing a background color for your T-shirt, you will need to find a photo of a T-shirt to use as the background. (There are a lot of sites that have stock photos like this).

Step 1: Isolate Your T-shirt

Once you have found a stock photo of a T-shirt to use, you will need to isolate the T-shirt from the rest of the photo. Create a path with the pen tool in Photoshop. Activate the path. Then use the layers palette to bring the path of the shirt onto a layer of its own. Now you should have the isolated T-shirt. Name the layer “T-shirt” or whatever you want to name it to keep track of your layers.

Step 2: Create a Displacement Map

The next thing we have to do is to create a displacement map. Make one more copy of the “T-shirt” layer you just created. Go to the bottom right of your screen to the adjustment layers options. Hold down alt option key and choose black and white.

Select that copy of the “T-shirt” layer. Go to the adjustment layers and choose “levels”. The goal with adjusting the levels is to get more contrast between the black and the white on the T-shirt to determine what is raised and what sinks in – just like wrinkles on a real T-shirt. This is what makes the mock-up look realistic.

Next, hold down the shift key and select all three of the last layers your created (the black & white, level, and T-shirt copy) and merge the layers.

Go up to the filter menu and choose Blur > Gaussian Blur. You don’t want to blur it too much. Just enough so that you don’t have any really hard lines. Play with the blur radius until you get the right setting. Save this file on your desktop. Name it “displaced” so you know it is the displaced version. Come back to your original background image and save it as a separate file.

Step 3: Place Your Logo on the T-shirt

Now we are ready to place the logo onto the T-shirt. Paste your logo image onto the background and set the image as a “smart object”. Place the image on the shirt and do a free transform while holding the shift key to adjust the size and placement.

The next step is to make a copy of the logo image. Turn off any other layers, so now you should just have your original background and your logo showing. Go up to Filter > Distort > Displace. Leave the displacement options as is for now. It will ask you to select a file. This is where you will select your “displaced” file you created a few moments ago.

Next, double click on the logo image to bring up the layer style dialogue box. On the bottom of this box, there is an option called “Blend if” that is set to gray for both layers. Hold down the alt option key to separate the two sliders. Move the bottom one over to the right a little bit. As you do this, you should see the logo start to blend in with the T-shirt and start to look more realistic. Save your mock-up.

You are done!

Now that you’ve successfully created your mock-up, get your creation printed onto an actual T-shirt! Check out AA Custom T-shirt services for all your T-shirt printing needs!