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Textile printing - printing techniques in comparison

Textile printing
Shirtinator uses a variety of high-quality textile printing techniques such as flex printing (a sheet printing method), flock printing (also known as flocking; also a sheet printing method), sublimation printing (also known as thermal printing) and digital printing (also known as digital direct printing, or direct printing for short). Shirtinator doesn't use screen printing methods.

Please find below a comparison of the practical advantages and disadvantages of different textile printing methods for the finished product.


Flex printing

Flex printing

The flex printing technique is one of the most refined printing methods. Flex printing allows us to achieve numerous effects due to a large number and wide variety of colours. The resulting print is only slightly raised from the fabric. It's smooth and slightly glossy. This method delivers particularly good results with the gradient-free motifs from our Creator Tool. With flex sheet printing, the number of colours per motif is limited to three.

Here's how flex printing is done in practice

The flex printing technique involves cutting out the motif from a thin sheet which is then melted onto the product surface under very high pressure and at a high temperature.

Advantages of flex sheet printing

  • High opacity
  • Vibrant colours
  • Durability

Disadvantages of flex sheet printing

  • No colour gradients/blending possible

Flex sheet printing: things to bear in mind

  • Particularly large motifs may crease after a few washes.
  • We recommend ironing your T-shirts inside out.
  • Flex printing is only available for Shirtinator motifs.


Flock printing

Flock printing

Because of its high-quality and durable result, flock printing is one of the most refined printing methods. The basic principle of flock printing is the same as that of flex printing. However, the difference between the two methods is clearly visible in the final result. Flocking produces a velvety, slightly raised surface. As a result, the motif feels like a thin layer of plush and is particularly well suited for designs without colour gradients, titles and logos. With flock sheet printing, the number of colours per motif is limited to three.

Here's how flock printing is done in practice

The flock printing technique involves cutting out the motif from a thin sheet which is then melted onto the product surface whilst applying very high pressure and a high temperature.

Advantages of flock sheet printing

  • High opacity
  • Vibrant colours
  • Durability

Disadvantages of flock sheet printing

  • No colour gradients/blending possible

Flock printing: things to bear in mind

  • Especially for large motifs, products made of thick, heavy fabric (e.g. hoodies) are preferable. Because the flock sheet is rather thick and not very elastic, products made of thin fabric (e.g. a T-shirt) wouldn't be very comfortable to wear if a particularly large motif was applied to them using this technique.
  • Flock printing is only available for Shirtinator motifs.

Digital direct printing (digital printing)

Digital direct printing (digital printing)

Digital direct printing is ideal for photos and designs featuring multiple colours and gradients. Whether on dark or light-coloured textiles, digital printing allows us to reproduce complex patterns and fine details. Even photos or custom images (for example for photo gifts, company logos, etc.) are easy to print using this high-quality textile finishing technique.

Here's how digital direct printing is done in practice

In digital direct printing, a special ink is sprayed directly onto the product. As it dries, the ink merges with the fibre of the garment. Because no sheets are used for digital printing, the fabric stays soft and comfortable to wear. In contrast to transfer printing methods, this technique leaves no background or frame around the motif. Because there are no colour limitations, this method is suitable for motifs with more than three colours and gradients.

Advantages of digital direct printing

  • All images and gradients possible
  • Very durable

Digital printing: things to bear in mind

Digital printing is only suitable for textiles. Freshly printed motifs may feel slightly sticky at the beginning, but this side effect will disappear after a few washes.

As a result of the special printing process used for digital direct printing, the product may smell slightly sour or individual brighter spots may appear on the print, but these will disappear after washing.

This is the most commonly used printing method for custom motifs. Due to different textile properties, we can't currently offer this printing method for all of our products. Our Creator Tool only shows the “digital direct printing” option for colours which can be printed onto a specific product using this method.

Sublimation printing (thermal sublimation)

Sublimation printing (thermal sublimation)

Sublimation involves applying motives to textiles using special ink and steam. This allows us to produce a very smooth, impalpable print. Sublimation can also be used as a finishing for mugs and other accessories. In these cases, however, the ink is not applied by means of steam but transferred onto the product with the aid of heat and pressure. Because there are no colour limitations with this thermal printing method, it is suitable for motifs with more than three colours and gradients.

Here's how sublimation printing is done in practice

Using a sublimation printer, a special ink is printed onto specially coated printing paper, which is then transferred onto material with a specific polyester content using high pressure and high heat.

Advantages of sublimation

  • Vibrant colours
  • All images and gradients possible
  • Durability

Sublimation printing: things to bear in mind

With textiles, sublimation printing is only suitable for polyester-coated materials, especially for white fabrics with a high polyester content such as sportswear products or products with a smooth surface such as mugs.
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