Understanding Decoration Methods for T-Shirts

There are many different decoration methods available when it comes to custom printed t-shirts. Do you know the difference?

Screen Printing

Screen printing, also known as silk screening, is one of the most popular and well-known imprint methods. It is a simple, straightforward process that provides you with a durable, vibrant, and cost effective imprint.

The process involves the creation of a stenciled design. A squeegee is then used to push the ink into the material and imprint the design onto the t-shirt.


How many colors can I use?

Screen printing allows you to print as many colors as you want, however, it is not ideal for complex, multi-colored designs. Additionally, each additional color requires a separate screen, which will increase the price of your product and can add up quickly.

Printing Gradients

Believe it or not, you can screen print gradients by utilizing halftones. While this method may be close to the look you want, RUNMARK recommends direct-to-garment (DTG) printing to achieve the gradient look.

Direct-to-Garment (DTG)

Direct-to-garment, or DTG printing is a digital printing technology in which ink is sprayed and absorbed into the t-shirt. It is a similar process to printing on paper.

DTG is a high quality and straightforward process that produces vibrant graphics, and has quick turnaround times, making it a suitable option for printing one-offs. Because of these advantages, DTG is a more sustainable decoration method than screen printing because it allows businesses to avoid overproduction and excess waste.

What designs work best with DTG?

DTG printers offer a wide range of colors and have very few color limitations. However, if a design has less than 100% opacity, the graphic will not print correctly. To combat this issue, we suggest that you use solid colors or semi-transparency by half-toning.

Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation is another form of digital printing technology that uses heat to transfer a graphic onto a t-shirt. The printer heats the ink, which causes it to sublimate–or transform into a gaseous state. The ink then hits the t-shirt and transforms back into a solid state, resulting in a full-color imprint.

What kind of order is dye sublimation recommended for?

Dye sublimation is one of the longest lasting imprint methods available. The graphic will not wash or peel off because the ink is waterproof! However, it can be more expensive and time consuming, and therefore is not practical for larger quantities.

RUNMARK recommends dye sublimation for light-colored t-shirts (dye sublimation does not produce good results on darker materials) in which a vibrant, complex, even photographic picture is desired.

Heat Transfer


Heat transfer printing involves transferring graphics to a t-shirt using a heat-press machine. This process is typically used for imprinting sports jerseys and customizing apparel with names and numbers because it is an easy and affordable way to print graphics with multiple colors and complex designs.

Unfortunately, this process does not do well on darker shirts, the design doesn’t last as long as screen printed shirts, and the graphic is stiff on the t-shirt.

Sending Artwork Files

When you are ready to place an order for decorated apparel, it is extremely important to send the artwork in the correct format. By sending the artwork in vector format, we are able to see the artwork file as it was created. Typically your vector art also tells us the correct colors to use. To learn more about graphic file types, visit our Graphic File Types Guide.

How can RUNMARK help you?

Here at RUNMARK, we know the ins and outs of the decorated apparel industry and offer only the highest quality imprint apparel sourced close to you for delivery and cost savings!

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