How to choose the right printing method

Choosing the right printing method for your project.

By Pete Apo

There are many different types of printing methods so choosing the right printing method for your project is essential to getting a great final result. Understanding the differences, mainly in how they are priced and their individual limitations and benefits, will enable you to choose the right printing method. You will need to possess a few key details regarding your printing job: Quantity, Product or Material, Number of Colors in Design, and Basic Size or Print Location. In this article I will list the most common printing options and state the limitations and benefits of each one.

Screen Printing

Pricing- Screen printing price is based mainly on the quantity of prints and number of colors in each print. Each color added to the print location will incur an additional set-up and per-piece charge. The higher number of pieces or prints will cause the per-print price to be lower, determined by quantity price breaks like 12 (minimum), 24, 48, 60, 72, etc.

Color Limitations– We are typically able to print up to six colors for your design on screen printed items, however, certain materials and/or locations might put additional limitations to this number. Complex gradients using multiple colors might be difficult to achieve using a screen printing method, so it is recommended that you send us your artwork to get an accurate quote for your project.

Size or Resolution Limitations– Maximum screen printing size is 16 inches x 16 inches and the minimum size that will be printed successfully is about an 8-point text size.

Advantages– Screen printing is an excellent option for high quantities of items that have a low number of colors, and will yield a durable, long lasting and vibrant print.

To learn more about this process refer to this in depth article.

What Is Screen Printing


Pricing- Embroidery pricing is based on the total quantity of items to be embroidered and the number of stitches in the design. A typical left chest or hat size design will have 5,000 to 12,000 stitches whereas a full back jacket size design will easily push 45,000 stitches. This difference of stitch count will affect the price of both the initial digitization and per-piece cost.

Color Limitations– The pricing for embroidery is not effected by the number of colors, however, embroidery is made up of thousands of stitches and for this reason has certain limitations. Using embroidery to replicate complex gradients and multi-colored outlines is not recommended. Simple designs and color variations produce a more stunning embroidered product.

Size or Resolution Limitations– Maximum embroidery size is 18 inches x 13 inches and the minimum size that can be embroidered clearly is a 12 point text.

Advantages– Embroidery is a classic technique that tends to make the item you are stitching look more upscale. It is also very durable and usually outlasts the item that it is embroidered on.

To learn more about this process refer to this in depth article.

The basics of embrodiery and its production

Heat Transfer Vinyl

Pricing- For the most part Heat Transfer Vinyl does not receive quantity discounts for repeated prints. The nature of this method is such that the press is usually charged at the same price no matter how many repeated prints that are done.

Color Limitations– This method is generally only available for a one-color print or press. Though it is possible to get a two or possibly three color heat transfer vinyl press done, most shops will not recommend or perform this because of the amount of set-up and work that is needed for one print.

Size or Resolution Limitations– Maximum heat transfer vinyl size is 18 inches x 16 inches and the minimum size that can be pressed is a 12 point text.

Advantages– Since this method has very little setup compared to screen printing, it is generally used successfully when used on a large printed area with individual specifics or prints. It is particularly popular when decorating jerseys or team sport wear with individual player names and numbers.

To learn more about this process refer to this in depth article.

Peeling Heat Transfer Vinyl Print

Dye Sublimation Printing

Pricing- In general Dye-Sublimation Printing does not receive quantity discounts for repeated prints. In general it is a bit more pricey than the other forms of printing mentioned here.

Color Limitations– The great advantage of this printing method is the ability to print any color needed, including complex gradients or color variations. Even photograph quality prints are possible using this fast growing technique.

Size or Resolution Limitations– Maximum dye-sublimation print size is usually 18 inches x 16 inches, however, full shirt coverage is also available on demand. The minimum size that can be pressed is a 4 point text or equivalent to a regular print from an ink jet printer at a high resolution.

Advantages– This print methods hold some very important advantages that should be underscored. First, the ability to print at full color with a high resolution quickly beats most other types of printing methods. Next, the low minimum quantity is key, because with limited set-up fees this print type can be performed on a single piece or on multiple pieces. Finally, dye-sublimation results in significant durability and vibrant colors because it actually permanently dyes the fabric with a high quality color. It is supreme in its durability, wash ability and scratch resistance.

To learn more about this process refer to this in depth article.

sports jersey and team uniform printing

Additional Articles

Pete Apo Owner Impact Northwest Picture
Pete Apo

Owner of Impact Northwest

Pete Apo is the owner of Impact Northwest located outside Eugene, Oregon in Creswell.  He has over 17+ years experience in the garment and promotional item printing industry and is founder of the clothing and product line The Rusty Hawaiian. Impact Northwest is a provider of custom screen print, embroidery, dye sublimation and promotional items to Lane County and the surrounding communities.

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