Choosing the right printing method for your project.

Choosing the right printing method for your project.
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.

Quality Artwork. Raster vs. Vector Images

Quality Artwork. Raster vs. Vector Images
Raster Image vs. Vector Image

Quality Artwork. Raster vs. Vector Images

By Pete Apo

There are two artwork types: Raster and Vector images. To print quality graphics requires high quality or high resolution artwork. We recommend, if possible, to provide us with vector artwork which is created in a vector software program like Illustrator or Corel Draw. If you are unable to get this file type you can also provide us with a High Quality raster image with a minimum DPI resolution of 300. If you are unsure what file type or what resolution image you have you can read further or contact us.

Raster Images

Known also as Pixel based artwork, raster images are the most common form of digital imagery found on the internet, known by familiar files names such as JPEG’s, TIF’s, BMP’s or PNG’s. Raster image resolution is represented by DPI (dots per inch) this number indicates how many pixels a particular image consists of in a one inch space. Images, if saved directly from the internet, will have a resolution of 72 DPI, which is often times TOO LOW of quality to be blown up and work well on a t-shirt or other high quality prints.

If these types of low quality images are used and then enlarged, “pixelization” or blurriness will occur. Another problem low quality artwork or non-vector images have is the ability to be altered or prepared correctly for printing, like separating colors, reducing colors, or creating any separating space that is sometimes needed for various printing. To avoid having to pay additional artwork charges it is best to provide your printer with vector artwork or at the very least a high quality (300 DPI) raster image.

Vector Images

Vector images or artwork and it’s technical definition is a bit complicated to understand. Simply put vector files are a type of graphic image that uses mathematical algorithms and not pixels to create artwork. This allows the image to be scaled or modified ad infinitum without loss of quality or resolution. These images are easily resized in a vector computer software program and are a better quality graphic than raster images. They can also offer superior color separation systems which makes them perfect when using for screen printing.

Vector images are created in vector software like: Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or Sketch. Often times people will take a regular raster image, open it and save it in a vector software, thinking that this makes it a usable vector image. This is not true and when opened by the artwork department, the image will still be a raster image. In order for images to be vector they have to be created or traced in vector software then saved in a format that saves the vector information, like a native software format (.ai, .cdr, .sketch), Encapsulated Postscript (.eps) or Portable Document Format which has embedded vector information! (.pdf).


If you still are not sure what type or quality image you have it is not a problem we are happy to assist you. Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding your artwork or just e-mail us your image and we can tell you what type and quality image you have.


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.

What is Digitizing for Embroidery?

What is Digitizing for Embroidery?
Image to digitized design

What is Digitizing for Embroidery?

By Pete Apo

Digital files these days are everywhere and most things are in digital form. So what is digitizing for embroidery mean? If you have ever gone to an embroidery shop chances are that the shop has spoke about “getting your logo digitized”. This is a specialized term in the embroidery industry.

Some people may think that digitizing has to do with saving your file in a digital format. Others conclude that digitizing must mean having artwork vectorized. This is far from the reality. Digitizing is a highly specialized trade. Without proper experience an embroidery project can easily look and perform badly. If you have ever experienced embroidery that waves or curls, is hard to read, or the design elements don’t line up, this is likely a result of faulty digitizing.

The word digitize implies that artwork is somehow automatically turned into stitches. This is far from true. Most digitizing is time consuming and requires specialized software and experience. Most logos need several types of different stitches incorporated to produce one great looking and performing design. Any professional embroidery shop will likely have on staff a highly experienced digitizer to create a quality embroidery file needed to run an embroidery machine.

So what is digitizing for embroidery? Well simply put it is the manual placement of stitches and machine commands for a computerized embroidery machine to follow. You need a digitized embroidery file to have any embroidery done.

multi head embroidery machine

Why is digitizing experience important?

Most digitizers have spent a significant amount of time learning from embroidery production. They have come to know how embroidery and stitches affect different garments. What type of stitches work and don’t work. How to create layered and complex stitch effects. As well as creating embroidery patterns with the least amount of stitches or embroidery machine stops. The best digitizers are people who have spent time running a production team or an embroidery machine themselves. Since there is no official schools to learn embroidery digitizing, this is the most effective way to learn how an embroidery machine runs and what stitch layouts the machine likes best.

The mind of a digitizer

Digitizers are special because they must be artistic but also stick to a very regimented list of do’s and do not’s for embroidery. Embroidery machines are computerized sewing machines often running at 800 to 1,200 stitches per minute, and production managers are looking for anyway they can to speed up production time. Digitizers must be aware of this and make designs with minimum color changes, stitch counts, thread trims and stops. They do this all while making a quality embroidered piece that will perform well. To do this effectively a digitizer must make a map or list of what parts of the artwork will sew first, second and so on. They will also need to know how big the final design will be and what type of material it will be going on. For instance the process that a machine must take to successfully sew on the front of a baseball cap vs. a left chest polo shirt is quite different.

quality digitizing equals quality embroidery

Below are the important things that are considered when digitizing artwork:

Underlay Stitches

Underlay stitches are the stitch pattern that is sewn first under the design and will help keep the garment from bunching or curling when worn or washed. Though these stitches are not seen in the final design, this stage is critically important to production of a great performing sew-out. Some inexperienced digitizers or shops looking to save a few seconds in production, will leave out this step, but the effects will be noticeable over time.

Pull Compensation

Pull compensation describes the additional length that is added to the stitches to compensate for the natural push and pull of garments when they are embroidered. The natural flow and movement of fabrics responding to the tightening of thread is one of the major learning curves when becoming a digitizer and creating clean embroidered products.

Stitch Types

Stitch types are the different ways the machine sews over a certain area and will determine the finished look of the embroidery. Knowing the area and using the correct stitch type to use is important and necessary. Using the wrong stitch type for an area and not knowing the embroidery machines limitations can result in entire areas missing stitches or results numerous thread breaks, slowing production time. These problems can result in unfinished, messy or frayed sew-outs that can unravel over time. The basic embroidery stitch types are Fill Stitches, Satin Stitches, Run Stitches and Manual Stitches. Each of these types of stitches are used for particular reasons and each of them are widely used in the industry.

the basic stich types for embroidery
Embroidery Size

Embroidery size is exactly what it says and is considered first before any stitch is ever digitized. Artwork that will be embroidered at a left chest size vs. for a full back size will have to be set up differently because the areas the stitches will have to cover and the overall allowed length for each stitch.

Different Fabric Types

The kind of fabric must also be considered when preparing an embroidery piece. For instance a piece of heavy vinyl cloth vs. a lightly knit cotton will respond to stitches much differently and can handle only a certain density of stitches correctly.

Number of Colors

The number of colors in the design are important as well because embroidery machines all have different capacity for the numbers of threads it can hold thus limiting the number of colors that a design can have. Typical commercial embroidery machines range from 6 – 15 needles on each head which determine how many separate spools or colors can be in any design.

Order of Embroidery

The order of the embroidery must be considered for digitizing. Like underlay, fill stitches, then a final satin stitch to make a finished embroidery sew-out look nice.

The Benefits of Quality Digitizing

Looks Great- The first indication that you have quality digitizing is that the finished embroidery looks great. Some credit will have to go to the production staff for choosing the correct backing and monitoring the embroidery process successfully. However, the majority of the results come from a quality digitized file.

Performs Great- When the correct stitch pattern, density and other factors are picked throughout the process of digitization. The results will be a finished embroidery product that will not curl, wave, twist or have pullout threads over time. It will lay flat and handle being washed repeatedly without negative effects.

Sized Perfectly- If your embroidery is sized correctly it will be easily readable but also not overwhelm the product space.  The correct size will be adequate to perform the task the design is meant to and bring an elevated look to the finished product.

The Results of Poor Digitizing

Unreadable- If the text of any design is not easily readable, the digitization has failed. Embroidery has limits to what can and can not be done successfully. Making lettering too small or using the wrong technique for small lettering is a common mistake for an inexperienced digitizer. Also lazy digitizers will often use a pre-programmed font to auto generate stitches which can sometimes be a problem to readability, especially for small text.

Curled, Wavy or Twisted- If your design experiences these common effects, the chances are that the wrong stitch density or underlay was used in the digitizing process. These factors could also be a result of the production worker using the wrong material backing, however, the majority of the time it has to do with choices made during digitization.

Oversized or Undersized Design- As stated earlier an undersized design is a common mistake and can make text unreadable, but also over sizing a design is a sign of inexperience. With a lack of digitization skills a digitizer will sometimes oversize a design or text so it will be readable. This happens most for Left Chest and Cap Front embroidery. A quality production shop will inform a customer well before the digitization is performed that size or placement might be an issue. You should never be surprised upon the pick-up of your items that certain elements of your logo are oversized or are not sized up proportionately.

Open Fill or Satin Stitches- When the fill or satin stitches of a design are open you can see through the stitches to the fabric underneath. This happens when using a low density of stitches for a certain area.

Bad embroidery result


Embroidery is a good print method when used appropriately and digitized correctly. Embroidery can increase the value of items and bring an upscale look to an item. It is also durable and long lasting. I hope this article has given you some basic understanding to this question: What is digitizing for embroidery. I hope that it will inform you better when making decisions about getting embroidery done. I also hope that it sheds some light on what it takes to produce quality embroidery items and prepare you on what questions should be asked when speaking to an embroidery shop.


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.

What is Vinyl Heat Transfer Printing? -The Basics.

What is Vinyl Heat Transfer Printing? -The Basics.
Peeling Heat Transfer Vinyl Print

What is Vinyl Heat Transfer Printing? -The Basics.

By Pete Apo

Heat transfer vinyl printing is one of the most cost-effective and simple ways to create custom-printed products. Most business owners intending to make printed t-shirts or other apparel will most likely start with this process. This method requires only a small investment to get started and requires less technical savvy than other printing methods.

While there are different variations of printing that call for a heat press to transfer images to products, like dye-sublimation printing, this article covers the heat transfer process using a single color vinyl material. Heat transfer vinyl printing, or HTV, uses vinyl polymer that comes on a roll or in flat sheets. It is usually a single color with an heat resistant backing. It can be heated with a heat press or iron. Heat transfer vinyl is cut, weeded and then heat pressed onto fabric.

In this article we will cover the basics of Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing including the printing process, general equipment needed, along with some helpful pros and cons of this printing method.

The Production Process

Although heat press vinyl can be cut by hand and applied by using an ordinary iron, this section will focus on heat transfer production printing found in many commercial print shops. The process starts with creating or converting artwork into vector format using vector software. Since heat press vinyl artwork is pressed onto fabric, it must be flipped on the horizontal axis, making it backwards when cut. The plotter or cutter cuts out the design on the vinyl. An electronic plotter will use a small knife guided by a computer using X and Y axis coordinates to cut complicated designs.

The next step is to remove the parts of the vinyl that are not part of the final design. This process is called “weeding.” With cut vinyl it is often tricky to discern which pieces must remain and which are to be weeded or taken out. Therefore it is critical to reference an image of the design you are weeding, which will help you to remove only the sections that will not be part of the final print. Once the vinyl is cut and weeded it can be positioned on the fabric.

Using the right temperature, pressure and duration of press is critical to the longevity of the print. So make sure that your heat press settings are following the specs given by the vinyl manufacturer. It is also important to note that different types of fabrics will require different temperature, pressure and time. Once you press the vinyl onto the fabric, you can remove the backing material. Depending on the vinyl specs this is either while the material is still hot or only after it has cooled. This is referred to as a “hot” vs. “cold” peel.

weeding heat transfer vinyl

Equipment Needed

The equipment that is needed for the basics of heat transfer vinyl printing are relatively inexpensive when compared to other commonly used printing methods. Only 4 major items are needed to print successfully with this method.

They are listed below:

Vector Software

When purchasing a plotter or cutter, the vendor usually supplies corresponding software capable of creating simple designs or at least turning regular raster images into cut-able designs. Initially it’s not necessary to purchase state-of-the-art vector software, like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, to begin making heat press designs. However if you want to expand in this industry it might be a good investment down the road, especially if you wish to create more complex designs. Most modern print shops use Illustrator or Corel Draw to import, re-size or create a design, then export the design to the plotter software, which reorients the file and sends it to the cutter.

Vinyl Plotter or Cutter

The plotter produces intricately cut designs on all different kinds of vinyl, not only on heat transfer vinyl but also on pressure sensitive vinyl used for sticker and decal production. Plotters come in various sizes with a range of functionality. Some are small desktop versions designed for the hobbyist, while other larger format stand-alone models are intended for medium and large scale production.

Consider the goal and scale of operation when choosing a plotter. The main focus should be on the size of prints you would like to produce. The crucial difference between cutters come down to print width, so decide on the maximum size you need your plotter to handle and make sure to do your research.

cutter or plotter for vinyl

Heat Press Machine

There are a huge variety of heat presses on the market, from manual to partly and fully automatic. The two items to be concerned about in a heat press are its temperature and pressure settings. Most machines will have these settings with built in adjustments. It is wise to check, before purchasing, that your machine is capable of performing the pressure and temperature settings that your vinyl specs demand.

If routine, large-scale production will be part of your operation, a timer with a release mechanism will prove essential. The timer automatically releases your press at a specified time, which prevents a garment from being over heated and possibly ruined. Conversely an automatic timer release will also prevent the press from being under heated which results in low print quality and an image that will peel off after a short period of time.

Heat Transfer Vinyl

A wide array of vinyl types are available for all kinds of applications and effects. A good rule of thumb is to purchase heat transfer vinyl standard stock rolls of basic colors for the application you are planning to specialize in. After you get basic colors in stock you can start exploring various other types of vinyl like:

  • Stretch vinyl for performance wear
  • Glitter heat transfer vinyl
  • Holographic and shiny heat transfer vinyl
  • Metallic heat transfer vinyl
  • Glow-in-the-dark heat transfer vinyl
  • Flock heat transfer vinyl
  • Shimmery and pearlescent heat transfer vinyl

Benefits of Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing

Relatively inexpensive compared with other forms of apparel printing like screen printing, embroidery, or dye-sublimation printing.

Low minimum quantities are required for most print shops. Typically, you will not be required to purchase a certain minimum quantity of items to place an order. For this reason heat transfer vinyl is widely used for applying names and numbers on team uniforms, where every jersey requires a separate print.

Quick turnaround time is possible for this type of printing because there is minimal setup time.

Cons of Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing

Print longevity is not as long as standard printing methods like screen printing, embroidery or dye-sublimation printing. Even when applied correctly and at the specified temperature, pressure and time, vinyl heat press will eventually crack and peel over time and with repeated washes.

Color limitations is a downside to heat transfer printing because the vinyl is typically applied one color at a time. It is possible to use heat press vinyl to apply multiple colors to a design by stacking several different layers of vinyl together, but this is not standard practice. Multi-layer application requires an experienced heat press technician, and even with the best execution these layers will add significant thickness and stiffness to the final print.

Large quantities are not recommended with this process, because the amount of cutting and weeding involved can be very time consuming and reduce your profit margin through labor costs. Screen printing is usually considered to be a better option for printing large quantities of the same design.


Beginners in the custom printing industry often use heat press as an easy foray into the business. It is relatively affordable, easy to set up, and in a short amount of time you have sell-able products. As a business grows however, other more versatile and reliable methods of printing should be incorporated into a print shop’s production. Most successful print shops have the capacity to produce heat transfer vinyl items and will pair this method with other forms of printing, like screen printing, embroidery or dye sublimation printing.

For instance, a local high school baseball team may request 24 sweatshirts with their team logo on the front, along with each player’s name and number on the back. The shop owner will most likely suggest screen printing the front of the sweatshirt, then adding the individually cut and heat pressed names and numbers on the back. Heat transfer printing lends itself well to one-off prints or items that require a lot of individual customization, but is not typically used for large-scale garment printing.

Vinyl Heat Tranfer on Jersey and Team Uniforms


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.