The Pros and Cons of Screen Printing and Sublimation Printing

Screen printing and sublimation printing are two popular choices when it comes to printing on t-shirts and other fabrics, but there are important differences between them.

In this article, we’ll look at the similarities and differences of these two methods of print to help you decide which is the best fit for your needs. We’ll also look at some of their common applications as well as some points you should consider before making any decisions about which method to use.


As an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for every facet of your business. One thing that takes up a lot of time is clothing production—which is why it’s a good idea to educate yourself on how to produce custom t-shirts (and other items).

There are two main methods for printing t-shirts: screen printing and sublimation. They both have their pros and cons, so let’s take a look at each technique. Below, we’ll walk through

What is the difference between screen printing and sublimation?

If you have done any research into custom printed t-shirts , you have probably heard these two terms. But what exactly does screen printing and sublimation printing mean? What are their differences? And which one is best for your business? Here is a list of pros, cons, uses, costs, and more to help you figure out which option works best for your project.

As with most types of printing, there are many different options available in both screen printing and sublimation printing. This guide will focus on standard ink colors as well as digital options that most online shops offer. It will not discuss things like plastisol or water-based inks or certain specialty products such as glitter or metallic ink (though some companies do offer those options).

You can check with your supplier to see if they can accommodate those types of requests but it’s rare that you would find them from an online shop like Print Aura . We’ll also discuss shirt type options since they play a role in deciding which method would be best for your order.

What are their main differences?

Both sublimation and screen printing are methods for imprinting designs onto shirts, bags, or other textiles. However, these methods differ in several ways. In general, screen printing is less expensive but has a smaller selection of colors available to print in; sublimating has a much larger color selection but is more expensive per design.

Also, while screen-printing can be printed as an order comes in (demand-based), sublimation must be done on demand and usually requires a longer lead time than screen printing.

Screen printing

The process of screen printing is used to print designs onto a product. Designs are created on a screen, which is made from a fine mesh stretched across frames. The screen is coated with a light-sensitive material that allows ink to be blocked out by exposing it to sunlight or some other form of ultraviolet light.

Ink is then pushed through to leave an image behind on items such as t-shirts and hats, for example. An advantage of screen printing over other techniques, like dye sublimation, is that colors can often be more intense than in other techniques.

A disadvantage may be that images will have less detail than with other methods such as digital printing technology or color sublimation.

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Sublimation printing

This process involves using a special kind of ink that sublimes, or turns from a solid to a gas, when heat is applied. A transfer mechanism then presses an image onto fabric while heating it. The result: vibrant colors with very little bleeding or fading over time (depending on how well you follow washing instructions).

Sublimation printing looks best on darker fabrics such as t-shirts and jackets. The major downside is that it can be more expensive than screen printing for larger orders, due to higher setup costs.

Sublimation printing


  • Turnaround Time: Typically, sublimation items are printed much faster than screen-printed options because they don’t have to go through a drying process; however, even with fast turnaround times, some t-shirt printers may not be able to turn out your order as quickly as you would like if you need a large quantity printed. Be sure to ask about printing speeds before ordering so you can make an informed decision.
  • 2. Customer Service: It goes without saying that service is always key when it comes to shopping online. If possible, try dealing with someone directly by calling or emailing to ensure that your questions are answered in a timely manner. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of their work before you buy! You should also find out how quickly they can deliver on their product – after all, you don’t want to wait weeks for an order only to find out later that it was made incorrectly. For example, if you order 1000 custom pens at $1 per pen and then decide you want them delivered in
  • 3 days instead of 6 months, there’s no harm done (except maybe some extra costs). The turnaround time will vary depending on what kind of product you’re ordering but most vendors will be able to give you a fairly


  • Not all substrates can be printed on with screen printing.
  • 2. Inks are not as durable as sublimation inks, so they will not last as long (especially on dark garments).

Screen Printing: Uses stencils to create a design

Is most often used for short run printing (when small batches are being made) on items like t-shirts and other garments. The process involves using a squeegee to push ink through a mesh screen onto a substrate that has been prepared with an emulsion that bonds to fabric.

Once applied, heat is then applied by means of an iron or blow dryer. However, if you want vibrant colors with durability, then screen printing is what you should use. The downside is that it can be more expensive than some other methods because of its high setup cost ($100-$2,000).

And if your design isn’t just right, you have to start all over again as opposed to trying something different digitally as opposed to using another type of technology.

Why Sublimation Printing is Better Than Screen Printing

The primary benefit to sublimation printing is that it offers better detail, more vibrant colors and a longer-lasting print. Because you’re exposing ink to heat, rather than simply applying it to a surface, you are also able to print on nonporous surfaces.

(You can’t put silk-screen ink onto ceramics or metal.) Sublimation printing also allows for curved surfaces; screen printing is limited to flat objects. Both processes have limitations when it comes to fine details—so if you’re looking for intricate designs, sublimating is your best option.

Finally, sublimated pieces tend not to wrinkle as much as screen-printed ones do in harsh conditions like wind and rain.


There is no clear answer for which type of printing you should choose for your company. The two are different, which means they will be suitable for different uses. Depending on your project, one may be a better choice than another. However, if you aren’t sure what print option will work best for your business or product, we recommend beginning with screen printing.

This method is less expensive and will allow you to experiment before investing in a more permanent option like sublimation printing.

Last Updated on October 24, 2022

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Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith is an editor and author for Printerchief, specializing in creating informative content on the topics of office printing and paper processing technology. When he is not working, he enjoys exploring the great outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, along with activities like hiking, cycling, fishing, and reading. Additionally, Andrew loves working on various projects for his home and garden to keep himself busy and continue learning new skills.


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