Screen Printing Options for Custom-Designed T-Shirts

Source: bcprinthouse

Everybody likes to get a t-shirt when they go somewhere. It’s fun. Everyone has it, and its somewhat cool. But when you are going to make your own T-shirt, the options can throw you off. You walk in and say I want a shirt printed, and then the menu of the different styles of printing makes you want to walk out.

That’s pretty much how I feel at Starbucks. I want a coffee, and I have no idea what all the options even mean. Even the way they do the sizes doesn’t make sense, but I digress.

If you can navigate through those different printing options, you can make some really cool stuff. People always enjoy it, and we even have the phrase, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.”

Years ago, there was a massive flood in Houston, and I remember a group made T-shirts and were helping with the recovery. Though I was helping with healing as well, I couldn’t stop asking people where they got the shirts and how I could get one. It’s silly, I realize, but it’s true, and if I thought about it, no doubt other people did as well.

Here is a quick breakdown of the different printing options that you have. But first:

What is a screen print anyway?

Source: lotsaprinting

Screen printing is a cool way of putting ink through a stencil directly onto a t-shirt so that the ink lies on top of the shirt instead of actually having the shirt’s fibers soak up the ink. Shirts are done one at a time. The shirt is laid out, and then the stencil is placed over the shirt. On top of the stencil is a layer of ink that gets brushed through the stencil onto the shirt. It’s pretty fun. (image needed)

So now that you know what screen printing is, here are the options:

Not in any specific order.

1. Spot Color

This is the most common printing type. The way this one works is that one specific color is put directly on the shirt. So if you have T-shirts that just need to say a couple of words such as a yellow shirt and you want black ink to stand out, then our stencil is made of the words, and then the ink is put on top it just shows the words. Pretty straightforward. Spot color can have one or two colors, but that’s really about it. Anything over two colors and you’re getting into a different style of print such as Simulated Process.

Source: coreldraw

2. Simulated Process

If you have a sophisticated design that can’t be produced by just one color or two, then what you need is a Simulated Process. Halftone dots are used to create photo-realistic images. What is really happening is a blend of Spot Color printing. If you think about the Spot Color process, image numerous stencils with different colors in order to achieve the artwork. These can work great on light-colored shirts or even dark colored shirts.


When it comes to printing, CMYK, which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (yes, I realize black is spelled with a B), is where a full photograph is broken down into the four colors. By blending these four colors, every possible color variation can be made. There’s really nothing that can’t be printed because when it’s broken down to CMYK, all possible colors are available. This style works best on white shirts.

4. Specialty Inks

I include Specialty Inks as an option, but really these are inks that have glitter attached, gels or metallic inks, etc.… They make the shirts stand out a lot more, but its really the Sport Color or Simulated Process or printing. These are pre-fabricated inks, and most print companies have numerous kinds.

Source: rushordertees

5. Embroidery

Since embroidery has to do with putting artwork on clothing, I include it. Embroidery is when you stitch something onto a garment with thread. These are pretty common for hats and for polo shirts, but aside from that, you don’t see embroidery too much on clothing. Since embroidery is stitched, it’s not like printing in any way as far as what design it can have. If you get into a super complex, it won’t always work because stitching layers thread on top of itself. So stitching complex designs wouldn’t be something people would want even if the machines can do it.

A small comment on graphic design

Source: digitalartsonline

You can pick the best print style that’s cost-effective that you like, but if you don’t have a good design, then no matter what, it’s not going to look great. Some companies want you to upload your design or turn in your design, but if it’s a graphic artist who does not check, it could look really bad. Some designers charge a lot for their designs, and some don’t charge anything for designers to come up with a killer design.

For an incredible gallery of what the possibilities could be for custom screen prints, check out the gallery at Texas Ink in Houston. They do all the graphic design and the printing in the house for their clients.

There are numerous ways you can get custom shirts by doing it online or going into a store, but either way, the options mentioned above are pretty much the same options everyone has.

In this article, we are mainly talking about T-shirts, but it could be any style of apparel from Dri-Fit clothing to polos, sweatshirts, pajamas, and the idea.

Source: lynda

Wrapping it Up

So it’s up to you, but who doesn’t love a T-shirt? For your next family outing, or the next get-together, or business trip, consider getting some custom printed shirts or even hats that will make it memorable and fun. The price for one color Spot printed T-shirts is not that much, but their excitement is well worth it.