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How long does t-shirt printing take?

Getting t-shirts printed can be a great way for businesses to market their brand, or simply a lovely way of commemorating an event or special moment. Whether you're giving out t-shirts at a gig, want to have some branded garments for a trade show or just need a new staff uniform, they can be a fun way of engaging your target audience. However, t-shirt printing is a little more complex than just printing off some flyers. As a result, it's important to be aware of the time considerations, so that you can properly plan it into your overall process.

what is t-shirt printing?

First of all, what does t-shirt printing actually consist of? T-shirt printing is a great way of personalising clothing items - it involves printing a design onto a t-shirt, using one of several different techniques. There is a wide range of different techniques available, including screen printing, direct-to-garment printing, heat transfer printing, and dye sublimation. The time it takes to print a t-shirt depends on a variety of different factors, including the printing technique you choose, the complexity of the design, the number of t-shirts that need to be printed, and the printing company's turnaround time.



You've probably heard of screen printing - it's one of the most commonly used t-shirt printing techniques and can be done on either a small scale at home or using advanced techniques in a factory. The process consists of creating a stencil (called a screen) that's then used to transfer the design onto the base - in this case, a t-shirt.

Screen printing is ideal for larger orders and simpler designs without too many different colours. The process usually takes around 5-7 business days, although this is a rough estimate - it can vary depending on the printer's workload, the number of colours you use in the design, and how long it takes for the printers to get your t-shirts.



Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a more modern, technologically advanced method of printing that uses digital printers, allowing for more complex designs and full-colour prints. It involves using a specialised printer to transfer images directly onto the fabric without making stencils first.

As there's no initial setup needed and because it uses tiny inkjets with access to multiple colours, DTG printing is ideal for smaller orders and designs with various colours. The entire process is also quicker than screen printing - it usually takes around 3-7 business days. However, it's important to note that this can vary depending on the printer's workload and other logistics-related considerations.



Next up, heat transfer printing is a method that consists of two simple steps - placing the design onto transfer paper and then transferring the image onto the t-shirt using a combination of heat and pressure.

While it's not great for larger orders, heat transfer printing can be ideal for smaller orders and designs with certain unique colour schemes. The whole heat transfer printing process can take around 3-8 business days. Although, again, this will vary significantly depending on how many orders the company has to fulfil and how many t-shirts you need to have printed.



Lastly, dye sublimation is a t-shirt printing method that involves transferring the design onto a special paper using pressure and heat and then transferring the image onto the t-shirt using a heat press.

Dye sublimation is a great solution for printing designs onto polyester or synthetic fabric t-shirts. The process usually takes around 4-7 business days, with the exact timeline depending on other factors that we'll go into more detail about below.

other factors to consider

In addition to the printing method you use, there are several other factors that will affect how long it takes to get your t-shirts printed.

Design complexity - First, the complexity of the design is a factor that will have an impact on the printing time. Typically, simple designs with fewer colours can be printed more quickly, while more complex designs with multiple colours can require additional time to print. That being said, this will be a less significant factor with DTG printing than will be with other techniques. What's more, designs that require multiple print locations, such as the front and back of the t-shirt, or the sleeves, may also take longer to print, as each t-shirt will need to be printed on multiple times.

The size of the order - Secondly, the number of t-shirts to be printed will be a significant factor in determining the time it takes to complete the printing run. Larger orders will almost always take more time to print, as each t-shirt must be printed individually. Printers will tend to offer bulk discounts for larger orders, but the printing time may be longer than it would be for smaller orders unless you pay an express fee.

Provider-specific factors - Finally, your chosen printing company's turnaround time will ultimately be what determine how long it takes to get your t-shirts finished. If you're in a hurry, doing some last-minute marketing prep, then some printers offer quicker services for an additional fee, which can expedite the printing process. However, rush services may not be available for all printing techniques and providers, and they may not always be able to accommodate urgent orders - try to get your order in early so that, ultimately, it doesn't matter whether it takes 3 days or 10 days.

Clearly, there's no set answer to how long it takes to get a set of t-shirts printed - the time it takes will depend on a wide range of different factors, including the printing technique that you decide is best for your purposes, the complexity of the design you're getting printed, the number of t-shirts that you need, and the printing company that you choose. It's important to consider all of these factors when placing an order and to get your order placed in good time, to ensure that the t-shirts are printed well in advance of when you need them, whether for an event or a grand opening of a new shop.