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What's the difference between t-shirt embroidery and printing?

T-shirt embroidery and t-shirt printing are two different methods of adding decorative or functional designs to t-shirts. While both methods involve applying a design or image to a t-shirt, they use different techniques and produce different results. 

t-shirt embroidery

T-shirt embroidery is a process that involves adding decorative or functional designs to a t-shirt using an embroidery machine. This machine uses a special needle and thread to create a stitched design on the t-shirt, following a predetermined pattern that has been programmed into the machine. The process of t-shirt embroidery begins with the creation of a design. This design can be created using various methods, such as drawing it by hand, using a computer program, or using a template or pre-designed image. 

Once the design has been created, it is typically digitised, which means it is converted into a format readable by the embroidery machine. This process involves breaking the design down into a series of stitches, with each stitch being assigned a specific colour and placement on the t-shirt. After the design has been digitised, it is loaded into the embroidery machine, which reads the design and follows it as it sews the thread into the fabric. Finally, the t-shirt is placed under the machine, and the machine moves the fabric and the needle to create the desired pattern. Depending on the complexity of the design, the process of embroidering a t-shirt can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. 

T-shirt embroidery is often used to add a company logo or other branding to t-shirts, but it can also be used to add decorative elements or personalisation to t-shirts for individual use. T-shirt embroidery can be done on various fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and blends. It is a popular choice for custom t-shirts because they are durable and long-lasting, and they can be used to create a wide range of designs and fabrics.


Screen printing is a popular t-shirt printing method because it is relatively inexpensive and can produce high-quality prints in large quantities. The process begins with the creation of a screen, which is a mesh screen that has been coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. The design that is to be printed onto the t-shirt is then transferred onto the screen, and the screen is washed with water to remove the emulsion from the areas where the design was not transferred. This leaves a stencil of the design on the screen, which is then used to print the design onto the t-shirt.

To print the design onto the t-shirt, the screen is placed over the t-shirt and ink is applied to the screen. The ink is then pushed through the screen and onto the t-shirt using a squeegee. This screen is moved over the entire t-shirt to ensure the design is printed evenly and completely. After the design has been printed, the t-shirt is typically placed in a dryer to set the ink and make it more permanent.

DIGITAL PRINTING: Digital printing is a popular t-shirt printing method and is often used for small quantities or for printing complex designs that are difficult to produce using screen printing. Digital printing uses a digital printer and special ink to print the design directly onto the t-shirt. This method is faster and more flexible than screen printing, but it is generally more expensive, and the prints are not as durable as those produced using screen printing. 

SUBLIMATION PRINTING: Sublimation printing is another method of t-shirt printing that involves printing a design onto a special transfer paper using a digital printer and special ink. The transfer paper is then placed onto the t-shirt and heated using a heat press. The heat causes the ink on the transfer paper to turn into a gas, which penetrates the fibres of the t-shirt and bonds with them to create a print. Sublimation printing is often used for printing full-colour designs or photographs onto t-shirts, producing highly detailed and vibrant prints. 


There are four main differences between t-shirt printing and embroidery:



T-shirt printing involves applying a design or image to the t-shirt using various methods, such as screen printing, digital printing, heat transfer printing, or sublimation printing. On the other hand, embroidery involves using a special machine that sews the design onto the t-shirt using a needle and thread.



T-shirt printing is generally less durable than embroidery, as the design is applied to the surface of the t-shirt rather than being sewn directly onto the fabric. This means the design is more prone to fading or peeling over time. Embroidery, on the other hand, is a relatively permanent process, as the design is sewn directly onto the fabric of the t-shirt.



T-shirt printing can be used to create a wide range of designs and effects, including full-colour images and photographs. However, the level of detail and vibrancy of the print may depend on the method of printing used. On the other hand, embroidery is generally limited to designs that can be created using a single colour of thread.



T-shirt printing is generally less expensive than embroidery, especially for large quantities. That being said, the cost of t-shirt printing can vary depending on the method used and the complexity of the design. Embroidery is generally more expensive, especially for small quantities or designs that are highly detailed or require multiple colours of thread.

As you can see, embroidery and printing are two very different methods of applying designs to t-shirts. Which one you choose depends on a number of factors, from budget to durability requirements. No matter which one you choose, it's important you choose a high-quality service with good reviews to ensure that you get the best result possible.