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Screenprinting vs. Heat Press Transfers: Choosing the Right Fit for Your Branded Apparel
March 21, 2024

Screenprinting vs. Heat Press Transfers: Choosing the Right Fit for Your Branded Apparel

When customizing apparel, screenprinting and heat press techniques are two popular choices to add designs to your t-shirt, tote bag, dad cap, or other gear. Each offers unique benefits, making the best option dependent on your specific project needs. Need help to determine if your apparel decor needs screenprinting vs. heat press? Let’s break them down!


Employee screen printing a drawstring bag.

Screenprinting provides a classic look and feel. Ink is pressed through a mesh stencil directly onto the fabric, creating a design that becomes integrated with the garment. 


  • The Look: A different screen is created for every color in your design. This ensures that your finished product looks as bright and crisp as you imagined.  
  • Ideal For: Large-scale orders (Tactive’s minimum is 12 pieces), designs with less than 12 colors, and apparel that needs to withstand frequent washing and wear. 
  • Cost Factor: Screenprinting becomes increasingly cost-effective as order quantities go up – so screen printing is usually the way to go if you have a lot of shirts to print. 


Heat Press Transfers

Tactive employee using a heat press during a Tactive event.

Heat press transfer techniques offer exceptional detail and adaptability – and have come a long way since the “iron-on” designs of yesteryear. Today’s transfers are made with durable, quality materials that can be almost indistinguishable from screenprint design. 


  • The Look: A pre-printed design is applied to fabric using a combination of heat, pressure, and time with a professional press, resulting in a vibrant transfer. 
  • Ideal For: Intricate designs with many colors, small order quantities (Tactive’s minimum is as little as 1!), personalized items, and customization for a diverse range of products. 
  • Variety: Heat pressing offers a wide range of unique finishing options that may not be possible with screen print ink – even patches and emblems with embroidery, foil, or leather effects.  

So… Which to Choose?

Screen Print vs. Heat Press techniques and order requirements.

Consider these factors when deciding: 


  • Design: Simple designs often excel with screen printing; intricate logos or photo-realistic designs might call for heat press. 
  • Order Size: Large orders favor screen printing’s cost-efficiency; smaller orders are where heat press shines. 
  • Fabric: Most fabrics work well with both, but specialized materials might be better suited to one method – for example, synthetic materials can pucker or melt under a heat press. 

Still weighing your options? Let our experts guide you! Contact us to explore the best techniques to make your branded apparel stand out.