Custom T-Shirts: Screen Printing or Embroidery?


Whether you’re creating merchandise for your pop-up store, a giveaway for your nonprofit’s 5K, or new uniforms for your service business’s staff, you’ve got some great options — and tough choices — before you. If you’re currently stuck on the choice between screen-printed t-shirts or embroidered shirts, Grandline Graphics has some tips to make the choice easier.

Embroidered T-Shirts

How Embroidery Works

Rather than using ink to print a design, embroidery sews it directly onto the fabric using a special embroidery machine and embroidery floss of varying colors and weights. This process imparts a somewhat embossed look to the final design.

What Embroidery is Good For

Our custom embroidery services work best with heavier-duty fabrics, including jacquard knits, twills, canvas, and denim. Jersey knits (the type commonly used for t-shirts) may take on a bit of a pulled or puckered look, especially in the area that’s been embroidered, and even more so after a few wash and dry cycles. However, embroidery is great for polos, fleece, and the like.

Screen Printed T-Shirts

How Screen Printing Works

Screen printing works much the same way as a stencil. There are parts of the press that allow inks to pass through to the fabric beneath. The range of colors available is practically infinite, and the designs available are limited only by your imagination, from simple lettering to detailed photos.

What Screen Printing is Good For

Unlike embroidery, screen printing tends not to interfere with the fabric to which it’s applied. In fact, it works extremely well on thinner or more breathable fabrics where embroidery might not be suitable. It’s also a great candidate for large designs that cover nearly a complete side of a garment.

Other Considerations

There’s one other consideration that may tip your decision in one direction or the other: how your new designs fit into the grand scheme of things. If you’re already using screen printing heavily — after all, it’s not just for t-shirts, but also for a range of products that includes everything from hoodies to water bottles and vehicle wraps — then sticking to the same process for your next run of custom t-shirts makes sense. On the other hand, embroidery can provide a nice bit of contrast, especially if you have a higher tier of merchandise that calls for a touch of class.

Which is Better?

T-shirts occasionally come labeled “one size fits all,” but we all know that isn’t true. There’s no true one size fits all option when it comes to choosing between screen printing or embroidery. Some projects will clearly call for one option or the other, while others may need a mix of both types.

While the choice of decorating process may be a difficult one, the choice of a vendor isn’t. Grandline Graphics in Vancouver, WA routinely handles both with our unique mix of creativity, quality, and speed. For help with your custom t-shirt challenges, request a quote today. We’ll tailor the right solution in a right-sized production run.