It's the Outside That Counts
Screen printing may be the standard decorating process for promotional apparel, but it's not without its downsides. Namely, it can result in feel problems similar to those found in embroidered apparel—especially when dealing with larger or more intricate logos that require lots of ink.
With direct-to-garment printing, that's no longer an issue. "What I'm seeing from most of the decoration techniques is a lot of people are moving to direct-to-garment printing, where you're not screen printing but you're using an ink that you really can't feel on the shirt," said Paul Kory, vice president of sales for Dyenomite Apparel, Hilliard, Ohio. "So it's almost like there's no hand, as opposed to the scratch and itch or the weight you'd feel with a plastisol ink."
"You can do front and back, you can do it on the sleeve—pretty much anywhere," he added. "And it doesn't have any weight to it, so it's very soft. It never wears out. It'll last the life of the shirt."
Mitchell Lombard, president of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Atlas Embroidery & Screen Printing, pointed to shorter runs as direct-to-garment's biggest advantage. "You could do one piece of something that's got 200 colors, where traditional screen printing wouldn't be able to do it and the smaller customers for distributors have been told 'no,'" Lombard said.
There is no golden rule of apparel decoration—anything goes, as long as it looks good—but the closest thing to one may be this: the shinier, the better. "Another technique that's becoming more and more popular is that bedazzled look where they're putting sequins or other types of jewels on a shirt to give it that flashy appearance," noted Kory.
"We're seeing a lot of that, especially on some of our shirts that are called an ombré or a dip dye, where it starts off darker at the bottom and then the color graduates lighter at the top," he continued. "People are doing sequins or little rubies or things like that [which] give it a high-dollar-value look where the price doesn't really come out to all that much, because that process is relatively inexpensive."