Custom-Printed T-Shirts: How to Know What You Need

Have you ever walked into a store and been overwhelmed by options? I recently painted my child’s bedroom and although I consider myself pretty confident and artistic, when I got to the paint section of my local hardware store, I realized: I was in over my head. 

Did I need gloss?
High gloss?
Why ARE there so many types of paint?
And what the heck is eggshell anyway? 

It’s frustrating to have so many questions about a process that should be fairly straightforward. If this is your first time ordering custom-printed t-shirts, you’re probably feeling some type of way.


Do you need screen printing?
Heat pressed vinyl transfers?
Why ARE there so many kinds of printing?
And what the heck is sublimation anyway?

Let us help you with this handy-dandy primer of printing terms to help you get started on your journey.

Screen Printing

This is what we mainly do at Turn90. Ink is pushed through a screen and cured on a garment so it binds to the fabric. A wide variety of fabrics work well for screen printing. From cotton to polyester to blends in between, the only thing we can’t print is layers of fabric (i.e. an insulated coat). Graphics can be bright and colorful, though the more colors required can make printing more expensive, as each color gets its own screen. Every garment is hand-printed, inspected, tagged, and folded for clients across the country.


If you can print an image on paper, you can print it on a shirt via sublimation. However, with this process you can only print on polyester, which limits the scope of the kind of garment or branded merchandise you can create.

Direct to Garment (DTG)

Similar to sublimation, DTG can print detailed images on a garment. You can print on any type of fabric, but it must be chemically treated or otherwise prepared for printing ahead of time. 

Heat transfer

To this day, I can’t smell our heat press without remembering my days visiting the Jersey Shore in the early 1990s, when decals on t-shirts were all the rage. Heat transfers can be as detailed as a photograph and are transferred onto a garment through heat like an iron or a press. While fun and easy, they can feel a bit like you’re wearing a sticker. We can do this for you at Turn90. No problem!

So what type of printing do you need? You just need to ask a few simple questions, and compare your answers to the above definitions.

  • What type of fabric are you printing on?
  • How detailed is your graphic?
  • Do you want your graphic to feel like a sticker, or be more breathable and flexible?

And here’s the best part: Turn90 is here to help! Request a quote, give Maura a call at 843.297.4980 x713 or email her at to get expert advice for all your branded merchandise needs.