The Difference Between Silk-Screen, Embroidery, and Heat Transfer

31st Aug 2020 Digital Printing

Printed apparel is the most popular way of promoting a particular brand. It is the method brands are using to turn their loyal fan base into moving billboards. But that is not all imprints are for; you can also customize your apparel for a unique look. For transferring images into the fabric, you have a choice of three methods, Heat-Transfer, Silk-Screening, and Embroidery.

Heat Transfer Vs. Screen-Printing Vs. Embroidery

Heat transfer is the latest evolution of the imprinting technology where a combination of pressure and heat is used to transfer images onto fabric. On the other hand, Silk-Screening uses novelty inks and screens to print images on fabrics, and the art goes back to around 960 A.D, but the present emulsion technique was only discovered in the early 1900s. Embroidery, on the other hand, involves stitching designs on fabric. So, which method should you choose?


Silk-Screening involves cutting a screen to create a stencil for a particular design through which the ink passes to the shirt. This means one screen for each color.

The method works well on promotional apparel, resulting in more durable designs than Heat Transfer imprints. It also allows the use of vibrant colors, including those that glow in the dark.

Silk-Screening is, however, expensive for small orders given it requires multiple screens per design and a lot of stencil preparations.

Heat Transfer

Heat transfer is increasingly becoming the method of choice, especially for images featuring intricate designs and multiple colors. It can be done digitally or using vinyl heat transfer. Both options are Eco-friendly and result in clean, high-quality imprints. It is suitable for use on different types of fabrics, including sportswear jerseys.

The disadvantage, though, is the imprint doesn’t last as long as the one made through silk-screening. Plus, the digital way requires a special printer, ink, and high-quality paper, while Vinyl requires cutting individual designs from colored Vinyl, which may be time-consuming.


Embroidery is the best method of choice for putting images and promotional messages on high-end fabrics, including company uniforms, polos, bags, luggage, and other employee-sponsored apparel.

It involves hand-stitching the design onto the fabric. A machine may also be used in case a fine handiwork is not the priority. The design can be digitized and quickly reproduced by the machine on many items.

Embroidery prints are costly, of course. If you want excellent handiwork, better be prepared to dish out more. It’s surely also going to take a lot of time to replicate the same handiwork on a large bundle of fabrics. There’s also the difficulty in reproducing designs exactly -shades and text size might not be as desired. Still, you can always go for the machine option.

For further help with your apparel imprinting needs in Murrieta or Temecula, contact T & D Designs to find out what we can do for you.