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SPEAKING PROMO – VOLUME 3: Apparel Decoration

The range of apparel options you can choose from to promote your brand continues to grow like crazy, and with that, it’s no surprise that advancements in the decoration methods we have to offer isn’t far behind.  

If you haven’t read our last blog giving you a crash course on apparel, jump to SPEAKING PROMO – VOLUME 2: ALL ABOUT APPAREL and then come right back, because now we’re going to give you a crash course on to amplify your brand on said apparel.  Your goal when branding all apparel should always be to create a positive impact for maximum longevity. Essentially, anyone wearing any type of apparel with your name on it is a walking billboard for your brand, and you don’t want your brand running around out there looking like it’s anything less than super duper fly.  From the tried-and-true decorating methods to the trendy and up-and-coming, here’s a deeper dive into the many awesome ways we can take your branded apparel to the next level. 


DIRECT-TO-GARMENT (DTG) – DTG printing means exactly what it says – the process of printing directly on the garment. The process is similar to the way a piece of paper is printed through an inkjet printer, where the garment is laid on a pallet, the pallet is then fed into the printer, and the inks being used are sprayed directly onto the garment to reproduce the image.  This printing method is typically only used on tee shirts and sweatshirts, and is the most effective on white and light colored garments. While we’re seeing it done on dark garments more and more as the technology in our industry continues to evolve, we tend to learn more towards the OG ways of DTG printing, and with this, printing on white is the way you really want to go.  *DTG is a very cost effective way to print lower quantities, so please note we will typically have a quantity maximum (usually around 72 pieces) rather than having a quantity minimum, as most promotional products have. 


EMBOSSING – A decorating method used primarily when printing on paper, leather or suede, embossing is the process of literally stamping an image on the product so the image rises above the surface of said product.


EMBROIDERY – Not your mom’s embroidery that was done on a small machine to hand sew your childhood Halloween costumes (thanks, Mom).  Embroidery in our world is the process of sewing a logo into a garment on an industrial, high speed, computer controlled kind of sewing machine.  Embroidery machines can run up to 56 pieces at once, depending on the machine, and is historically the most common decorating method next to screen printing.  


FOUR-COLOR PROCESS – We touched on this very briefly in a previous blog, so if you haven’t already checked out SPEAKING PROMO VOLUME 1, stop what you’re doing and go to https://brand-on.us/speaking-promo-volume-1/ and then come right back!  To elaborate further on this printing method, Four-Color Process is the reproduction of full-color artwork through the combination of four process ink colors – magenta (red), cyan (blue), yellow and black – in specific intensities. Each color is separated into their individual color plates so that when printed, they produce a full-color illustration. The same four colors are used for every job, every time, regardless of the final color(s) desired outcome.  Mind blown? Yeah. Us too.  


HALFTONE – The technical definition of a halftone is the reprographic technique that simulates continuous-tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size or in spacing, thus generating a gradient-like effect.  Translation? An awesome way to (depending on the artwork) use only one color and one screen (we’ll get to that) to create shading and gradients, enhancing your logo while keeping production costs down.  


HEAT TRANSFER – Screen printing on paper that is then manually transferred to the garment, one by one, using a press that combines heat and pressure, which varies depending on the material of the garment.  Heat transfers actually allow the ink to sink into the fibers of the shirt where in traditional screen printing, the ink lays on top of the shirt. The best part about using heat transfers? While you’re still paying for the imprint size and number of colors used, you’re not hit with a setup charge for each color like you are with screen printing (and trust us, we hate charging you those annoying charges as much as you hate us charging you those annoying charges).


LASER ETCHING – When used on apparel, we use a laser (hence the name Laser Etching) to actually burn the design into the fabric of the garment.  This permanently alters the fabric, which not only makes it look cool, but there’s no way for the decoration to come off with the wears and tears of life or washing. This decoration method is still fairly new to our industry, but is definitely on the rise.  It’s typically done with (but not limited to) larger imprints, and usually on fleece and outerwear. Talk about one heck of a way to make your brand stand out in a crowd. 


REVERSE APPLIQUE –  Similar to the above, this process also uses a laser machine to decorate, but totally takes it to the next level.  The laser burns the top layer of the garment to reveal the underneath fabric. Typically the exposed fabric is a different color or pattern to highlight the design (apparel selection is key when using Reverse Applique) and quite simply is one of the coolest decorating methods out there.  The burned layer can be cut to create a vintage look with purposeful tears and other limitless options; Just in case your mom needs to ask you why in the world you’re buying more than just ripped jeans at full retail price.  


SUBLIMATION –  This is when the design is transferred to the garment by a fancy machine that uses heat and pressure that causes the inks to turn into a gas so that they penetrate the fabric, literally embedding itself into the grains of said fabric to create a very, very permanent imprint. Sublimation is sometimes confused with DTG printing, but the chemistry of the two processes is actually quite different, as sublimation relies on molecular bonding, while DTG relies on surface adhesion.  This might be more than you wanted to know, but hey, the more you know, right?


SCREEN PRINTING –  A method in which an image is transferred to the surface of a garment, usually tee shirts or sweatshirts, to be printed by using ink that is squeezed on a screen by a squeegee through a stenciled screen stretched over a frame. Basically, this is more often than not going to be the decorating method you see on at least 90% of the printed tee shirts and sweatshirts you see in your day to day. 


Stay tuned for more of our education series, where we’ll take deep dives into the various art files and coloring systems mentioned, as well as decorating methods, apparel fabrics, and so much more as our capabilities to amplify your image continue to evolve. 

For more ideas on how we can help you amplify your image, go to brand-on.us/contact-us/ where you can also subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest on sales, product releases, industry news and more.  Don’t forget to follow us on instagram using the handle @brand_on.life – all the cool kids are doing it.