The ins and outs of garment decoration.

What makes an article of clothing stand out from the crowd? It might be color, it might be fit. More likely it’s cool decoration. But there are so many types to choose from, what’s what? And what’s best for your t-shirts? Here’s a primer guide for everything you need to know:

Screen printing

Screen printing, as the name might suggest, is printing by passing ink through a mesh screen to which a stencil has been applied. One of the earliest methods of printing, it’s incredibly common and is used on lots of products you see every day.  It’s ideal for large orders and allows the use of special effects like metallic, glow in the dark or neon colors. A versatile technique, it is less effective on polyester and only works on flat items.


Embroidery uses different colored threads and/or decorative stitches to create a design on fabric. Made with a needle and thread, it can be done by hand or by machine. Ideal for ball caps and great for polo shirts, it doesn’t allow for tiny details and shading is difficult. It also requires a thicker garment to avoid damage.

Digital printing

Digital printing uses a computer to spray liquid ink in a controlled manner. It needs only one step to provide a full-range of colors and is ideal for multicolor designs. Offering a softer hand feel than other decoration options, its drawback is that it isn’t as durable.

Heat transfer

Heat transfer uses a heat-sensitive adhesive and a hot press to apply decoration to a garment. Virtually any image, including photographic materials can be used with this message, but it has higher setup costs and can be time consuming.

Which decoration method is best for you depends on your needs. The best way to determine this is to speak to your Staples Representative, who can guide you through the choices.