Printing Processes

(Applies to T-shirts and similar "linen-type" items only)

Direct Printing and Heat Transfer each have distinct benefits that you will want to consider. Please note: Sometimes, CafePress only offers one printing style on certain apparel items. On all other items, we allow you the choice of printing techniques. Each has certain advantages and the choice really comes down to a "matter of taste."

  • Direct Printing - A matte finish. Colors are not as bright, images not quite as clear as "Heat Transfer." But, still, a good quality print that really lasts.
  • Heat Transfer - A "glossier" finish. Crisp, clear printing, vibrant colors, but not as durable as "Direct Printing."
  • Comparison Chart

Direct Printing  top

With Direct Printing, we print direct-to-fabric with no transfers. The result is a matte image that moves with the garment because the ink is actually embedded in the fabric for ultimate wearable comfort. After a few washes, you will notice the great durability of Direct Printing. That means greater image staying power.

The benefits of Direct Printing

  • Great washability - no fading
  • No feel of ink on the fabric (the ink is in the fabric)
  • No cracking
  • No transfer lines

Things to keep in mind with Direct Printing

  • Colors are not as vibrant as Heat Transfer 

Heat Transfer   top

Heat Transfer is as durable as screen-printing, but offers more detail. Heat Transfer uses heat to create a bond between the resin and the T-Shirt, locking the ink between the two layers. Heat Transfer has a slight plastic feel when first worn, however, this feel will diminish after washing.

The benefits of Heat Transfer

  • Vibrant colors - great for photos and detailed imagery
  • Good washability, fading happens over the first few washes

Things to keep in mind with Heat Transfer

  • May crack on ribbed garments
  • Has a slightly stiffer feel
  • Transfer outline may be visible with some designs
  • May yellow over time 

Comparison Chart   top

To help you choose the best printing technology to achieve the look you want on your garment, below is a side-by-side comparison chart showing the benefits of both Direct Printing and Heat Transfer. 

Print Style Characteristics

Direct Printing

Heat Transfer




Color Accuracy





Transfer feel diminishes after washing

Image clarity and crispness



Ribbed Garments


Images may crack on ribbed apparel

Images stretch and move with the fabric