Many people struggle with some of the more technical jargon that is involved in customisable clothing so here at we have created an A-Z of terms we think might be useful. If you realise this is a less than comprehensive A-Z don’t blame us – it’s not our fault nothing in the industry begins with a Q!


A – Adobe Illustrator:

Adobe Illustrator is a vectored design program that that allows users to compose and edit images built through geometrical shapes based upon mathematical equations such as points, lines, curves and polygons and save them in one of many formats such as EPS, PDF, WMF, SVG or VML.


B – Blank T-Shirt:

A blank t-shirt is really just a normal plain t-shirt ready and waiting to have something printed on to it. A blank t-shirt can come in any colour or style but must have no pre-existing logos or designs.


C – Cad Cut Printing:

Also referred to as ‘vinyl cut’, cad cutting is a method of printing text or a logo onto t-shirts, polo shirts and even fleeces. The logo or text must first have an outline added (easily managed with a design program such as Adobe Illustrator). The design is then input direct into a digital cutter which electronically cuts the design on to a single colour sheet of flock, foil or vinyl. After weeding the cut panels are taken and are applied to the garment using a commercial heat press and release paper. Cad cut printing is ideal for small quantities as it is relatively cheap to set up and quick to arrive but the appearance is not as popular as screen printed and only single colour prints can be made. For a similar result but with multiple print colours transfer printing is recommended.


D – Direct to Garment Printing (DTG):

DTG printing is a relatively recent development in the world of customised garments. It describes a fully digital printing method that allows you to print literally anything you require directly onto your garments, including full colour photo printing. DTG printing works in much the same manner as a modern inkjet printer you might have at home; instead of first printing your photo or design onto transfer paper and then applying it to the garment with a heat press, DTG printing machines print directly onto the garment. This results in a fantastically high quality print and maximum detail, even on complex full colour designs. Until recently, DTG printers could only print effectively onto white garments but due to advances in technology they can now be used on any coloured garment, including very dark colours such as black and navy. DTG offers superb quality at low setup costs and delivery can be made within 24 hours.


E – Embroidered Clothing:

Usually custom embroidery takes the form of a company logo, which must be digitised (where the logo is manually redrawn in a compatible format) before the embroidery machine can get to work. Embroidering a logo provides a long lasting quality image but costs more than printing and it is often difficult to recreate small text legibly.


F – Foil and Flock:

Transfer foil and flock effect vinyl are two materials often used as an alternative to regular vinyl in the heat pressing process. Each provides a different range of texture to vinyl and as such whether one uses flock, foil or vinyl very much depends on the design and final feel one requires.


H – Heat Press:

A heat press is used in applying a pattern to an object. Firstly a design must be printed onto transfer paper, either directly such as in the transfer printing method or via screen printing. Both the printed transfer paper and t-shirt, polo shirt, cap or fleece onto which you want your pattern are then introduced to the heat press, which is used to imprint the design or logo with the application of both heat and pressure through a platen. While heat presses are often used to apply designs to garments, they can also be used on other imprintable products.


I – Imprintable Products:

An imprintable product is one on which a design can be screen printed, transfer printed, DTG printed or cad cut printed. This can take the form of a garment such as a t-shirt, polo shirt, jacket, sweatshirt, cap or another promotional product such as a mug or plate.


L – Light Reactive Chemicals:

A light reactive chemical is one that will disintegrate when exposed to light. When used in the screen printing process it is usually placed in strategic areas of a fine mesh screen consists and then the whole screen is exposed to light, leaving the chemical to break down and wash off, fashioning spaces in the mesh. The chemical can be arranged so that any desired pattern is created.


O – Organic:

Some companies offer the option to purchase organic promotionalwear. This will mean that the t-shirt or polo shirt on which your logo/text is printed will have been confirmed as organic by one of many independent certifiers. The printing/embroidering process will remain the same as with conventional customised garments though.


P – Platen:

A platen (or platten) is a flat solid board, typically made of a metal plate, that is pressed against something to cause an impression in printing.


R – Release Paper:

Release paper is most commonly made out of silicone and serves as a thin, heat resistant paper used between a printed sheet and material in a heat press to prevent the two sticking together.


S – Screen Printing:

Screen printing is the traditional method of transferring colour to a t-shirt or polo shirt by applying colour with ink. In order to screen print an item the design has to be separated into the component colours (nowadays achieved by design programs such as Adobe Illustrator) and then each colour has a separate screen produced using light reactive chemicals. The ink can then be screen printed onto the t-shirts directly or via transfer paper and a heat press. If the direct printing method is used, the t-shirts are placed on a platen and the colours are then applied individually by placing the screen on top of the t-shirt and forcing the printers ink through the relevant screen onto the t-shirt. Screen printing is ideal for large quantities of printed garments but can be expensive for smaller orders requiring more than one colour.


T – Transfer Printing:

This involves taking a high resolution image and printing the image onto commercial quality transfer paper. One can print multi-coloured images in most formats including BMP,TIF, GIF, AI and JPEG. The quality of the image produced is directly related to the quality of the image supplied so it is important to supply a quality image. Once the image is on the transfer paper it is then taken and applied using a commercial heat press and release paper to the item of clothing. Transfer printing is ideal for small quantities as it is relatively cheap to set up and can be dispatched on the same day but the appearance is not as popular as screen printed. For a similar result but with single colours cad cut printing is recommended.


U – Uniform:

Customising clothing can provide the perfect uniform, one stylish enough for the employees to wear yet professional enough for a demanding boss.


V – Vinyl:

Vinyl is not just an outdated method for listening to The Beatles! Vinyl film is a sheet of vinyl that can come in many colours and may be cut to any shape or size, such as a name, logo, number or some simple text. Once this is done the vinyl can be simply and easily imprinted onto a garment with a heat press and release paper. You might even recognise a heat transfer using vinyl if you look carefully at the number printed on the back of your replica football kit.


W – Weeding:

This is the term for when the leftover uncut areas from a digital cutting of printed vinyl, flock or foil sheet are removed by hand.


X, Y, Z – Examine Your Zones:

Both printing and embroidering are available in many areas, or ’zones’, of a t-shirt or polo shirt. Before deciding on what logo or text you require it is a good idea to think about where on the garment you would like it to appear. For instance, the most popular choice for a company logo is above the left breast, but the zones on either sleeve make a great place to include a sponsors name for an event.


For more information and for help on t-shirt printing visit the excellent T-Shirt Forum.

Think something is missing from this A-Z? We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.

About The Author

12 Responses

  1. Blank T shirt

    I heard about the sublimation printing for the print step, what do you know about that??

    • Simon

      Sublimation printing is ok, but can only be used on synthetic fabrics such as polyester and acrylic. This means you need to buy t shirts made for sublimation printing. We prefer Transfer Printing, and Direct to Garment printing in general.

      If you want a guide to choosing the right t shirt printing method for you this is a great guide to t shirt printing

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