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8 Custom Apparel Design Methods that Go Beyond Screen Printing

Author: twelve12content

Category: Blog

The Thunderwear team loves classic screen printed custom apparel. Screen printing is at the core of our operation and the very heart of our custom merchandise production process. It has a storied tradition in the fine art world, textile industry, and clothing industry because it is nearly unmatched in its versatility and cost-effectiveness. While there are plenty of variations and subcategories within the screen printing process, the general method consists of using mesh and stencils to press specialty colored ink onto a material in a specific shape. 

Screen printing can be applied to nearly any material: ceramics, metal, fabric, and wood, just to name a few. Whether it’s your favorite band’s t-shirt in your closet, a pillow sitting on your sofa, a store sign downtown, or a decal on your car bumper, screen printing forms the world around us. We’ve helped thousands of brands design and sell killer custom and branded apparel via screen printing. Still, it’s just one of the many techniques used to create custom-branded clothing— and it’s not necessarily for everyone. 

Screen printing lays an image top of the material, whereas other more sophisticated production methods entail mixed media applications, embroidery, and custom trimming. Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the terms and possibilities? Don’t worry – we’ll break down everything you need to know about the options you have for your custom apparel line. 

Endless Production Possibilities 

If your brand’s custom apparel project goes beyond the scope of screen-printed apparel, there are countless other options for you to consider. Thunderwear offers various alternative printing methods that escalate in terms of quality and complexity. These secondary production methods come with changes in the cut and sew of our custom apparel and increase each piece’s quality and value. Here’s a go-to guide for Thunderwear’s beyond screen print offerings: 

  1. Embroidery

Instead of a printed logo or design on a t-shirt, jacket, or hat, custom embroidered apparel has logos and designs stitched into the fabric using sewing needles and thread. Custom embroidery will withstand far more wear and tear than screen printed products, and it changes the quality, weight, and texture of the fabric used. Thunderwear team loves adapting this traditional sewing technique to contemporary branded designs. 

2. Fabric Applique

Fabric appliqué is similar to custom embroidery, except that it relies on various fabrics (instead of just thread) to create larger or more elaborate designs on a custom piece of apparel. Much like embroidery, fabric appliqué will give custom products a weightier, higher quality feel than screen printing. 

3. Sublimated Printing

Sublimated printing is much like screen printing, except that it utilizes heat to transfer specialty sublimation dyes to custom apparel merchandise. While sublimated printing can be less cost-effective and more time consuming than screen printing, it boasts the same flexible, lightweight quality, and total versatility. Best part? It won’t crack or break like screen printed products will. 

4. Patches 

While they started on military jackets and Girl Scout vests, patches have become an effortlessly fresh look across the fashion industry. Adding patches to your branded apparel allows you to add a custom patch to your design that adds a military or uniform-esque flair. Patches offer you the ability to play with quantity, scale, and location in the rest of your design. 

5. Mixed Media

Thunderwear’s mixed-media printing allows clients to work with a designer to add multiple embellishments to a singular design. A combination of screen printing, patches, and custom zippers might be just what you need to make your custom apparel fly off the shelves, which is why we offer such flexibility in our mixed media option. We understand that different projects warrant different approaches, and we thrive while working on ambitious projects. 

6. Custom Metal Moldings

Custom metal moldings include custom-designed zipper pulls, buttons, and badges that add a premium quality to your custom merchandise. This detail-oriented production method helps custom apparel get specific and original, create something meaningful for loyal consumers, and increase profit margins. Our designers can walk you through the ins-and-outs of all the custom metal molding options. 

7. Custom Silicone Badges

Much like custom metal moldings, custom silicone badges are a part of the premium trimming options that elevate branded apparel and add high-end elements to your design. Silicone badges utilize alternative materials to add more textural interest than nearly every other printing method we offer. 

8. Custom Labeling 

The Thunderwear creators design custom woven labels that align with your business and branding. We then add them to your branded apparel in the custom labeling process. This brings retail brand quality to your project, but it also lays the foundation for custom apparel to become a more mainstream facet of your brand and business. 

Thunderwear: We’ll Help You Find the Perfect Process

Thunderwear has been a staple of the custom merchandise and branded apparel industry since we opened our doors in the 1980s. Our family-owned operation prides itself on our team of experienced, patient, and skilled artisans and production specialists. We can help you flesh out your ideas, advise on optimal production choices, and design custom apparel to make your brand pop.  Ready to take the next steps? Reach out to our Thunderwear team today.