Personalising and Printing Garments

There are a number of methods to personalise apparel but by far the most common are embroidery, screen printing – sometimes known as silk screening or serigraphic printing – and thermal transfer.  They all have their merits, but they are very different forms of applying designs to garments and the type of print method to be used has to be determined using a variety of factors

Embroidery is basically defined as decorating fabric using a needle and thread, whereas screen printing is a way of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of silk or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface, usually a t-shirt and Transfer Printing is the process of printing your designs onto special transfer paper and then applying the transfer paper onto the t-shirt or garment using a commercial heat press. It enables full colour images to be printed very quickly and is a great option for promotional clothing.

At Washington Badge and Embroidery we use mainly embroidery and thermal transfer systems, but direct embroidery on logo apparel is by far the most popular and most effective.

Direct embroidery is where the design or logo is woven or sewn directly into the material of the item, making the embroidered design become ‘part’ of the material for a really superior look and finish.


There are several ways to compare the different methods of garment personalisation

  • the look and feel
  • the cost per item
  • the most suitable applications of each method.



Logo embroidery is consistently used for uniforms or promotional items.  The top companies provide their employees with logo embroidered shirts to identify and promote their company logos and image.

The most popular items for embroidery include polo shirts, button-down shirts, caps and hats, sweatshirts, jackets, and bags.

Screen printed and thermal transfer designs are usually best done on t-shirts and sweatshirts, especially where a large design is to be applied; placing a large embroidered design on a t-shirt is totally impractical as  t-shirt material is too thin to properly hold all the embroidery stitches required to create a large design.

Embroidery and screen printing are equally durable, thermal transfer slightly less so.


Pricing for each personalisation method involves a number of variables to consider.  Embroidery is most often priced by stitch count that represents the number of stitches it takes to create a design in embroidery.  In most cases the higher the number of stitches the higher the cost.

We are looking to simplify the pricing process at Washington Badge for embroidery services – watch this space for forthcoming announcements.

The pricing for screen printing and thermal transfer is completely different.  It is driven by three variables including the number of shirts, the number of colors in the design and the number of different locations (i.e. front and back) printed on a shirt.

The more shirts you have to print, the lower the printing cost per shirt.  However, more colours in a design drives up the printing cost.  Similarly, if you want a design on the front of a shirt and one on the back, that also adds cost to the item.

Hopefully we have been able to provide some basic information about the difference between embroidery, screen printing and thermal transfer.  All three decoration methods have their advantages and disadvantages.  If you have any additional questions, please contact us on 0191 416 3558 for more information.