The key to making pics look perfect

One of the beauties of custom merch is the possibilities. It’s a blank canvas for your ideas, from simple line drawings to big, chunky shapes, realised in bright splashes of colour or in dark, steely monochrome.

Sometimes, though, there’s something particularly appealing about a photo. If it’s a cult image, it can conjure up a whole world of interconnected associations which you want to align your brand or business with. Alternatively, it might simply be a photo that you’ve got a strong personal connection to, which you want to place front and centre in your custom garms.

There’s a couple of questions you need to weigh up when planning  your photo printed merch, with the all-important consideration being what effect you want the finished product to have. Do you want a clear, detailed reproduction? Or are you thinking about a modified or altered version? 

Here we walk you through the important things to consider when printing a photo, and how to best bring your idea to life.

Screen printing vs. DTG

Your two main options for printing a photo are screen print or direct to garment (DTG). Which one you choose depends partly on what you want the photo to look like. For an exact reproduction, your best bet is likely DTG, which will most easily give you the result that looks closest to your original image. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there’s a further cost consideration when comparing the two printing methods. If you’re printing a small number of units, DTG usually works out cheaper. But if it’s a large order, then it’s likely screen printing will be more cost effective. (Head here to read our post focused on screen printing vs. DTG; and here to learn more about screen printing.)

Keeping it simple

If, on the other hand, you’d like the final result to be a simpler reimagining of the original image, then screen printing could be the way to go. It’s possible to simplify your image in a way that it could be printed with a one or two colour screen print. This can often work very well, recognisably referencing the original photo whilst also creating something that looks fresh, giving your t-shirt, tote bag or hoodie a distinctive spin on the photo in question.

Want a photo-realistic screen print?

Some clients are keen to use screen printing wherever possible. Some argue that screen printed merch is better lasting than DTG, and they prefer the look that the process produces in the finished product.

Whatever the reason, it is possible to create a photo-realistic screen print of a colour photo. The only issue is that, depending on the image, it can be expensive. This is because photos in colour need to be separated out into many different screens in order to reproduce it through this process. But it’s certainly not unheard of, with many of our clients having created t-shirts or tote bags in this way – and often with fantastic results. 

It’s easier with black and white

If your photo is black and white, however, then screen printing is a lot easier, if that’s your preferred printing method. As mentioned above, the main challenge with screen printing is the number of screens which need to be used to recreate the different colours and detail of a colour photo.

But if your image is black and white, it can be very effective to use vector half-tones from the original raster file, which readies it for screen printing, but is very good in preserving the detail and texture of the original. (Don’t worry if some of this technical speak has gone over your head. Simply drop us a line and our team will be more than happy to run through all of your options with you.)

Want to create custom merch for your brand or business? ICON Printing offer fast turnaround printing on a range of garments, counting clients ranging from the Tate to Boiler Room and WeWork. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.