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Printing on Athletic Apparel: A How-To Guide for Screen Pros

Family Industries provides recommendations for different print methods.



Printing on Athletic Apparel: A How-To Guide for Screen Pros

ATHLETIC AND ATHLEISURE wear has become increasingly popular over recent years, not only because of a more health-conscious population, but because these types of apparel provide more comfort when going through our day-to-day activities. Let’s dig into the advantages of creating athletic merch for your brand and the challenges that come with printing on this type of material.

Printing on Athletic Apparel: A How-To Guide for Screen Pros

What Is Athletic Wear?

Athletic wear refers to clothing that allows for maximum flexibility and comfort when performing a sport or when working out at a gym. Athletic wear is made up of ultra breathable and moisture wicking fibers to help release sweat outwards, which evaporates into the atmosphere. It keeps the body cool in heat and warm in cold.

The Benefits of Moisture-Wicking Fabric in Your Workout Clothes

Printing on Athletic Apparel: A How-To Guide for Screen Pros

What Is Athleisure Wear?

Athleisure wear is a more common type of fashionable casual and comfortable clothing such as tights or leggings and lightweight tops to keep skin cool while doing every-day activities, walking, or non-competitive sports. This type of clothing was born out of the necessity to be comfortable while performing daily activities. It lies at the intersection of activewear and traditional sportswear that was meant as recreational wear designed for daytime or leisure activity.


Read more about What is the Difference Between Athletic wear and Athleisurewear?

Printing on Athletic Apparel: A How-To Guide for Screen Pros

How Is Printing Done On Athletic Wear?

There are a few ways to print on athletic or athleisure wear that depend on the type of fabrics used to make the garments. Some fabrics are easier to work with than others, but there is always a way.

Here are the most common ways we recommend to print on athletic wear or athleisure wear, followed by the pros and cons of each.

  • Design
    Because of the nature of athletic fabrics, keeping a design simple can be beneficial if you’re looking to have prints such as your logo or letters. Many brands, such as Nike, have a simple logo they can print using a heat press, which also keeps the costs down.
  • Inks
    Ink production technology has kept up with the athletic fabric trend, and there are inks out there that are formulated to address the challenges of printing on synthetic jersey fabrics. If you’re looking to screen print your design, look for low-bleed inks that cure at lower temperatures for longer times. These are made specifically to lessen the effects of dye migration.
  • Consider Flexibility
    Most athletic fabrics have a specific amount of stretch that may make screen printing difficult or not as durable as other print methods. Once you’ve found the garment, check the material it’s made with. That information will dictate which print method is best for your apparel.

Printing on Athletic Apparel: A How-To Guide for Screen Pros

Recommended Print Methods:

DTG or Direct to Garment Printing

The DTG printing method uses a printer with textile inks, which allows for faster and low-cost production. While this option is more cost-effective, it’s also the lowest quality. This type of textile ink is not durable, and depending on the material you’re printing on, it may look dull and cheap. Additionally, printing on dark clothing using this method is not recommended.



  • Low Setup Costs


  • Low Resolution
  • Not Durable
  • Not Good For Dark Fabrics

Sublimation Printing

Sublimation is one of the most durable methods you can use if you’re printing on polyester fabrics. This method requires applying a liquid dye unto the garment until it has solidified, then heat is applied to evaporate the solid matter, leaving the dye perfectly printed into every thread. This is why this method provides long-lasting quality.


  • Durable
  • Creative Freedom to Use Wide Range of Colors and Patterns


  • Limited to Polyester Fabrics

Heat Press Printing

Heat press is most often used in athletic gear for smaller logos and labels. Heat press uses a specific type of paper that’s applied directly unto the garment and then it’s pressed using a press. This type of printing is used by brand such as Nike and Adidas. This method has a very sharp and clean look to it.



  • Low Setup Cost
  • Sharp Print


  • Quality Control – If done incorrectly, print can easily peel off

Printing on Athletic Apparel: A How-To Guide for Screen Pros


If you’d like to print your logo or a smaller design onto a breathable material, we suggest heat press printing. This method will result in the most clear print with perfect lines and it’s one of the most affordable options.

If you’d like to have the entire garment printed with an intricate design, we suggest using the sublimation method. Sublimation is highly durable and gives you freedom when it comes to colors and design, however, you’re limited to polyester fabrics only.

This article was originally published by Family Industries.


Watch Jay Busselle, Adrienne Palmer, and Jeremy Picker dive deep into DTG printing data, popular styles, and opportunities.

Apparel Decoration Trends for 2021 Part Two

Jay Busselle, marketing director, Equipment Zone, interviews two experts in apparel decoration trends: Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief of Screen Printing magazine, and Jeremy Picker, creative director and CEO of AMB3R Creative and Screen Printing Editorial Advisory Board member. Both share their insights on decoration trends, apparel styles, and some powerful data for DTG printing. Plus, Picker gives an exclusive look at his 2021 trend report. This is a follow-up webinar to Equipment Zone’s DTG Training Academy virtual event.

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