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One of the reasons I fell in love with screen printing is the quality of the ink on shirts. The Speedball ink absorbs into the fibers of the shirt and doesn’t have the feels of HTV. Plus, it’s permanent so no more peeling off after a few washes.
Cricut’s Infusible Ink was created with the same idea in mind. The transfers become one with the material and create a vibrant, smooth design.
So, how do the 2 compare? I created the same design and applied it to a white t-shirt using both black Infusible Ink and black screen printing ink.
The process for both screen printing and Infusible Ink starts the same. You will cut the sheet using your Cricut and weed the design.
After the Infusible Ink is cut and weeded, it takes 2 steps to prepare before you can apply the design. You simply lint roll the shirt and pre-heat the surface.
Just like HTV, you place the Infusible Ink sheet on your blank and heat with your Cricut EasyPress2.
The screen printing process starts by transferring the weeded adhesive vinyl design to your Speedball frame and taping off any open areas with painter’s tape. Place your screen in your desired location on the shirt blank and squeegee ink over the design. You can learn more about the step-by-step process here.
After you heat the Infusible Ink, it takes just a few minutes for the design to cool and you are done! Your shirt is ready to wash and wear immediately.
Screen printing has a few more steps. After you are finished with your screen, you remove the vinyl and wash the screen. Your ink will need to dry for at least 24 hours (unless you speed up the process with a heat gun). After the ink is completely dry, you will heat set the ink using your Cricut EasyPress2, heat press or iron. This cures the ink and makes your design washable.
Blanks: Shirts, Totes and More
Cricut’s Infusible Inks work on a variety of specific Cricut blanks. Currently, they have t-shirts, onesies, tote bags and coasters designed to work with the Infusible Inks. Cricut has mentioned that more blanks are likely to be released so I’m excited to see what’s to come.
Screen printing works on a variety of surfaces. T-shirts can be 100% cotton, cotton/poly blends, and 100% polyester. It also works on canvas, burlap and so much more! I recently shared 20 items you can screen print on and my favorite blanks for screen printing.
To get started with Infusible Inks, you will need a Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air and Easy Press2. Screen printing can be done with any vinyl cutter hello Silhouette Cameo users!) and you can heat set with an iron, Easy Press2, heat press, or heat gun.
Comparing Infusible Ink and Screen Printing Costs
To create your Infusible Ink projects, you will need the Infusible Ink transfer sheets. They can be found at Michaels for $12.99-$17.99 (for 2 sheets).
Making screen printed shirts with vinyl requires a sheet of vinyl plus the ink color you wish to use for your design. You can use any color vinyl because it is just the stencil for your design.
Buying your vinyl in bulk and large rolls will save you money. For example, a 6 foot roll of Oracal 651 on Amazon is $6.00. That's just $1 per 12″ piece (and some designs may even use less than that!). The fabric ink I recommend for screen printing, Speedball Fabric Ink, is about $10 per jar, but one jar will last for a bunch of projects. Depending on how generous you are with your usage, an 8 oz. jar could make 50 prints. That's just $0.20 per shirt!
So, screen printing is roughly $1.20 for one shirt for the ink and vinyl. Infusible Ink sheets are about $6.50 per shirt.
The beauty of the screen printing process is that it gets more cost effective with the more shirts you make. The same vinyl cut can be used to make multiple shirts. With one 12×12 piece of vinyl, I can make 50+ shirts. So now you're making each additional shirt for around $.20 each for the ink.
Price of Blanks
Since I’m not tied to a certain brand, you can find great deals on t-shirts from my favorite website.
Currently, Cricut only offers white blanks. This is one of the limitations of working with Infusible Inks. Screen printing, however, works on any color blank.
I have found that screen printing dark inks on lighter color blanks works great. You can also screen print on blacks and dark colors.
Infusible inks come in a variety of colors. Similar to HTV, you can purchase the colors you wish to use by the sheet/pack.
Screen printing inks come in a variety of colors as well. The exciting part is they can be mixed together to create new colors. With just 4 primary color jars, you can mix over 18 new colors and create different shades within each of these colors.
The variety of patterns available with Infusible Inks is something you can’t get with screen printing. I’m excited to try the buffalo plaid on some holiday shirts!
Cricut suggests that you wash your garments inside-out with mild detergent. You can dry the garment but instructions say not use a dryer sheet. I’m curious to see how the shirt holds up if you don’t follow these steps. Chances are mine will be washed right-side-out and with a dryer sheet before long!
Once you have properly cured the screen printing ink, you can wash and dry according to the label on your garment. I have washed my screen printed shirts many times and the ink has stayed vibrant.
Both processes ended with impressive results. The inks on both shirts are completely absorbed into the fibers of the shirt. They both feel AMAZING! Never will I go back to using Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) on shirts!
Screen printing will continue to be my method of choice. The variety of blanks and ability to mix ink colors offers so many more possibilities for me.
The exception to this will be 1) if I want to use one of the Infusible Ink pattern designs or 2) I’m doing one shirt and don’t have time for it to dry (yep, I'm a last minute crafter and sometimes I need a project done right now!).
If you have a creative business currently using HTV to personalize products, you should give screen printing a try! It's so easy to get started – learn the step-by-step process here. You can cut your costs while creating professional results.