puffembroidery decorationYou’ve been charged to come up with a sharp, branded apparel item to engage new customers. You want classy but on trend to create maximum impact yet have longevity. How do you decide? One of the best ways to create impact on any apparel item is to choose the right decoration method. Curious about what’s available to you? Here’s a crash course in some unique decoration methods, from variations on the classics to brand spankin’ new.

Custom decorated apparel has come a long way. The range of apparel styles, sizes and colors is bigger than ever. And if your apparel isn’t one size fits all, then why should the decoration be? What works on a t-shirt probably won’t work on those awesome new performance pullovers you just picked out.

Screen Printing

If you own a t-shirt, chances are it’s been screen-printed. And we wouldn’t knock the classics. But there are some great new alternatives to the traditional plastisol inks. For example, there are soft hand and water-based inks, which are ideal for lightweight or vintage-style t-shirts. There are also special effects ink like metallic, suede, puff, glitter and neon.

And if your t-shirt design involves a photograph, multiple colors, gradients and/or small details, full color process printing is the way to go. On white or light garments, the design is typically printed directly onto the garment, using a process much like an inkjet printer. On darker garments, the printer may use simulated four color process, in which multiple screens and colors are used to emulate the look of full color printing.

Embroiderysequin embroidery decoration

Embroidery is ideal for classic, corporate-style apparel, like woven shirts, jackets, hats and sweaters. But just like screen printing, there are new options available. Techniques like puff embroidery and sequin embroidery can add a little something extra to your design. And for hard-to-embroider areas like cap bills, we can create woven patches that are permanently affixed to the fabric.

One important thing to note with embroidery is that it can be difficult to recreate small details and text. If that’s a concern, you may want to consider one of the next three decoration techniques…

transfer decorationHeat Transfers

Designs are printed on heat sensitive material and then applied to the garment using a heat press. Unlike embroidery, it allows for fine details and small text. It can also be used to recreate full color designs on garments that would be difficult or impossible to screen print, like jackets. Price points are typically more for this process but it is so easy to do small orders with low to no set up costs.

 deboss decorationDebossing

This is where a custom die is heat pressed into the material, creating a tonal 3D effect. It’s more subtle than traditional decoration methods and works on practically any color garment. It’s best on thicker

fabrics, like outerwear and performance fleece. And unlike embroidery, it won’t create holes in waterproof fabrics.

laser decoration

Laser Engraving

Yes, laser engraving! A laser is used to burn your logo into the top layer of the fabric, which gives it a sort of a glossy, tone-on-tone look. It’s ideal for decorating unusual areas, like along seams or zippers. Although it will be subtle on any color garment, it works best on medium colors and isn’t recommended for white or pastel colors.



There are also a variety of special decoration techniques with fabric appliques, custom zipper pulls fake rolex and even sewn-on pockets in contrasting colors. Finally, to really customize your apparel, you may want to consider things like custom hang tags or printed or woven neck labels.

Wow! That’s a lot of options! Want to learn more about how to find the best solution? Contact Brand Fuel and we will help custom design your next apparel project!