How We Screen Print Rainbows on T-Shirts (With Examples)

by John Amato

June is our big month for screen printing rainbow shirts for Pride!

We've been screen printing a lot of custom rainbow shirts for local businesses during the month of June for Pride Month. It's a great opportunity for organizations to put their values of inclusion, diversity, and empathy on display.

There are a few different techniques when it comes to screen printing a rainbow and we've used all of them in the last few weeks. Each method achieves a different look and can be the best option depending on what the customer is looking for.

If you need rainbow shirts or Pride shirts for your organization, we'd love to help! Fill out the contact form on our custom screen printing page to get started.

Read on to learn more about three of our shirt printing techniques and for photo and video examples.

1. Creating a Rainbow Screen Print With Halftones (Gradients)

If a customer wants a consistent looking rainbow gradient print on all of their t-shirts, printing it with half tones is the best option.

rainbow logo screen print for inside the five brewing

When creating the art, we use halftones or gradients to create the rainbow. Before the shirts get to press, our artists separate the design by individual color. This means they pull out each color gradient so we can make a separate screen for printing purposes.

This process can take anywhere from 5-6 screens to get a full color rainbow. The result looks like these shirts we printed for the Toledo Museum of Art (below) and Inside the Five Brewing (above). 

toledo museum of art shirt

There are slight nuances between printing on a white or light colored t-shirt versus a black or dark color t-shirt and the setup for the art and press can be a challenge, but no matter what, we sure love the results!

2. Split Fountain or Rainbow Roll Print

For a split fountain rainbow print, we use 2 to 6 ink colors (depending on the desired rainbow color scheme) on one screen that get blended over each pass with the squeegee.

The inks in this design blend more with each pass of the squeegee making each shirt's print and colors unique! 

If you're looking for an original, authentic design, rainbow roll is the way to go. It's the first way that we ever printed a rainbow blend on a shirt and it's still one of our favorite techniques. 

georgjz 419 shirt

3. Spot Color Rainbow Printing

Toledo rainbow print shirt

A spot color screen print means that each individual color is its own solid print on a shirt. If you look at the examples above or below, you'll see that each is separate and doesn't blend into the colors next to it. 

Most of the shirts that we print are spot color. However, when it comes to rainbow designs, they are a little bit more complicated. The complication primarily resides in the fact that there are so many colors printed on the shirt. 

Generally speaking, in screen printing we use one screen for each individual color. Then we print those in succession. The more colors you have, the more screens you need and printheads are required. 

This means that when you print a shirt with the colors of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple - you must utilize six screens to achieve this. 

This is getting a bit technical, but printing all of those colors next to each other without drying in between is challenging. It requires a quality equipment, screens, inks, squeegees, and a lot of practice. 

In the end, though, we love the look of a nice rainbow when it comes out right!

all are welcome rainbow t-shirt

4. Direct to Garment Print (DTG)

rainbow print tank top dtg

Direct to garment printing is an evolving technology in the custom decoration field. The appeal for this process is that it's a digital technique. It's not quite screen printing but it's a great way to print a lot of colors on a shirt.

The simplest way to describe direct to garment printing is that it uses digital inks to print directly on a shirt. Think of it like a color printer you have on your desk. There are individual color cartridges with ink that allow you to print a wide color spectrum straight onto a garment.

DTG is a great option when you have a small order with a lot of colors. Because of this, it's a frequent choice when we have rainbow designs. 

5. Rainbow Foil Print

For a foil rainbow, we screen print and cure a layer of special adhesive on the shirt, heat press the foil onto the adhesive, and peel off the excess.

For a screen printer, this is kind of a shortcut for rainbow designs. Rather than using multiples screens like with do with halftones or mixing several inks together in the screen like we do with a split fountain print, for foil, we use just one screen and one ink (adhesive). 

While the actual screen printing portion of rainbow foil is easier than the screen print techniques listed above, there is a second step to the process - heat seal. After we print the foil adhesive onto the shirt (we use a waterbased adhesive), we then have to take the shirt over to our heat press, cut a section of foil from the roll, press it on the shirt, and peel it off.

This technique isn't as durable as a screen print, but it gives the print a shiny look that only foil can achieve! 

unison health shirt

Do you need custom rainbow pride shirts? We can help.

Custom screen printing is what we do. As mentioned above, we spend a lot of our summer months printing for organizations that need LGBTQ+ Pride apparel. 

Over the years, we've honed our skills and that's why our customers come back to us time and again. The examples above are just a few of the rainbow designed shirts that we've printed. 

If your business or organization needs custom rainbow or love themed shirts for Pride month or any other occasion, we'd love to help. 

Get in touch with us today to get your order started!

Learn more about how we screen print and embroider clothing 

You can check out some of our other behind the scenes how to blogs and videos at the links below:

How we burn screens for screen printing t-shirts
Top 4 ways we screen print a vintage t-shirt
ow we embroider our Ohioan sweatshirts
How we embroider custom hats on our 6 head embroidery machine


  • Comment Author: Keia Boyd

    Good Day,
    Researching how to get custom tee shirts with rainbow print and bulk pricing. Do you offer a sample?

  • Comment Author: John Amato

    Hi Katherine, we are a retail print shop and unfortunately don’t have a wholesale price list. If you have any questions for print or art with rainbows, we’d be happy to help, or to refer you to a great contact shop that can knock this out of the park for you. Thanks!

  • Comment Author: Katherine Beasenburg

    Do you have a wholesale price list?

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