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Digital Printing vs Screen Printing

Learning all of the technical terms of the garment printing industry are hard and confusing! Read on to help decipher the different print methods and become an industry expert! Heck, even sometimes industry professionals are confused about the differences between digital apparel printing (also known as DTG Printing) and screen printing shirts. It's not as simple as one being "better" than the other, it's a question of which one better suits your needs! Check out our guide below to figure if Screen Printing or Digital Printing is more beneficial in for your custom apparel project!

Silk Screening vs Screen Printing

Before we dive in to digital printing vs screen printing, you should know what the difference is between silk screening and screening printing. For all intents and purposes, nothing! Whether you call it screen printing, silk screening, silk screen printing or silk printing, you are generally going to get the same results on your printed apparel. They all refer to the process of pushing ink through a mesh screen (typically made up of silk or silk type fibers) to transfer an image onto a shirt, canvas, or other product. Now a little bonus fact for you - many people call digital printing on garments DTG. While that is correct, screen printing is also a DTG or direct to garment method of printing on garments. Direct to garment just means you apply the ink directly as opposed to indirectly such as a heat press or screen printed transfer.

vs

Digital Printing

digital printing

Digital printing is the process of using a printer head to apply ink directly to a piece of apparel or fabric. Digital printing is fairly new but advanced technology that affords the ability to print small run orders on both white and colored garments. If you think about your paper printer at home, a digital printer used for DTG printing is the same thing but for garments! With digital shirt printing the color palette is unlimited, which allows you recreate virtually anything from single color logos to high-color photographs. You could have a photo printed on a customized t shirt and give it to grandma. Creating customized single pieces with digital printing has never been easier.

Screen Printing

screen printing

Screen printing shirts is one of the most commonly used methods in custom t-shirt printing and apparel decorating. It is the process of pushing ink through a mesh screen one color at a time. Although the method uses a system of spot coloring, halftones and blends, it can be used to create an image that appears to have a countless number of colors. Screen printing as a production method quickly overtakes Digital Printing in cost per print. The higher the volume, the lower the cost per print becomes. Screen printing also has the advantage of a large selection of different types of inks that are all considerably less expensive per garment than Digital Printing inks, such as our Specialty Inks.


Pros

  • No minimum order
  • no minimum

  • More cost efficient on orders under 12 pieces
  • cost efficient

  • Reproduces photographs with crisp, clean detail
  • photography crisp

  • No limitation to the number of colors in the design
  • no limitation

  • Soft to the Touch
  • soft touch

Pros

  • More cost efficient for 12 or more pieces
  • cost efficient

  • Larger printing area available
  • larger print area

  • More flexible for fabrics not at least 80% cotton
  • 80% cotton

  • Wider array of inks available, including glitters, foils, metallics, and more
  • array of inks

  • color matching available
  • color match


Cons

  • Less cost efficient than screen printing on runs of 12 or over
  • Exact color matching is not available
  • Maximum print area of 12.5" wide by 14" tall
  • Fabric must be a minimum of 80% cotton

Cons

  • Minimum order of 6 shirts
  • Not economical for under 12 pieces
  • Cannot produce super fine details in photographs
  • Increase in number of colors causes increase in print cost

Choosing the Right Option for Your Apparel Prints

Simply put, digital printing on garments is less expensive for small run t-shirt printing of 12 pieces or fewer and reproducing photographic images, whereas screen printing is generally less expensive for a run of 12 and over. As with all things, there are always exceptions to the rules. You might have a job that is over 12 and not photographic that might be great for digital apparel printing. You might have an order that is less than 12 pieces that would be perfect for screen printing. Rest assured, our team can help you choose the best method for your custom t-shirts. Whether you choose digital printing vs screen printing, we will make sure you get a high quality product that will last for years to come.