As the manufacturing industry modernizes, so do the techniques that we use. In some cases, the old way may prove to still be the best way. This dichotomy of the industry is so perfectly identified in the screen printing vs. digital printing debate. Both techniques are widely used and accessible. However, small limitations of both will end up deciding which technique best suits you.
But before we dive into comparisons, let’s start at the beginning. Screen printing is a technique that involves burning a design onto a screen separated by color. Then, using ink, the color is transferred through a fine-mesh screen onto whatever is being printed. On the other hand, digital printing is pretty similar to the printer you have at home. Using CMYK inks, the design is printed directly onto your product or materials.
Now that you know the difference between the two techniques, here are some considerations you have to make when picking which technique to use for your products.
From the get-go a great way to decide which technique to use is determining how many units you need. Screen printing is a laborious process that takes a lot of preparation and often comes with a minimum order requirement. Digital printing, on the other hand, is a bit more flexible because the technique is less involved. Another big consideration is price. Digital printing often comes as a flat rate (the price per unit remains the same no matter how many pieces you print). For screen printing, the price per unit decreases as you produce more units because once the screen is made it can be used an infinite number of times.
When talking about how your design affects which technique to use it’s best to split this section into two categories:
Digital printing handles detailed designs better than screen printing. Images are often sharper with more clarity. So if your design has small touches or small letters, digital is the way to go.
One huge downside to digital is that it is limited in terms of color. While screen printing uses the “true” color (often Pantone), digital uses CMYK, which mixes colors to mimic the correct one. On top of that, screen printing produces more vibrant colors. So, if your design has very specific colors or more vibrant colors, screen printing is better for you.
A huge difference between the two is the breadth of material that can be printed on. Screen printing is possible on virtually any material from cotton to polyester to nylon to Teflon, and so on. Digital is limited nearly exclusively to 100% cotton. Though, it must be said that for both techniques cotton is ideal.
The last consideration could be a make a break for some brands. If you’re looking for a project to be finished in a short amount of time, you will definitely have to go with digital. Digital can handle a large quantity in a short amount of time. As said before, screen printing is a laborious process with a lot involved. The prep time alone will eat up a large chunk of your time frame.
Picking the right factory is always essential, but never forget about technique!
Whether you pick screen printing or digital printing, both are on Maker’s Row!