Screen Printing vs. Digital Printing: Which Should You Choose?

screen printing vs digital printing

Screen printing vs digital printing, also called vinyl printing. Is there a difference between the two?

Let’s take a look…

Comparing Printing Types

Screen printing involves creating a stencil (printers call this a “screen”), and then using that stencil to apply layers of ink on the printing surface. Each color is applied using a different stencil, one at a time, combined to achieve the final look.

Screen printing is the best option for designs that require a high level of vibrancy, when printing on dark shirts, or for specialty products. The ink in screen printing is applied thicker than digital printing, which results in brighter colors even on darker shirts. 

The fact that these products are printed by hand also allows for unique products like water bottles, can coolers, and mugs, as the printer can manually handle curved or uneven surfaces. The minimum order quantity on screen printed items exists because of the extra materials and labor time associated with this printing method.

Digital printing is a much newer process that involves your artwork being processed by a computer, and then printed directly onto the surface of your product. Digital printing is not a heat transfer or applique, as the ink directly adheres to the fabric of your shirt. The durability of printing products from digital printing is weak and vulnerable to sunlight, fading as a result. This does not happen with offset ink or flexographic ink that comes with traditional prints.

Digital printing is best used for items that require high amounts of detail, and orders of a smaller quantity. The fact that the digital printer does not use screens allows for a photographic print, with much more detail than traditional screen printing. As the ink is applied thinner (to achieve such detail), digital printing is best used on lighter colored shirts to allow the design to shine through. The fact that the design is processed and printed digitally allows for a quantity of one, since there are no screens or physical setups.

Digital Vinyl T-shirt Printing vs. Screen Printing

Vinyl T-shirt printing or screen printing? Which one should you choose for your custom clothing? These are questions that many of us ask when we’re looking to outfit an entire team or create custom swag for our employees. While both printing options have their benefits, screen printing is generally favored by printing houses and designers.

How Does Vinyl T-shirt Printing Work?

Vinyl T-shirt printing, often know as vinyl heat transfer, is a process that involves a machine that cuts out designs and letters. These designs and letters are done on pieces of colored vinyl. Then, a heat press is utilized to transfer each piece of vinyl onto the material.

What Does Screen Printing Entail?

Screen printing or silk screening, uses stencils (screens) to recreate your design onto the material. Each color needed in the design requires its own stencil to ensure accuracy. The ink will only pass through the stencil in the areas you want making it easy to reconstruct your design.

Vinyl T-Shirt Printing or Screen Printing: Which is Best for You?

When it comes to vinyl T-shirt printing or screen printing, you should examine four factors; details, color, fading, and quantity.

  1. Details: When it comes to details, you can’t go wrong with screen printing. Even the minute details are visible on a screen-printed item. The same goes for intricate design features since the process involves creating separate screens for each color (more on that below). Vinyl T-shirt printing does allow for some detailing but most will be lost.
  2. Color: When it comes to vinyl T-shirt printing or screen printing, if you’re looking for vibrant color, screen printing is your best option. Screen printing lets you choose from a larger range of colors and each can be blended to create gradients to ensure that the colors don’t run into each other and appear messy.
  3. Fading: Although both printing processes are effective, screen printing will last longer. Shirts that are printed using vinyl will usually last for a few years before fading. On the other hand, shirts that have been screen printed will last the entire lifetime of the shirt. Screen printing is more adept at standing up to wear and tear and washing.
  4. Quantity: Vinyl printing is generally reserved for small runs (1-12 items) because it takes less time to set up than screen printing. However, screen printing is perfect for bulk orders (12 or more) because you don’t need to change the setup from shirt to shirt. In fact, screen printing bulk orders will take the same amount of time as doing a small run of vinyl prints.

Deciding between vinyl T-shirt printing or screen printing can be a hard decision to make. However, when you trust T-Shirt Labs with your custom printing needs, we’ll ensure you make the right decision. Contact us today for a free estimate and take advantage of our huge selection of activewear, T-shirts, hoodies, hats, and more.

Screen Printing Services at T-Shirt Labs

At T-Shirt Labs, we are proud to stand behind each printing method, 100% of the time. We offer traditional screen printing for the majority of our products, as well as custom embroidery options.

We are printing perfectionists, and our team is some of the best in the business! Our design team can help you bring your creations to life, while our largest screen printing and heaters will finish the job. 

Contact us today for our design and custom printing services!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *