Screen printing vs. digital printing has long been a tough competition when it comes to choosing the most suitable printing technique.

There is plenty of discussion and comparison between these two most popular methods of printing, which may give anyone a hard time when starting a clothing line.

If you are deciding for your next apparel run, the first and foremost thing you should do is define your favorable printing quantity, the material you want to print on, etc. This will help prevent yourself from getting lost among the options.

After that, this complete guide to how digital vs. screen printing shirt is made will help you learn how each method works, their unique benefits, and finally deciding on which is better for your needs.

How screen-printed shirts are made

Screen Printing Shirts

Originated during dynastic ages in China sometime between 960 – 1270 AD and well-developed until now, screen printing has become the core method of many bulk printing operations.

About how screen printing operates, it includes using a mesh stencil (also called the screen) to apply layers of ink to the printing surface. During this process, the stencil is placed on top of the material that will carry the image, while the ink is swiped across the screen through a squeegee and formed the image onto the garment. For each new color, a separate screen is used.

When the process is finished, you will see how clean and beautiful the desired designs on your screen printing shirts come out.

How digital printing works

With the first digital printing presses being introduced in the early 1990s, much more recent than screen printing, this process is also more advanced and involves the use of complex computing.

To start creating some awesome digital printing t-shirts, the digital file of your wanted print is first analyzed and sent directly to the digital screen printer. Your design here is printed directly onto your chosen fabric without missing any colors or details. The ink utilized by digital printing is usually water-based, which performs best on 100% cotton fabric.

Digital print vs. screen print

After you have a better understanding of how each technique creates prints on shirts, now it’s time for you to consider which works best for you. To help you make the most suited decision, let’s dig deeper into your needs by going through eight questions below!

Which quantity do I want to order?

As screen printing is a very time-intensive process that requires a complex setup of color separation and design-specific stenciling, the minimum order is often required by the screen printers. Therefore, a bulk order of several thousand items will be more suited to screen printing as you will cost a lot less than digital printing.

On the other hand, when it comes to a smaller quantity, digital printing is what you should consider choosing.

What material do I want to use?

While digital printing applies to only cotton and other fabrics, screen printing can also perform on other materials like glass, metal, paper, and plastic. This is because screen printing simply places ink on the surface of a substrate, unlike digital printing that makes water-based ink absorb into the garment.

However, the way digital printing works will better prevent cracking to the design. So, depending on your wanted material, you can decide on a more preferable printing method.

Digital Printing T-shirtsHow do I want my design to look?

As digital printing captures more accurate details than screen printing, you may want to choose this technique with designs that have multiple patterns and colors.

Talking about colors, the colors printed from screen printing are actually more vibrant thanks to plastisol ink, which comes in a variety of exact colors, especially on dark garments. However, as I have mentioned before, the color separation of screen printing will make the cost be significantly higher.

To conclude, nobody can say which is better from the digital vs. screen printing shirt debate, but their distinct advantages and disadvantages are crystal clear.

Whether you are printing some band merch t-shirts or work uniforms, when you get your needs, you will immediately know which printing method to go for and get creative with your choice.

Hope this guide has done something good for you, good luck on your next printing projects!