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Everything you need to know about screen printing vs. digital printing

Merlin Graphics, as you may know, specializes in a variety of printing techniques, including embroidery, heat press, screen printing, and digital printing. The most prevalent types of printing are screen printing and digital printing. You might wonder, "What's the best?" While there is no clear answer as to which is superior, there is a clear distinction. It all depends on your preferences for bespoke tees! To make things easier for you, we have the expertise and have conducted further studies to illustrate the differences between screen printing and digital printing.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is the method of generating a picture or pattern by pressing ink or metal onto a surface via a thin material screen. Screen printing has existed for longer than any living person (since the Song Dynasty in China circa 1000AD), yet it only became popular in modern society in the 1960s. Quality, efficiency, and other factors have all improved as a result of technological improvements. The core premise, on the other hand, hasn't altered. Ink is injected through a mesh stencil onto cloth in the process of screen printing.

Digital printing

Digital printing, also known as Direct-to-Garment (DTG), on the other hand, is the technology that enables us to print full-color, high quality images straight onto your custom printed t-shirt within minutes. Digital printing, unlike screen printing, has been around for roughly 15 years. Technology has progressed significantly throughout this period, allowing this print process to improve year after year, becoming faster, more inexpensive, and of greater quality. Digital printing has grown in popularity over the years, and the bulk of online on-demand printing firms now employ it.

The Differences Between Screen and Digital Printing

1. Saturation and brightness

The saturation and brightness of the prints are the most significant advantages of screen printing. This approach adds a level of richness to your graphics that digital printing just can not match (at least yet). Screen printing employs Plastisol ink, which is made up of PVC particles in a plasticized emulsion that is highly opaque and comes in a broad range of colors. Water-based inks are used in digital printing, making them less opaque and brighter.

2. Color matching.

Every print, especially when it comes to business branding, requires precise color matching. Many businesses have brand rules that include Pantone colors that can only be accurately reproduced through screen printing. If these colors are attempted to be matched via digital printing, they will most likely be off. This is due to the fact that the underbase used in digital printing isn't opaque enough to match properly. The color of the shirt seeps through, and the darker the garment, the more difficult it is to match colors for digital printing. When it comes to perfect color matching, screen printing is unquestionably the best option.

3. Durability

Digital printing excels in terms of durability, but screen printing excels. The biggest difficulty with digital printing's long-term endurance is design fading. The artwork on the garment will fade after enough washings; how quickly it fades depends on how often you wash it and how it is laundered. Even the best-made digitally printed gear will fade over time, regardless of how it is washed. If done correctly, screen printing does not have this issue. The only way for screen-printed artwork to fade is if the ink is applied improperly or not properly cured. The fact that drying may have a detrimental influence on the print's lifetime is something that both digital and screen printing have in common. Turn your clothes inside out while drying on low heat for the best results.

4. Versatility

The ability to print on a variety of surfaces is critical. We define versatility as the ability to print on a range of materials, styles, and places. Digital printing is progressing in terms of technology, but it still can't print on everything in business. Polyester and 50/50 mixes are notoriously difficult to print on digitally, so 100 percent cotton clothes are the best option. Screen printing is suitable for all three types of garments, as well as canvas, denim, performance, and other materials. Screen printing can also be done on caps, backpacks, and other accessories, but digital printing can only be done on certain styles like T-shirts and hoodies. In addition, although digital printing is limited in terms of places, screen printing may be printed everywhere as long as the printer can position the item properly.

5. Special effects

Raising prints, textures, shines, and sparkles are all examples of special effects. This may be done using speciality ink and is intended to give a print more depth. Puff, metallic, glitter, glow-in-the-dark, shimmer, crackle, and the list goes on. These are just a few of the most popular specialized inks and additives. Screen Printing is the go-to for any very imaginative, out-of-the-box print designs since effects like these can't be achieved with Digital Printing. Specialty inks like these may make a T-shirt design stand out and therefore improve its worth.

6. Color Combination

Color mixing is the capacity to combine a smaller number of colors to generate gradients and a wide spectrum of hues. Digital printing outperforms screen printing in this region since that is what digital printers were designed to achieve. Digital printing is essentially a much larger version of a regular printer that you could have at home or at work, but it is used for garments rather than paper. When it comes to gradients with smooth transitions, digital printing is far more trustworthy than screen printing. Smoke that fades into the garment or a customized mix for skin tones are examples of this. Screen printing can use a "simulated process" to take spot colors off Plastisol and create a spectrum of colors, but the setup time makes it less efficient (especially for smaller orders). Because direct printing inks are water-based and more transparent than plastisol, they may overlap and mix far more easily than screen printing inks, resulting in beautiful gradients and fades.

7. Level of Detail

Another benefit of digital printing is the level of detail. Small, thin lines, small lettering, special textures, small objects, or anything else might be used as these details. Due to screen tension, pressure, ink application speed, ink gain, ink spread, material surface qualities, and other factors, screen printing is not as detailed as other methods. Halftones, which are small dots necessary when an image is a direct photograph or contains gradients, are the main challenge with screen printing's fine detail. Halftones are used in digital printing as well, although the machines can print at 1200 DPI and employ diffusion to make the dots considerably smaller than in screen printing.

8. Comfort and feeling.

This refers to the weight of the print on the garment (heavy vs. light), the texture, and whether or not the ink clogs the fibers. Plastisol ink for screen printing is generally thicker on the shirt (which is one of the reasons it's so tough! ), but water-based ink for digital printing is lighter. Because the quantity of surface area filled by the ink is reduced, some screen printing processes, such as the "distress effect," might be lighter and softer than others. This loosens it up a little and makes it more adaptable and comfy. The main problem is that these strategies do not work on all designs. On darker products, two layers of ink, including the bottom base, are used to print the bulk of ordinary screen-printed items.

9. Consistency

It's been said that consistency is crucial, and in the custom printing sector, having comparable clothes in huge quantities is essential. It's difficult to get every item to look precisely the same when screen printing. There are a lot more variables in this procedure than with digital printing. Screen printing can have tension in the screen, mesh clogging, squeegee sharpness, pressure, angle being incorrect, and so on. If any of these factors is out of whack, it will have an impact, generating at least some variance (even if it is minuscule). Digital printing, on the other hand, destroys uniformity. Unlike screen printing, the digital printing machine creates a digital file that is then printed on the shirt exactly as it is. There aren't many factors to be concerned about. The only variable in digital printing is making sure the garment is properly positioned.

In Conclusion

Overall, screen printing is the most well-known and extensively used method for printing personalized garments, although digital printing is still rapid and gaining popularity. We go to considerable efforts at Merlin Graphics to guarantee that we surpass your expectations, regardless of the printing medium you choose. You are not limited to designing custom t-shirts; we offer a variety of products on which you can print your custom artwork.

We are not only well-known and reliable, but we also adhere to stringent quality control procedures when it comes to your artwork and goods. You may rest assured that you will be pleased with the final output. If you ever need help deciding which choice is best for you, please contact us. Please contact us and a member of our staff would gladly walk you through the process.

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