Screen Printing v Digital Printing

Screen printing v digital printing: pros and cons


If you’ve read our other three articles:

THEN you’re ready to start and scale your very own custom t-shirt business, merch label or unique clothing brand. 

There’s just one last step… it’s time to organise your actual t-shirt printing process.

This part is simple, right? Just choose a design and, well, print it. How hard can it be?

Well, actually, there is a lot more to it than that! So, before you head down this path of print, let’s take a look at the two primary t-shirt printing methods and determine the difference so you can decide.

In a nutshell: screen printing vs digital printing

  • Screen printing involves using a mesh screen to force ink onto a material
  • Digital printing involves using an industrial printer to print a design directly onto the desired material

To help you determine which option is best moving forward, here are the key factors to consider when deciding on screen printing vs digital printing for your t-shirts.

1. Digital printing vs screen printing quality

Obviously, quality is always a major selling point of any t-shirt business, but which of the two printing methods gives you more?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer due to a variety of variables.

Take for example digital printing, where factors such as the quality of the printer, the type of ink used, and the resolution of the image can all play a role in impacting the final result. On the other hand, the quality of screen printing depends upon the quality of the screens used, the consistency of the ink and the skill (or lack of skill) of the printer themselves.

However, as a general rule when it comes to your custom t-shirt business, screen printing is best suited for larger, simpler print runs whereas digital printing will provide more quality on smaller, high-detail print runs.

2. Digital printing vs screen printing durability

Durability is a little more straightforward.

In short, when it comes to optimising printing durability, screen printing is usually the way to go thanks to thicker ink which is generally longer lasting. That said, if shortcuts are taken, especially in terms of the quality of screen printing ink used, this may not always be the case.

In fact, if digital printing is approached with greater care and diligence than a screen alternative, it may well turn out more durable. This is why it’s so important to choose the right t-shirt printer that you can trust!

3. Digital printing vs screen printing cost

Printing cost is naturally a pressing concern, particularly with custom t-shirt businesses, fashion brands and merch lines.

When it comes to printing costs, digital printing is generally more expensive than screen printing for larger print runs, though, it may prove to be more cost-efficient for smaller jobs.

This is because while screen printing does require the creation of various physical components, increasing costs in the short term, these can be spread out across a far larger number of items for longer-term efficiency.

This, however, does create problems for screen printing when it comes to…

4. Printing turnaround times

While the use of physical tools when screen printing does save on long-term costs, the gathering and creation of these tools generally leads to a longer turnaround time.

The takeaway? 

For smaller projects with a tight deadline, digital printing is likely the way to go.

That being said, the digital printing process is a consistently repeatable method and may be tweaked slightly depending on the specific needs of the project, as is the case with DTF printing.

5. DTF (direct to film) printing vs. screen printing

Unlike regular digital printing where the design is printed directly onto the custom t-shirt or fabric, DTF (direct to film) printing first prints the design directly onto a film and then transfers this to a t-shirt.

While this specific method will further widen the price gap between screen printing and digital printing, it does lead to less wastage and also allows for a wider variety of detail and colours.

Choosing the right printing method for custom t-shirt printing

By now, you don’t need us to tell you that the decision between digital and screen printing for your Australian custom t-shirt business is a complicated one. However, with a clearly defined goal, choosing the right option is made significantly easier.

While the final decision will be heavily influenced by your desired look and feel of the product, turnaround time, size of the order and budget, a general rule of thumb is:

Screen printing is more desirable for larger, long-lasting print runs whereas digital printing is the preferred option for smaller jobs with complex designs and tight deadlines.

Summary: screen printing vs digital printing?

Screen printing involves forcing ink onto a surface via a physical screen, whereas digital printing prints the design onto the fabric directly or sometimes via transfer paper and a heat press.

For shorter turnarounds and complex designs, think digital. For long-lasting larger jobs, look to screen printing. For more information on either custom printing option, check out our website.

Looking for an all-in-one printer solution to your t-shirt printing needs?

If you have the design, we can turn your t-shirt into an absolute masterpiece! Whether your custom t-shirt business needs a few shirts or thousands – you’ve definitely landed in the right place!

At PrintLocker we’ve been providing our customers with uniquely customisable shirts, hoodies, blankets, phone cases and everything in between for years!

All you need is a few minutes and a t-shirt design, and we’ll take care of the hard work for you to get your business up and running. Whether you’re in Australia or a little further afield, we promise the highest quality t-shirt printing, affordable prices and incredible delivery times.

So, what are you waiting for? Partner with us to get your t-shirt business started today!

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