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Screen Printing vs Digital Printing: Which is a Better Printing Process

One of the most frequent questions that gets asked to our team of custom t-shirt designers and our printing team is, “Which is better, screen printing or digital printing?” Both printing processes are commonly used for printing t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies. As with many things one is not always better than the other, but rather which suits your needs and will work best for the fabric, color and design you are printing. Here at RIPT apparel we use the screen printing process for all your t-shirts, hoodies, and kids apparel. Below you will find a guide that will explain the pros and cons of digital and screen printing and why we chose to go with screen printing.

Screen printing, or silk screen printing has been around since 1907 when it was patented in England by Samuel Simon Matthew Atere-Roberts. Screen printing is a multi-step process that begins with collecting and designing the artwork; burning each design into the screens; preparing each ink that is going to be used and finally printing. You can check out our infographic explaining our screen printing process here

Pros of Screen Printing

1. Cost effective
2. High quality printing
3. Professional looking
4. Long-lasting & durable through multiple wash cycles
5. Easier to print larger prints
6. Easier to print on specific parts of a t-shirt, hoodie, or baby garment.
7. Great for larger orders

Cons of Screen Printing

1. Set up
2. Minimum quantity orders needed
3. Sometimes can have a thick finish
4. Photos and high resolution details do not show up well

Digital Printing or direct to garment printing has the ability to print small run orders. Many consider this process to be a lot easier than screen printing because its basically a 3 step process that includes downloading the design on the computer; sending the design to the printer to print; and then putting it in the heat press.

Pros of Digital Printing

1. Great for small orders
2. Can print one item at a time
3. Can have details that are great for printing photos
4. Unlike screen printing, designs cannot be felt on the garment and lay flat on the tee
5. Easily customizable
6. Cleaner printing process
7. Colors are only limited by the printer capabilities

Cons of Digital Printing

1. Usually digital printers do not print white ink, so will need to be printed on light colored t-shirts
2. Print time is longer
3. Ink is more expensive
4. Does not provide a significant saving for large orders
5. Exact color matching can be difficult due to CMYK printer inks
6. Print area is limited by printer setup
7. Can usually only print on fabric

Hope this guide to custom t-shirt printing was helpful in educating you about the difference between screen printing and digital printing.

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