Screen Printing vs. Digital Printing – What is the right choice for your business?

With so many options, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to decide between on-demand digital vs. screen printing. Both techniques offer different advantages, but usually cannot be used interchangeably depending on your design and printing goals.

Consider Clothing Shop Online’s break-down of digital printing and more traditional screen printing in order to help you decide which method is best for your projects and business model. Various design goals depend on knowing the differences between the two printing options, which could potentially save your business a lot of money and frustration.

Screen Printing

Screen printing uses a large stencil that’s then burned onto a screen. You then push ink with a squeegee through the screen onto fabric. This can be done by hand or by automated screen printing presses that produce several hundred shirts an hour.

Though screen printing requires more upfront technical knowledge – between learning which inks are appropriate for your chosen fabric to how much heat to apply – it often provides more vibrant and cost-effective products. However, keep in mind that ink must often be applied in several layers, one at a time, to achieve your desired look.

Pros & Cons of Screen Printing

Pros include:

  • Higher quality.
  • Increased color vibrancy.
  • Better long-term durability when washed repeatedly.
  • The ability to apply the screen print to unique surfaces, such as curved mugs or water bottles.
  • Softer to the touch, when using water-based inks.
  • The possibility of creating bulk orders.

Some cons of screen printing:

  • Colors are applied separately, which increases the overall cost of production.
  • Individual screen prints are needed for each color further increasing production costs.
  • Lesser quality when reproducing photography on fabric since so many ink layers is required.
  • Difficulty printing small batches.
  • Time-consuming to clean and maintain materials.

Digital Printing

Digital printing, also known as ‘DTG’, or direct-to-garment uses a highly modified inkjet printer, which applies inks directly onto garments just like paper printer eliminating the need for several screens and inks. A tunnel dryer then heat sets the inks onto the fabric.

Since there’s little set-up involved, digital printing could be a great option depending on your business. The DTG method could help you avoid having to buy and store several inks. Digital printing can also permit you to create much smaller runs for designs, which better satisfies clients seeking only small orders, such as shirts made for bachelorette or birthday parties, or even one-off orders.

Pros & Cons of Digital Printing

Pros of digital printing:

  • Faster production turn-around.
  • Fewer resources and knowledge required to get your business running.
  • Great for small batch orders.
  • Does not require inks to be layered or separated by color to avoid bleeding.
  • Creates crisp photographs on fabric.
  • Less leftover inventory.


Cons of digital printing:

  • Less vibrant.
  • Lower grain quality.
  • May not be as soft to the touch.
  • Often requires a ‘pre-treatment’ or ‘underbase’ layer of ink on darker fabrics in order to prevent colors from appearing muddy; however, the pre-treatment sometimes reacts under heat by leaving a stain.
  • Can’t print on polyester or active wear garments unless it’s a poly-blend consisting of at least 80% cotton.

Whether you choose to go the more traditional route, and screen print your designs, or skip multiple, potentially confusing steps and go straight to digital printing, your business has several options from which to choose.


Consider these insights on how to choose between digital printing and screen printing from Clothing Shop Online!

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