In the world of custom merchandise, such as custom printed bags, t-shirts and other items, these objects must be created through a process of printing the custom design onto the fabric. While there have been many ways to transfer prints onto fabrics over the course of history, the two most popular methods used today are screen printing and digital printing.
The issue, however, lies in the fact that most people cannot tell these methods apart. They see a full-color print on an item, and they think, "Well, one printing technique is just like the other, so what difference does it make?" Whether it makes a difference to you or not in the long run, you should still know the differences between the two methods.
Keep in mind though screen printing can be done only upto 8 solid colors where digital printing technique is a full color (unlimited colors) method.
Depending on your custom logo or artwork you will need to make a decision on your own between screen printing vs digital printing.
What is Screen Printing?
If speaking about the two printing styles as a dichotomy, screen and digital, then the screen goes back well before anyone could even conceive of digital methods. This process is done via a technique that uses mesh to transfer ink onto a surface, known as a substrate. Basically, with screen printing, much like etchings of artists past, the design itself is created manually, then inked over, and then pressed to transfer onto the material.
Screen printing is also known by another name: A silkscreen print. While the names might sound different, they actually refer to the same technique being used to transfer an image onto a substrate.
The end result is often laborious and far more involved than digital techniques; however, the amount of detail able to be accomplished with screen printing, especially as it relates to screen printed bags and other custom items, makes this method as popular today as it ever was, even in a world where digital printing can get things done a lot faster. So, in terms of true quality and craftsmanship, many still swear by this method as the right one to choose.
What is Digital Printing?
With digital printing, you're looking essentially at what your printer at home or in the office is capable of doing. It's virtually copying an image and relaying that information to a printing device, which is coordinating the colors, the shades, and the textures while transferring the media through a digital medium directly to a substrate.
In the world of digitally printed bags, t-shirts, wallets, and even items like cups and clocks and cards, digital printing is beneficial because one does not have to perform the labor of creating a template that will be inked and transferred. Digital machinery takes care of everything, so it ends up saving time and money. As far as quality is concerned, this will depend on the quality of the printer doing the work. The basic home Inkjet likely isn't going to do the job of a large-scale machine created specifically to digitally print custom images and logos. Though to the clear, the mechanics of the method are the same, whether on a small or large scale.
See examples of Screen Printed vs Digital Printed Tote Bags:
Things that Separate Screen Printing and Digital Printing in Terms of Pros and Cons
Now that the two types of printing have been explained, we can delve a little deeper and look at some positives and negatives of each type of printing.
Screen Printing Benefits
- Ideal for large, detailed, custom multi-color designs (names, logos, etc)
- Great for volume bulk orders and the price gets way cheaper the more you purchase screen printed bags
- Ink quality can be much better, with sharper images
- Artists can create far more detailed transfer mediums
- Ink is heat dried, therefore holds up better on canvas and other sorts of fabrics
- Lasts longer than other methods
- Side by side, screen printing wins out on looks and quality
Screen Printing Negatives
- Colors must be applied separately
- The job takes much longer to prepare as an entire process
- Laborious in setting up, printing and then cleaning up after
Digital Printing Benefits
- Very minimum setup times to print
- Can print all of the colors in an image at once
- No laborious effort to create transfer mediums
- Not much cleanup of which to speak
Digital Printing Negatives
- Slower process and could cost more than screen printing
- Designs don't typically have as much luster
- It's hard to emulate textures and depth of detail in a digital copy
- Longer runs and more complex designs might experience faded colors
- Faulty machines are often an issue and can be hard to maintain
- Digital stamps a photocopy onto a fabric, whereas screening looks more etched into it
What Printing Technique is Best?
As can be seen, there are quite a few digital printing benefits, as well as screen printing benefits, along with some negatives about which to worry. So it really all depends on what one's personal taste is.
For example, put yourself in the shoes of a customer. You're looking for something unique and fashionable, something like custom tote bags that bear your company's name and logo. Now think about a few questions you might ask yourself.
- How good does the detailing look in screen printing vs digital printing?
- How long will the image hold up on fabric?
- Will it crack and fade on canvas?
- Will it maintain its luster and pop?
These are a few concerns anyone might have. After all, no one is out there making these custom materials for free. The customer must pony up some money, so why would they spend money on cheap, mass-produced stamps that just aren't as good as silk screen print methods? This isn't a complicated question, and the answer is even easier to figure out. People shouldn't toss money around at digital printing.
Okay, so if you're speaking about coffee table coasters, a stack of birthday cards or wedding invitations, or other materials that will still look decent with digital printing techniques, then it might be a viable option. But for custom tote bags that are fashionable and actually functional? The facts are clear on this matter. There's no room left for opinion or interpretation. One method involves actual artistry and heat-sealing a detailed image onto fabric, while the other is basically just a printed digital copy of a computer-rendered photo.
For the absolute best in custom prints on fabrics like cotton and canvas, it's always a wise move to go with screen printing techniques over digital printing. The quality is simply unparalleled.
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At BagzDepot, you will find both screen printing and digital printing services where we provide in-house customization options for our customers.
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