T-Shirts: Screen or Digital Printing?

Simple, yet stylish. Comfortable, yet easy to brand. Besides being great for your day-to-day, a customized t-shirt makes an awesome uniform too. Whether you’re running a company or coaching your child’s soccer team, t-shirts are a wonderful way to achieve a unified look.

However, when it comes down to the designs and colors you want, a choice between going Digital or sticking with traditional Silk Screen must be made.

With Digital Printing (also known as Direct-to-Garment), your design is first processed by a computer before being printed directly onto the surface of a garment using inkjet technology and specialty water-based inks.

This modern approach to t-shirt printing is best utilized for designs that are composed of great details or colors, such as a photographic print, as well as small orders.

Since Digital involves minimal physical setup, making smaller orders is simple and doesn’t require a large up-front investment. Therefore, expect to be paying a fairly consistent price for each t-shirt.

With that being said, depending on the vendor’s printer, most digital printers cannot print white ink, may be limited in print area, and are usually restricted to just printing on fabric.

Screen Printing on the other hand, may not be ideal for photographic designs or high-resolution details but are a great option for simple designs composed of a few solid colors, as well as orders of large quantities.

Introduced back in 1907, Screen Printing involves burning the design into mesh screens and then loading them to a printing machine where the ink that will be used is then added in. The mesh screens used to apply layers of ink on the shirt are applied one at a time until combined to achieve the full design.

Since screen printing requires a different screen for each color and is done one color at a time, the process requires more time, more money, and is limited in colors. Furthermore, there’s a minimum quantity requirement with every order.

Having said that, if you need a bunch of shirts, you can benefit from economies of scale, and Screen Printing is known to produce higher quality, longer-lasting prints.

Choosing between Digital or Screen Printing for your next apparel project is based on design and quantity. If you got a design that’s detailed and or colorful, and you only need a handful of shirts, then go Digital. It’s a precise, flexible, and affordable solution for any custom t-shirt. However, if you have a simple design with a few solid colors, and need a box full of shirts, then Screen Printing may be right for you. It’s the perfect solution for any sales or sports team, summer camp, or fundraising event.

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