Screen vs. Digital Printing: The Best Just Keeps Getting Better

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Printing technology has been refined and improved nearly as long as it has existed. From the most primitive block printing to today’s multi-color techniques, printing has risen to meet the ever-changing needs of a demanding world. Whatever the needs of society, printing has created newer and better methods, and continues to do so. Two of these methods include screen printing as opposed to digital printing. Screen printing has been available for many years, but digital printing is a rather recent innovation made possible by the development of computer technology. This is not to say that screen printing is outdated or superseded by digital techniques. Quite the contrary. Both methods have practical uses as well as advantages and disadvantages. As a result, it is up to the astute printer and his clients to make sure that the appropriate method is used to its greatest advantage in specific circumstances.

Screen Printing and Digital Printing: What’s the Difference?

Screen printing employs the use of a screen (thus the name) upon which a stencil is applied, then using that screen to deliver ink to the surface that is to be printed upon. In the case of images that have multiple colors, different screens are used for each color that is applied, one at a time, to result in the finished image.

Digital printing, by contrast, is a much newer technique that calls for the printer to process the image to be printed by a computer, then printed directly onto the surface that receives the image. Digital printing is not the same thing as a heat transfer or an applique, which many people confuse. Digital printing allows an image to be applied directly to a surface that it is printed on.

It is important to remember that not only are screen and digital printing techniques very different, but they also have their own advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered when they are used. Both techniques have their own strengths and weaknesses that must be considered before you decide which is best for your project.

Which is Best?

Screen printing is best in instances where there is a need for high vibrancy in an image. For example, in cases where you want to print on dark colored shirts or specialty products, The fact that screen printing allows the printer to apply inks in thicker layers than with digital printing can result in brighter, more vibrant colors than with digital printing techniques, even on the darkest surfaces.

Screen printing is also a good choice for those cases where the shape or size of an object is unusual. Since screen printing is done manually, unique products such as water bottles, mugs, and koozies can be printed, despite the fact that objects might be curved or uneven. One disadvantage of screen printing is expensive since there is a much higher level of manual operation involved in the process.

A job that requires a much higher level of detail in the work is best done with digital printing since it does not require a screen but instead uses a photograph. Digital printing is also good for use when a smaller number of final products is required. Digital printing also permits the use of less ink, allowing greater detail. Perhaps best of all, digital printing does not require the time or expense of materials, so it is economically possible to print only one item if that is needed.

Perhaps most important of all is the fact that most printers give the same level of attention to detail to both processes, which gives clients the latitude to allow printers to determine the best method for the completion of their jobs and attain the best final result. There are many products that have proven their ability to be best printed using one method over another, but there are a few that remain open to experimentation. the best way to determine what is best for your particular job is to work closely with your printer to rely on his or her experience, but in the final analysis, you must use your own best judgment. In short, it is best to trust yourself and your own opinions.

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