Digital Printing Versus Conventional Screen Printing

When deciding between DTG and screen print for your next apparel run, its important to understand the unique benefits each has to offer. DTG printing is typically favored for those fast, low run, high color count jobs; whereas, screen print will offer a better range of color, more flexibility in what it can print on, better hand on darks and a much larger printable size range. As technology advances, the gap between these two methods will narrow. Below are 5 elements to understand before choosing between screen print and DTG:


Both digital and silk screening can do most image sizes on custom t-shirts, polos, or other garments. However, screen printing has more flexibility and can print unconventional sizes, such as an all over print.


In most cases a “feels like nothing’s printed there” print can be achieved with screen print, even on dark shirts, especially if you use a water base ink. When printing digitally, while prints on white shirts are nice and soft, prints on dark colors tend to be a bit rubbery since there needs to be a rather significant under base to retain colors.


Printing on cotton is always the best if you’re going DTG. In fact, our experience that a tee shirt or other type of garment must be 100% cotton or possibly 95% cotton 5% polyester. Screen print can handle polyester, nylon, teflon coated fabrics, burlap, bamboo, you name it. You can do digital printing on dark color shirts, but an underbase must be applied first.


Screen print always looks good and always will. Both DTG and screen printing both will look crisp and clear as long as the art work is of high quality and high resolution. We always tell our customers that their finished product will not look any better than the art. We must start out with good, clean art work. There are so many more conventional screen printing ink colors than digital. You can have metallic inks, glow in the dark inks, UV sensitive colors, and more. Most images look great with either process, but there are times that you can only replicate the color through screen printing.


There is a lot of set up and prep for conventional screen printing. Colors must be separated, screens must be burned. It is not cost effective, generally speaking, to print a large run of tees using DTG. It is more expensive to do it that way. If you have a small run, however, digital beats out silk screening hands down as far as the speed is concerned.

If you are interested in digital printing in the St. Louis area, please give us a call. We also are specialists in custom screen printing and custom embroidery.


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