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  • Written by Printlocker

Thanks to technology development and human creativity, people now have more options when it comes to printing custom t-shirts and product designs. 

The two main printing methods are screen printing and digital printing. Each method has its own unique strengths that are catered to meet the needs, budget and the end result of every business.

What’s the difference?

Screen printing uses a screen (stencil). Ink is printed through the stencil onto the t-shirt in layers using special inks to achieve the desired artwork. As each colour requires a separate new screen to be made, the cost can be quite expensive. However, the cost can be reduced if it is made in bulk. 

Digital printing is a more straightforward process that involves a design to be uploaded to a computer and then the inks are squirted directly onto the merchandise placed directly into the printer. This process normally requires fluid to be applied on the merchandise before printing to make sure that the inks bond with the fibres. As no screens are involved, the setup costs are much lower.  

Screen printing

Screen printing has been around for hundreds of years and gained its popularity during the Industrial Revolution for commercial fabric printing. Until today, many businesses still prefer it due to the following advantages:

Vibrant colour

As screen printing inks are thicker and do not blend with the original colour of the t-shirt, the end results appear more vibrant even if your base garment is dark in colour. The colour will always stay true to your original design which can be important in some business decisions.

Economy of scale

As mentioned above, the initial set up cost can be high due to the individual layers of the screen. However, the higher the volume of printed material is ordered, the more economical it is. If you need to order more volume for the same artwork in the future, the run can be easily done too.


Screen printing allows inks to be layered, which result in unique effects to be created. Due to the broad range of inks and dyes available, screen printing is the preferred printing method for those who wish to create and design their own products.


The inks in the screen printing process do not blend with the materials, which makes it a perfect printing solution for different fabric and surfaces rather than just cotton.

Digital printing

Digital printing is popular for advertising products and does not go through heat transfer or applique.

Low cost

If you need a small scale printing job to be done (including one-offs), digital printing is the cheapest solution due to low setup costs.

Fast turnaround

By using a straightforward hit and print method, digital printing is faster even for complex designs.

Suitable for high detail designs

The printer can reproduce the exact precise artwork in the computer, including one with photographic print quality or more complex details due to thinner layers of ink.


If the design is changed often, then digital printing is the best option as it can be easily incorporated in the next print run.


So, depending on your business needs, one may suit you better over another.

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