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    What's the difference between screen and digital printing?

    • Author:Aung Crown
    • Source:Aung Crown
    • Release on:2021-12-06

    Aungcrown offers two different methods of printing, in order to provide a process that best suits your artwork. We offer traditional screen printing for the majority of our products, as well as digital printing on selected items.

    Screen printing

    Screen printing involves creating a stencil (printers call this a "screen"), and then using that stencil to apply layers of ink on the printing surface. Each color is applied using a different stencil, one at a time, combined to achieve the final look.

    Screen printing is the best option for designs that require a high level of vibrancy, when printing on dark shirts, or for specialty products. The ink in screen printing is applied thicker than digital printing, which results in brighter colors even on darker shirts.

    The fact that these products are printed by hand also allows for unique products like water bottles, can coolers and mugs, as the printer can manually handle curved or uneven surfaces. The minimum order quantity on screen printed items exists because of the extra materials and labor time associated with this printing method.

    The history of screen printing

    Screen printing is an ancient art form. An early version of the technique was first pioneered in China, around AD 950, as a method of printing patterns onto fabric. Several centuries later, Japanese artisans adopted the practice to transfer designs onto paper and fabric, using a stiff brush to push ink through a mesh screen woven from human hair.

    Screen printing arrived in Europe in the 18th century, but it was slow to catch on as a fabric printing method owing to the high cost of silk mesh at the time. Once the Silk Road made imported silk more affordable, screen printing gradually became a popular — and profitable — way to print fabric. By the early 20th century, printers had developed photo-sensitised emulsions, allowing artisans to create complex stencil designs much more easily.


    In the 1930s, artists began experimenting with screen printing as an artistic medium, naming their new-found form 'serigraphy' to distinguish it from industrial printing. By the 1960s, artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi and Andy Warhol were using screen printing to create fine art. Dubbed 'pop-art', the artist used screen-printing to create multiple copies of a single image, essentially questioning what constituted fine art. Warhol's famous Marilyn Diptych is perhaps the best-known example of screen printing as an artistic form.

    Nowadays, screen printing is used both as an artistic medium and as a commercial printing process. One stencil can be used to reproduce the same design hundreds — or even thousands — of times, so it’s a brilliant technique for producing large orders of custom clothing.

    Why is screen printing used?

    One of the reasons that the screen printing technique is so widely used is because it produces vivid colours, even on darker fabrics. The ink or paint also lies in layers on the surface of the fabric or paper, which gives the print a pleasingly tactile quality.

    The technique is also favoured because it allows the printer to easily reproduce a design multiple times. Because the same stencil can be used to replicate a design again and again, it's very useful for creating multiple copies of the same garment or accessory. This makes screen printing a very efficient technique for creating large batches of custom clothing for sports teams or work uniforms.

    When carried out using professional equipment by an experienced printer, it's also possible to create intricate multicoloured designs. While the complexity of the process does mean there's a limit to the number of colours the printer can use, it does allow for more intense colouring than is possible to achieve with digital printing alone.


    Digital printing

    Digital printing is a much newer process that involves your artwork being processed by a computer, and then printed directly onto the surface of your product. Digital printing is not a heat transfer or appliqu'e, as the ink is directly adhered to the fabric of your shirt. Each printing process has its strengths, and our artwork team will weigh these when deciding which to use for your design.

    Digital printing is best used for items that require high amounts of detail, and orders of a smaller quantity. The fact that the digital printer does not use screens allows for a photographic print, with much more detail than traditional screen printing. As the ink is applied thinner (to achieve such detail), digital printing is best used on lighter colored shirts to allow the design to shine through. The fact that the design is processed and printed digitally allows for a quantity of one, since there are no screens or physical setup.

    What is the difference between screen printing and digital printing?

    Direct to garment (DTG) digital printing uses a specialised fabric printer — a bit like an inkjet computer printer — to transfer an image directly onto a textile. It differs from screen printing because a digital printer is used to transfer the design directly onto the fabric. Because there’s no stencil, multiple colours can be applied all at the same time, rather than in separate layers, meaning this technique is often used to print intricate or very colourful designs.

    Unlike screen printing, there’s very little setup required, which means that digital printing is a more cost-effective option for printing small batches of clothing or single items. And because it uses a computerised image rather than a stencil, it’s great for producing photographic or highly detailed designs. However, as the colours are printed using CMYK-style dots of colour, rather than solid blocks of ink, it doesn’t provide quite the same intensity of colour that you get with screen printing. You can’t create texturised effects with a digital printer, either.

    At aungcrown we are proud to stand behind each printing method, 100% of the time. While we are currently working to enable more products for digital printing, the products available on the website have been thoroughly tested and approved. if you have any questions about custom hats and clothes, you can contact us.