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Differences between screen printing and digital printing

 

 

If you are printing your designs onto fabric, the two most common printing methods are screen printing and digital printing. So what are the differences between screen printing and digital printing?

When you start designing there are a lot of considerations that you need to think before you begin and this includes the printing process that’s going to be used.

Screen printing

Let’s start off look at screen printing.

When you are screen printing a design it will require a different screen to be created for each of the colours that are being used within the design. So that will mean you will need to colour separate your artwork so that each of the colours can be printed separately.

If you’re working for a client and they are going to be screen printing their designs they will inform you about the number of colours that you will need to use within the design. For example, you may be limited to use only six colours in your design.

As each screen will cost to be prepared and printed, the more colours that are used will mean the design will generally cost more money to be printed. Therefore, one of the things that you need to think about if you are going to screen print a design whether that’s for yourself or a client is the number of colours you can use and also how you colour separate those colours.

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of small companies or designer makers often only have a one or two colour print and  the reason for that is that it is a lot more expensive for them to print more than one or two colours.

Digital printing

In contrast, if you are going to be digitally printing your design, you aren’t restricted by the number of colors that are used. You can use as many colors as you like because it is printed in a similar process as you would print from your home printer in that it just prints out the colours, textures etc. as they appear in the artwork. The technology and printing substrates are obviously different but the idea is the same. This means you can create your artwork in any way you which and have it printed. You could use really painterly colors or you could blend colours together. You’re also not restricted by the number of colours you can use unless your client has specifically asked you to reduce or keep the number of colours to a certain amount.

So they are the main differences between printing digitally or screen printing.

Cost

The cost of printing will really differ between the two and the quantity of fabric you are printing. The price of digital printing is now so much cheaper than what it used to be only a few years ago and digital printing companies are now accessible for anyone to print a small run of fabric.

If you are wanting to screen print your fabric you’ll probably find there’s a minimum amount of fabric that you need to order particularly if you’re working with manufacturers overseas (such as China or India) and the quantities are often prohibitive for small companies starting out.

So hopefully that helps you understand a few of the differences that you need to think about when you are designing for either digital printing or screen printing. It’s a question that you should ask if you are creating design for someone before you start so that you know your parameters before you begin. Otherwise, you might end up having to do more work if you haven’t created your artwork to suit that particular method.

That’s also true of any other production method too whether it be embroidery or any other technique. You should always make sure that you know what your production considerations are before you begin so you can design accordingly. This will ensure that your designs will be able to be produced successfully.

Differences between screen printing and digital printing
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  1. estefania says:

    Hello Rachelle, when you make a pattern for screen printing in Photoshop is necesary to work with indexed colours? Thanks!

    • Pattern and Design says:

      It depends on the manufacturer so you’d need to check with them what their requirements are but indexing colour is the common way for preparing photoshop files for screenprinting. If you use the Textile Designer plugin you can also easily separate colours using the plugin

  2. jamee says:

    I think I need to do your full course.

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